An independent blog on the New York Islanders and the NHL by a guy from New York.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Isle Be There: Statistically Speaking With Eric Hornick

In a series of articles, called Isle Be There, my intention is to focus on the different social groups that support your New York Islanders team & its players.  This will also include current events or situations in and around the team as it relates to its fan base and community.

As a follow up to an interview I was fortunate enough to do with the great Jiggs McDonald, I wanted to find another Islanders Icon who would have the stories to enthrall an entertain anyone who could call themselves a fan of our New York Islanders.  Eric Hornick graciously granted my request to answer a few questions and give me his perspective on the upcoming Isles season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  Mr. Hornick gave me some thoughts on the team, stats and some of his favorite and most memorable moments over his storied career.

Mr. Hornick has been the statistician for the Islanders since 1982.  Like Jiggs McDonald, he has been around for the greatest and the not so great times in team history.  But more so than anyone else, his need to keep meticulous track of each and every vital team statistic was a necessary evil for both the organization, media and the fans throughout the ups and downs of the franchise.  Statistics support both the legendary and the forgettable in snap-shots of the team throughout their history.

They remind us of Bossy’s 50 in 50, the 19 consecutive playoff series wins and even Al Arbour’s amazing 1,500 games coached. Before last season, we were reminded every single year of the Islanders inability to win a playoff series since 1993, a streak that extended through 23 NHL seasons under the guidance of 12 different coaches.

I jumped in and started by asking what he thought of the Islanders first season in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center.  Then, I just sat back to let the man do his thing.

Eric Hornick: “I think that it took a lot of getting used to, both by players and fans.  However, by late in the season it started to feel like home and the place was really rocking in April…and in May. The ice seemed to get better as the season went along and quite frankly the off-center scoreboard is really a big nothing.  Most importantly, the team played pretty well at home.”

Knight of Cups: How do you think the Isles 2016-17 team is shaping up?

Eric Hornick: “It will certainly be a different mix, with 3 key new faces (Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and PA Parenteau) replacing four departed free agents (Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Matt Martin and Brian Strait).

Ladd was obviously the guy the Isles targeted; they had him on Long Island during the courting period and announced a deal with him just after the signing period started.  Ladd got a 7-year deal, just like Okposo did in Buffalo.  Like Kyle’s deal, Ladd’s deal is both lockout-proof and buyout-proof (almost all of Ladd’s money is structured as a bonus, not a salary).  Ladd will be 31 just before Christmas; I’m sure there are some that are concerned what this deal will look like on the back end.   Ladd’s won the Stanley Cup twice (with Carolina and with Chicago) so I’m sure his leadership will be valued come springtime.  He has never scored 30 goals, but he has scored 23+ in each of the last 5 full seasons.
Jason Chimera was an interesting signing.  Yes, he’s 37, but he did score 20 goals last season for the second time in his career.  Only eight players from his 1997 draft class have played in 1,000 NHL games; Jason is 49 games shy.

And then there’s Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, although you can call him PA.  Garth Snow got him for a great price ($1,250,000); ironically the same salary he had in his last season of his first stint with the Isles (2011-12).  He went 18-49-67 playing mainly with Tavares that season and parlayed that into a big free agent deal; the Isles (and PA) are certainly hopeful that they can recapture some of that magic.

While it was nice to see that the Isles were at least being considered in the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes, there is plenty of young talent around.  It will be interesting to see if any of the rookies can crack the lineup, and whether the young vets (Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome) can have more consistent seasons.”

Knight of Cups: What was the most interesting stat for the Islanders last season.

Eric Hornick: “Well anytime you end a 23-season playoff win drought, that would seem to take the top spot.

I was surprised how far the Isles regressed from the previous season in terms of possession.  They had the biggest shots on goal differential in their history the previous year; both the shots and the Corsi (shot attempts) were way down last season.
And while you didn’t ask, the most interesting stat for this season may just be the schedule.  By February 19th, the Isles will have played 34 home games and only 24 on the road. It's the first time the Isles have ever played 34 home games in fewer than the first 63 games.

The Isles will then embark on a franchise-record nine-game road trip from February 21st to March 11th.   The Isles will visit Detroit, Montreal and Columbus during President's Week before having four consecutive off days. The Isles will then play six Western Conference road games to end the stretch. Not only have the Isles never had a 9-game road trip before, they have never played eight straight away from home.”

