A lot has happened since the last time the New York Islanders were relevant to the hockey world: two members of the Bush family served in the White House; Michael Phelps was born into the world and became one of the greatest Olympic champions ever; the Internet was invented; and the Boston Red Sox captured a World Series after 86 years of agony, not once but twice.
Heck, even the New York Mets captured a World Championship during the painful span since the Islanders were considered to be anything more than a dead team walking–or skating–for that matter.
However, Islanders fans everywhere (both of them) can rejoice! The reformation of this franchise is in the works. The rise of the fish-sticks is here … and it has nothing to do with the team’s coming move to Brooklyn:
Rick DiPietro is no longer an Islander–we think. General Manager Garth Snow announced on Friday that the oft-injured, seldom used net-minder was waived, allowing any team seeking an influx of conversion of oxygen to carbon dioxide for the next eight years or so to claim him. Assuming healthcare costs will preclude a team from signing DiPietro, he will now report to the Islanders’ Bridgeport AHL franchise, where he will – well – get to live in Bridgeport.
Assuming DiPietro’s NHL days are over – after all, Snow was saavy enough to trade for Tim Thomas earlier this season – the release marks the end of an error, or as Islanders fans are used to saying: “business as usual.”
Why so mean? Because one has to work very hard to destroy a sports dynasty, which is exactly what the Islanders were doing during the early 1980’s when they won four Stanley Cups in a row. We’re talking about the toughest team trophy in sports to achieve, and the Islanders raised it for four straight years. Within the same lifetime, the Islanders have worked so hard to destroy its dynasty memory that the release of DiPietro and his sole contribution to this franchise of signing an employment contract in 2006 was viewed as good news.
Think about it: Is anybody surprised that DiPietro floundered like a fish out of water during his tenure on Long Island? Nobody could have foreseen the remarkable slate of injuries that DiPietro has sustained–nor were such injuries desired–but the fact that DiPietro’s absolute bust as an Islander has Wade Redden saying, “Thank goodness I am not him” is very telling as to the disaster of a franchise the Islanders have become.
Fortunately for DiPietro, this situation is not entirely his fault, as long as Charles Wang is around. There was his unfailing support of Mike Milbury as Islanders GM – until the support for Milbury failed … followed by the 40-day reign of Neil Smith as GM … followed by the entire retirement/promotion of Garth Snow to GM that seemed to literally be lifted out of the script of the Roger Dorn role in the movie “Major League II.”
Every one of these moves alienated the Islanders’ fanbase in a way not seen since the Baltimore Colts placed a phone call to Mayflower back in 1984 (ironically the same year the Islanders’ dynasty ended). Well, there is another, since the team is taking further steps to erode its dwindling group of supporters by moving to Brooklyn shortly, but that is a column for another day.
What does DiPietro’s failure on Long Island do with the franchise’s shortcomings as a whole? In a word, everything. Had DiPietro merely signed a 15-year contract before ever playing a game, and then failed, we could easily say that it was an irresponsible contract that many franchises are guilty of, particularly in New York.
However, the entire DiPietro saga that is finally coming to an end is particularly noteworthy because it is merely for a microcosm for an entire franchise that many can remember as the jewel of hockey, and the envy of fans everywhere. There are Original Six franchises – one of which resides in New York – that cannot boast a Stanley Cup resume that the Islanders can claim. Yet, 30 years after their dynasty ended, the Islanders have a smaller following than the circus that visits the Nassau Coliseum only once a year, even though this particular circus visits the Island every single day.
As the Islanders move past the DiPietro disaster and look forward to brighter days ahead in Brooklyn, where they