Knight of Cups: What has been the strangest all-time Isles stat you have kept since 1982?

Eric Hornick: “One of the strangest was one of the first.  In the early 80’s the Isles had a ridiculous streak where they went something in the neighborhood of 180-0-10 in games that they led with 10 minutes to play.”

Knight of Cups: What are your top 3 favorite all-time Islander stats and who holds them?

Erick Hornick: “Try these:

17 – Number of players that were the “Core of the Four”.  It will never happen again in any sport.

207:57   -- Any guesses?  That’s the amount of consecutive playoff overtime that the Isles played without allowing a goal.  It’s actually a post-Cup era streak, starting with Pat LaFontaine’s Easter Epic in 1987 and ending on a Stephane LeBeau double-OT goal for Montreal.  The Isles won eight consecutive OT games in that stretch.

50 -  The most goals scored in the first 50 games, set by Mike Bossy in 1981.  I wasn’t working on the telecasts yet; I was just screaming!

Knight of Cups: Who was your favorite Islander?

Eric Hornick: “When I did the “It Happened at the Coliseum” series (which you can still find on my blog,, I used to tweet each edition at 7:40am and 5:22pm.  7:40am was my salute to Al Arbour’s wins; 5:22 was my salute to my two favorite players of the Cup era (Potvin and Bossy).”

Knight of Cups: What was your favorite team moment?

Eric Hornick: “When you win four straight Cups, it makes it hard to choose just one.  Personally, the come-from-behind OT win vs. Pittsburgh in 1982 and the overtime win vs. the Rangers in 1984 (both in game 5s of 5-game series) are among the most memorable. 
In more recent years, how about a pair of Tavares overtime goals? I was fortunate to watch Game 3 vs. Washington in 2015 from the stands at the Coliseum (NBC did the game and used their own statistician) – it was the first time I watched a playoff game from the stands since Butch Goring won the Conn Smythe in 1981 vs. Minnesota.  And then how about the series clincher last spring vs. Florida in what turned out to be Howie Rose’s final broadcast?  What tremendous drama and finally the “curse” of 1993 being lifted.”

Knight of Cups: Did you know Al Arbour and if so, what was your favorite moment or encounter with Mr. Arbour?

Erick Hornick: “I talked with Al a number of times but I wouldn’t claim that I really knew him.  I’ll give you two favorite moments – one shared with many, one that was just mine.
Back in 2004 a business trip brought me to Sunrise, Florida for an Islander game.  (It was supposed to be Jiggs’ final broadcast of an Islander game, broadcasting for the Panthers; thankfully that turned out not to be the case).  I rode up an elevator with Al and with Bill Torrey; it was just the three of us.  I mentioned to them who I was and remember saying “thank you for my childhood” or something to that effect.

About 3 ½ years later, I was at my familiar perch for game #1500.  When it was first announced that summer I really wasn’t sure it would work.  It certainly did—truly a memorable night for all those that were fortunate to be there or watch our telecast. I wrote about it extensively here.”

Knight of Cups: Describe your relationship with the guys in the booth, in the truck and the people around you who you would call your broadcast team.

Eric Hornick: “For 34 ½ years, I’ve been fortunate to work regularly with just two play-by-play announcers. When Howie announced this May that he was leaving, it was certainly an end of an era. I started with Jiggs two days after my 18th birthday; I was the same age as his older daughter.  Howie is about 10 years older than I; my kids followed his kids to the same public schools.  And now I look forward to working with Brendan Burke, who wasn’t born when I debuted.

I’ve also worked with some great analysts, from Ed Westfall and Joe Micheletti to Billy Jaffe and now Butch Goring. One of the first weeks I worked with Eddie, I had him autograph his cover photo from a media guide a few years earlier – I figured if it ended that season, at least I had that!

But there are plenty of people you never hear enough about—JT Townsend has been our stage manager for well over two decades; he does so many things for our talent and for me both before and throughout the game.  He is always by my side and along with Brendan and Butch, it is the four of us that will form the A Team in the “booth”.

I communicate by headset to our font coordinator; Mike Mancuso has been with us for the last three seasons and is always willing to incorporate my ideas.  I also speak regularly with our “bug guy”; several people fill that role throughout the season – in TV parlance “the bug” is the graphic that shows time and score and also little bits of information.

Other than JT, the member of our production team I have worked with directly for the longest is our replay coordinator Charlie Cucchiara; he was once our graphics coordinator and has produced our broadcasts on occasion.

For the past two seasons, Islander hockey has been produced by Jim Gallagher and directed by Dave Hagen.  I speak with Jim much more during the game than Dave, but they are both outstanding at what they do – maybe one day they will lend me one of their Emmys!

I have been extremely fortunate to work with such talented people, including the wonderful Shannon Hogan and the incomparable Stan Fischler over all these years.”

Stan "The Maven" Fischler and Eric Hornick

Knight of Cups: What are the four things that fans probably don’t know about you or your job?

Eric Hornick: “I generally only attend home games (and local road games).  Thanks to texting and email, it just seems like I am at the road games. 
Many of the Islander facts I remember off the top of my head; however, I would also make an excellent reference librarian.

My preparation for the next game usually starts with my writing of The Skinny after the previous one! You can find a tweet linking to it at exactly 7:11 the morning after every game.
Bill Torrey once called my mother, saying that he couldn’t hire me as the team’s statistician… because I was in high school!”

Knight of Cups: What was your most memorable interaction with Islanders fans over the years?

Eric Hornick: “Without question, #ItHappenedattheColiseum.  Two summers ago, I thought that someone needed to commemorate the final Coliseum season.  I also knew that person had to be me.

What was originally just a little 250-part series chronicling Coliseum events day-by-day became a major fundraiser.  With the help of Isles Blogwe raised over $33,000 for Make-A-Wish ® Metro NY.

In addition to the great pride I felt seeing our t-shirts and sweatshirts at the Coliseum and throughout the area, knowing that this project was enough to fund four “Wishes” made this one of the most worthwhile things I have ever done.  (Be warned: if I see you wearing a shirt, I will definitely come up to you and say thanks!)

Eric Hornick and his son Evan before game 1 vs Tampa

Outside of that, I hear from fans basically every day through Twitter.  My wife jokes that I am a “mini-celebrity”. I certainly love to talk with fans before games or between periods!

Knight of Cups: What was the most interesting behind the scenes conversation or revelation you have experienced while keeping stats?

Eric Hornick: “This is one of my favorite stories – about 15 years ago I was rushing around the Coliseum press box during an intermission.  The press box bathrooms were tucked behind a blind corner, and coming out of it, I ran into Flyer legend (and then General Manager) Bobby Clarke.  Literally.   We collided and I was actually a bit stunned.
When I looked up to apologize, I realized who I had hit.  I apologized and then with a bit of a giggle said “Ten years ago I would have given anything to have done that.”
Clarke replied, “Ten years ago, I would have hit you back.”  We both laughed.”

Knight of Cups: When did you know you wanted to be the resource for the team and keep meticulous track of all those growing numbers?

Eric Hornick: “I was 8 years old when the Isles played their first game; a long-deceased player named Bob Cook scored a hat trick in my first Coliseum game (Stick Night vs Vancouver in March 1973).  I’ve always blamed (credited) Chico Resch for his 1975 playoff run turning me into a super fan.  I’ve kept score of every game the team has played since 1978.

I met Jiggs in the 1980-81 season; over that summer I received a letter from him that the team was looking for a statistician – unfortunately they didn’t hire me because I was still in high school.  Jiggs invited me to join the broadcasts in 1982 and the first game I worked started the 15-game winning streak.  Butch doesn’t think I deserve much credit for that!  I’ve never left.”

Butch Goring, Jiggs McDonald and Eric Hornick during a broadcast.

Knight of Cups: Was there anyone you could call an influence of yours in the field?

Eric Hornick: “When I was growing up, the Mets had a statistician named Arthur Friedman; I remember reading his book.  I was probably more influenced by the broadcasters; as a teenager I complained to the Mets not when they traded Tom Seaver, but when Lindsay Nelson left to go to San Francisco.

Before you could find every game on Center Ice or on XM, I used to listen to NHL games from all over the place on radio.  Isles and Rangers of course, but also teams like the Whalers (Chuck Kaiton) and Capitals (Ron Weber).  Both Kaiton and Weber often worked alone, meaning they had plenty of need to interject stats.  When I broadcast games at Union College (including the small college national championship game twice) I always included a lot of stats.”

Knight of Cups: What current NHL record would you most like to see broken?

Eric Hornick: “Nothing really comes to mind, but there’s a certain 19-series winning streak that expect will last forever!”

Knight of Cups: What’s the biggest statistical impact you have seen expansion bring to an NHL season?

Eric Hornick: “Scoring went way up after the expansion in 1979-80 (to include the 4 WHA teams).  Adding Las Vegas, who because of the expansion draft rules will likely be a fairly competitive team right off the bat, won’t have the same impact.

Maybe the biggest impact is not on statistics but on scheduling.  Once Vegas joins the league, every team in the East will play 28 games in their division, 24 teams against the other division and 30 games against the West.  I’d like to see greater impact placed on divisional play.  If it was up to me, I’d go back to 6 divisions and play your divisional rivals 6 or 8 times each.  Consider this – after our opening night telecast at MSG, the Isles and Rangers will play 3 times in the final 81 games (In fact, opening night is our only telecast at The Garden; NBCSN has the other game).  That’s just not enough.”

Knight of Cups: What is the most interesting and least known NHL stat?

Eric Hornick: “On March 22, 1984, Bryan Trottier scored a goal 5 seconds into an Isles game in Boston.  (It was an unusual broadcast that night as Ed Westfall came down with laryngitis)

Trottier became the second player in modern NHL history to score :05 into play (Doug Smail did so for Winnipeg in 1981); Buffalo's Alex Mogilny would join them in the record book in 1991.  For the past two decades, those three players have had the record book to themselves.

The NHL, however, is in the midst of digitizing old records and in 2014, they found a goal by a guy named Merlyn Phillips nearly 88 years after it happened.  Phillips, playing for the Montreal Maroons, scored 5 seconds into a game in Chicago on December 29, 1926.  Phillips played 278 games for the Maroons; he finished his NHL career with the NY Americans in the 1932-33 season.

The kicker on Phillips’ share of the record – the clock in Chicago only moved in 5 second increments at that time. Nobody really knows whether he deserves his share of the record.”

In-Game broadcast stat board

Knight of Cups: Who has supported you most over the course of your career?

Eric Hornick: “My family, particularly my VERY understanding wife, Diane.  My two boys are both big fans as well; watching the Isles through their eyes is very special as well.  I’ve worked with many really terrific people along the way as well!”

Knight of Cups: What do you like best about your job?

Eric Hornick: “For nearly 35 years, I’ve had one simple goal – to make our broadcasts just a little bit better.  In all those years, no matter how bad (or good) the season was going, I can’t remember a single time I didn’t want to go to a game.

I love being in the building before a big game (I’m usually in the building before the gates open); there is an air of anticipation that’s hard to describe.  I love to speak with our crew as well as with the writers and the people I know from the other team.

I really like the opportunity to share information, either on television or through my blog or twitter.  Many broadcasters around the league get The Skinny before their games against the Islanders.

There’s an old saying that “Knowledge is Power”; to me it’s much more powerful when I can share it with others.”

I asked Mr. Hornick if he had anything to add about himself and the Islanders for the upcoming season.  He spoke fondly of former Isles play-by-play man, Howie Rose.

“While I am really looking forward to work with Brendan Burke this season, it will be strange not to have Howie Rose sitting next to me.  We’ve worked together since 1995 and I always felt that Howie was under-appreciated by a certain segment of the team’s fanbase.  Part of it had to do with his previous experience with the Rangers, part of it was because he replaced Jiggs McDonald, but perhaps the bigger part had nothing to do with Howie at all – he broadcast a team that for many of those years just wasn’t very good.

The Islanders played over 1,650 regular season and post-season games in the years that Howie called their games; he called three remarkable Islander overtime wins in his last eight days on the job.  They were the only Islander playoff overtime goals he ever called (Doc Emrick called John Tavares’ OT winner in 2014).  When JT’s overtime goal in game six ended the Islanders 23-year playoff series drought, other than my kids, I was happiest for Howie finally getting the chance to call it.

Howie Rose, Eric Hornick and Butch Goring

Among the things I’ll remember most were some of his great on-the-fly commentaries, from “housebound agoraphobe” to “Nassau County aspiring to be minor league.”  They were direct, and right on point.”

The Islanders are the last major North American pro sports franchise to win four league championships in a row.  With the future of the team trending upwards, I’m glad the written history of the Islanders will be brought to us by Eric Hornick, whose passion and excitement for the team is evident in each and every team broadcast, personal twitter post (@ehornick) and blog entry he writes.

Sign from Pat the sign guy, Isles game super fan.

Isles Notes:

Chris Lamoriello has been hired by the team as Director of Player Personnel.

The Islanders are $4.3A under the cap.

Per Arthur Staple, “Strome hasn't signed yet, but he will. And if Barzal/MDC/JHS have a shot, even less incentive to sign a veteran middle-6 forward.”

College Free-Agent, Jimmy Vessey signed an ELC with the New York Rangers.

Sound Tigers Notes:

Josh Holmstrom returns to the BST on a one-year, AHL contract.   

Monday, August 15, 2016

Islanders Re-Sign Gibson

The Islanders are pretty happy with their NHL depth of a Halak, Griess and Berube trio in goal right now.  But before that and over the last several seasons, the Islanders organizational depth below the NHL level looked promising as well.  It turned out that Poulin and Nilsson weren’t all they were thought to be and the Islanders found themselves regularly rotating 4-5 goalies throughout each season due to Nabokov’s injuries or the need for a change in keeper consistency.

Today, they are seemingly deep once again (McAdam, Soderstrom, Sorokin), especially after retaining Finnish net-minder, Christopher Gibson by signing him to a one year, two-way contract for a $660,000 NHL/$70,000 AHL cap hit (@generalfanager).  The 23 year old made some waves with the Islanders AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season where he led the team in games played and wins (19) while posting a 2.70 gaa and .909Sv%.

And you may have remembered Gibson’s first NHL win.  He just helped the Isles clinch a playoff berth against the Washington Capitals in an exciting 4-3, O.T. thriller (Hickey), no big deal.  Gibson has shown a steady resolve, even after falling behind.  His play in that game against the caps was a good example of his focus.

After coming over as part of the trade that sent Michael Grabner to the Maple Leafs, Gibson (Kings 2011, 2nd round, 49th overall selection) has paid some dividends for the Islanders organization with the BST and will no doubt have his chance to shine with Stephon Williams next season.

‏@CGibber37  “Really happy to be a part of the @NYIslanders organization for another year!! #IsItOctoberYet

Isles Notes:

Islanders rumored to be a finalist on list to retain services of Hobey-Baker winner, Jimmy Vesey.

Ryan Strome remains the only unsigned RFA for New York and is likely to wait as long as possible to try and sign a deal ala Brock Nelson.   While ineligible for arbitration, Strome is very limited in what he can do to change the future if he wants to remain an Islander.

J.T. still isn't going anywhere.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Brendan Burke Named Play-By-Play Announcer For Islanders

Today, MSG Networks announced that Brendan Burke will succeed Howie Rose as the next play-by-play announcer of the New York Islanders. Burke will join Islanders legend Butch Goring to call the action for team’s games in the 2016-17 NHL season.  Burke leaves the booth for the AHL Utica Comets, where he served as play-by-play commentator, as well as pre-game, intermission, and post-game interviewer since 2013. He has experience calling action for NHL radio as a fill-in play-by-play announcer with the St. Louis Blues from 09-12 as well as for Peoria, their AHL affiliate where he also served as Director of Communications.  Burke’s father, Don covered the Yankees, Mets and Nets as a reporter for the Record and Star Ledger in New Jersey.  He said he grew up watching the local teams, but managed to stay neutral as a fan while following his father’s career and practiced his play-by-play into a recorder while sitting in the stands.

Burke’s television experience for the AHL All-Star Game in 2015 and his work in the booth for Utica got him noticed as the league’s “most outstanding media member."  It also got him noticed by someone at MSG for the job with New York. Seemingly, he did a few simulated auditions with Mr. Goring and that was enough for him to land the opportunity.  Burke called doing play-by-play with the Isles a “dream job,” and said “It is an incredible honor to be joining MSG Networks and becoming part of the Islanders family.”  He added, “It’s very humbling to think I am following in the footsteps of two of the all-time greats in Howie Rose and Jiggs McDonald. It has been a lifelong goal to be an NHL broadcaster and to come home to New York City, and to work for one of the NHL’s iconic franchises, is an absolute dream come true.”  When I reached out to Jiggs and asked him if he had heard about Burke getting the job, he said, “I've left a message on his cell extending a welcome to the Islanders TV booth - wishing him a long and rewarding career. By rewards I mean Stanley Cup rings.”

Andrea Greenberg, president and CEO, MSG Networks remarked, “Brendan joins our exceptional production team, including on-air talent Butch Goring, Shannon Hogan, and Stan Fischer at the start of what promises to be another exciting Islanders season.”  It's Fischler, but I guess it's all good.

Isles Notes:

Islanders co-owner, Jon Ledecky is the uncle of Katie Ledecky.  Katie Ledecky is a Team USA swimmer who has shattered a few records and won a few gold medals in epic fashion over the last few days in Rio.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Islanders To Honor Arbour's Memory

The New York Islanders will be hosting a memorial on the one-year passing of Hall of Fame coach and Isles legend, Al Arbour on Monday, August, 29th at the Northwell Health Ice Center.  The ceremony will start at 11:30 a.m in the team practice facility, located at 200 Merrick Avenue in East Meadow. Fans are requested to RSVP by August 15th to reserve a seat to the first come, first serve event.

Fans are encouraged to be there for when the doors open at 10:30 a.m. to get ready for the day’s tribute in honor of Mr. Arbour. Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner, Hall of Famer and former Isles play-by-play announcer, Jiggs McDonald will serve as the Master of Ceremonies.

When I asked Jiggs about his feelings on the day, he said “I've had the privilege of MCing or participating in many notable events over the years, but to have been asked to MC the Islanders Memorial event to honor Al Arbour is the ultimate. You've heard players talk about Al being a father figure and how he touched their lives -- well, he was a huge influence in my life as well. How he treated everyone he ever had contact with is just one attribute that I have strived to emulate. This opportunity to honor his memory is something I hope every hockey fan in the Tri State area will attend.”

The event will be observed by several New York Islanders alumni along with “Hall of Fame former General Manager Bill Torrey, former NHL coach and 14-time Stanley Cup Champion Scotty Bowman, Hall of Fame member Jim Devellano, Islanders current Head Coach Jack Capuano and current team captain John Tavares,” per release.

The Arbour family will also be in attendance for the day’s tribute.

Isles Notes:

New York Islanders Captain, John Tavares set the record straight in an interview with Sportsnet 590 - Toronto about upcoming rumors as his free agency period comes closer.  Tavares said “I would not count on that” when asked about the chances of him playing for the Maple Leafs.  "I think I've always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” Tavares said.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Queens, Boulton, Strome and The Fans Speak

On Thursday, the Bloomberg network reported that the Islanders were entertaining a possible move to Queens.  Personally, when compared to some of the rumors I’ve heard in the last year, hearing that the Isles organization was talking with the Mets organization for possible arena development opportunities near Citi Field, it wasn’t as ridiculous a notion.  I usually roll my eyes and scroll past any anti-Barclays or “Isles to move” stories I see around the net, but because of the reporting source and the building momentum of the story, I looked into it.

I know Jon Ledecky was adamant on the Islanders and the Barclays Center partnership when he spoke to the press as an official co-majority owner of the franchise and to a recent “town hall” style meeting with season ticket holders.  "Barclays Center is our home," Ledecky said. "There's all sorts of things out there about playing games [at the Coliseum]. The NHL has a pretty a strict rule that they set the schedule, not us. We have to make Barclays the new home of the Islanders and make it the best experience.”

Now, I am sure that while the organization plans on improving their team and fan experience for their 2nd season in Brooklyn, it makes perfect sense to not acknowledge the rumors for a Queens relocation, but at the same time, it’s beneficial in an off-the-board kind of way for the team to use that press to their PR advantage.  It would address the current non-hockey centric layout and environment at the Barc and suggest a possible relocation that is closer to the former, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum site, that they called home for 43 years.  Not to mention, Brooklyn and the Barclays Center are sure to take notice of any buzz or reaction by the media and fans about the amplified shortcomings (view, seats, ice, security, etc.) there. 

The Islanders and Barclays Center would have an opt-out clause from their 25 year lease agreement after season number four, but that would mean the organization would lose their $53M per season deal to surrender control of business (ticket and mktg.) operations while playing at the Barclays Center unless a similar kind of deal could be struck with a new suitor.

Yesterday, the story gained even more attention after a mention of another possible site for the “project”, rumored to be at a vacant, 28 acre Belmont Park location in Elmont of Nassau County.  Neither the Islanders or the New York Racing Association would comment on a scenario involving this rumor even with a Newsday source saying they have met several times to discuss options on the agreement, despite the fact that other groups (including NY Cosmos) have already submitted bids to develop the same property.

B.D. Gallof posted a few things on Twitter regarding the rumors based on the comments of an Isles source, “Go back to worrying about when/if a trade will be made. This is a non-story."  Another said, “The ice blows at Barclays & every free agent knows it ‘was quoted to me from source who paraphrased former Isles player,” and even another, “IF team ownership decides to leave Brooklyn, being sold to outside interests (eg Quebec, Seattle, etc) WAY more likely.”  So I guess it’s understood that the Brooklyn challenge is on the clock for the Islanders and the team is focused on making improvements and addressing the task at hand, there.

As long as this team is not where the die-hards want them to be in the hockey world, these kinds of rumors will continue to surface.  But some of them may start to lose their steam, especially as the reign of the new ownership progresses with Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin at the helm.  They have impressed me so far with their commentary and a willingness to be available to fans and season ticket holders, even on the arena concourse.  To this point, they have given me no reason to doubt what they have claimed in official statements.

Eric Boulton agrees to a one year, two way deal with the Islanders Organization.  Arthur Staple reported, “Boulton gets $575,000/$150,000 with a guarantee of $200,000.”  Boulton’s character is well known and his locker room presence is said to be valued by his team mates and therefore, by GM, Garth Snow.  That is a good reason to see this seemingly strange move for Boulton, who will be 40 this summer and played in only 6 games for New York Last season.  But not when you consider it as one to keep him in the organizational fold until an advisory or coaching position could be made available when Boulton retires, similar to Matt Carker.

RFA, Ryan Strome didn’t get resigned yet and isn’t arbitration eligible.  Strome found himself in a bit of a struggle last season with 8 and 20 for 28 pts in 71 games with a -9 rating after scoring an impressive 50 points the season before.  He tallied 1 and 4 for 5 points in 8 playoff games.  Despite being sent to Bridgeport last season and being scratched in the playoffs, Strome’s 2015-16 season was a learning experience for him and he kept a strong public appearance when he spoke to the media about his situation.  "It's only going to make you a better player and a better person."  He never spoke negatively about the organization and kept putting the pressure back on himself whenever he had a microphone or recorder in front of him.  Strome is young and still coming into to his own.  I feel he is getting stronger and more experienced with each season, so the Islanders are more likely to keep working with the 5th overall, 2011 pick in the mix unless a major trade, with a very good return, can be engineered for his services.  Even last week, a Strome for Kucherov package trade was rumored to have been discussed, but the Isles and Lightning were too far apart of the final details of the deal to come to an agreement.  It’s all about perceived return for what they are giving up.

Lastly, I asked my followers on Twitter for what they wanted most from the Islanders in the 2016-17 season.  Aside from the “winning the Stanley Cup” answer, they were pretty consistent on their very attainable desires for the team.  Between the tweets and direct messages, the major things were a more intense and stronger effort throughout the season and into the post season.  They demand bigger results from players like Strome, Nelson, Lee and Boychuk and almost all came down to a more consistent team that can legitimately push further in the playoffs.

All of these points are valid and quite expected, but I think that most fans of this team take the time to pay attention to what they bring each and every game and fully invest themselves into what follows each and every final score.  And I am not saying their aren’t those who are quick to panic or those who fly off the handle way too early and often, but their passion and deep appreciation for the crest makes them an attentive, excitable, but long suffering fan base.  Let’s hope the new direction in ownership and continued focus to build a winning team gets us all closer to our expectations of where we want them to be next season.  And I wouldn’t mind another surprise or two this summer.

Isles Notes:

The Islanders will be on NBC for six games next season after a record year from NHL broadcasts on the network last season.

Sound Tigers Notes:

Sound Tigers agree to terms on contracts with F Connor Jones and D Patrick Cullity and Kane Lafranchise.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Islanders Re-Sign Quine

Today, our New York Islanders signed another major prospect to a one way NHL contract.  F, Alan Quine, 23 agreed to a 2 year deal ($575K year 1, $650K year 2) with a $612K AAV.  Quine was another Prospect (along with Mayfield) that always caught my attention with his hockey sense and nose for the net while in Bridgeport.  He was first selected by Detroit in the 3rd round of the 2011 Draft, but never signed a contract.  This allowed him to re-enter the draft in 2013, where the Islanders selected him 166th overall in the 6th round.  Quine ranks in the top 10 for career goals (50), assists (87) and points (137) as a Sound Tiger in 3 pro seasons (191 games).

Quine had 38 points in 56 games in the AHL last season.  That got him noticed by Garth Snow and allowed him to make his pro debut in the final 2 games of the season for the Isles. He netted 2 and 4 for 6 points that included a memorable double OT winner against Florida in game 5 of the Islanders 1st round series win. On scoring the goal, Quine said, “It was probably the best moment of my life, to date.”

He played well for New York through the playoffs.  So well, that many speculated the RFA to make the Islanders regular roster this season.  “He’s tenacious,” Tavares said about Quine. “He doesn’t shy away from the moment and the opportunity. It’s not an easy spot when you come in and play your first couple games in the league in the last couple games [of the regular season], then play a pretty significant role in the playoffs. So he’s really been called upon and he’s stepped up.”

Quine is a strong skater who uses his speed and acceleration to open the ice in both zones for himself and his team mates.  He has good hands and should be another exciting addition to the team as a rostered forward.  The rebuild is starting to show its quality and with the loss of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, the opportunities for a play-maker like Quine are huge.  We will just have to see what he can make of it.

“Now it’s time to focus on the task at hand.”  Agreed.

Isles Notes:

Per Jim Baumbach, “(Jon) Ledecky did NOT commit to six game plan at new Coliseum. Says that's up to NHL and was deal with others (Wang, Ratner) no longer involved.”

“Ledecky also threw some cold water on the idea that the Sound Tigers would move to Nassau.”

“Lots of talk about ways to improve Brooklyn experience. Said something to effect of, when you have a home, you work to fix it, not move."

Islander and Sound Tiger, Matt Carkner retired from playing pro hockey and will stay as a coach with the BST.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Islanders Agree To Terms With Scott Mayfield

Today, our New York Islanders announced that they have come to terms on a 2yr/$625K AAV, one-way contract with D, Scott Mayfield.  Mayfield was the Islanders 2nd round, 34th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and spent much of his time (200 games) with Bridgeport of the AHL.  Prior to his time in the Pros, Mayfield played 81 games with the University of Denver and the Phantoms of the United States Hockey League.

Mayfield is 6’4, 224# and knows how to play a hard checking, gritty defensive game.  He is no stranger to throwing the body either. He has made an impression with me while in Bridgeport (5 & 7 for 12 pts last season in 54 games) and has shown flashes of a tough to play against, blue liner in his short stint as an NHL defender during regular season and playoff appearances.  I’m sure new Islander, Jason Chimera remembers the way Mayfield sent him flying in a game 6 victory vs the Caps in 2015.  He even managed to get a goal in 6 games with the Islanders last season. 

Mayfield is part of New York’s future plan on defense and we all expect Ryan Pulock to start showing what he can do very soon.  And do not underestimate the value that Adam Pelech can bring.  Pelech is another BST system standout who made a stabilizing difference in the Isles line up as recently as last season (2 assists - vs Rangers - in 9 games) until a bout of thoracic outlet syndrome slowed down his momentum.

Andy Graziano mentioned that the “Isles now have top 8 D-men signed, 2 on 2-way deals (Pulock/Pelech) who are also waiver exempt.”  These young D have all shown to be smart, physical and pretty impressive in their limited time with the Islanders.  Unless more unexpected moves are made, that looks to be the blue line for next season and these 3 young players are big D guys I am looking forward to watching with the big club.

Scott Mayfield shared this on Twitter, “Excited to be back with the Isles organization for the next two years!”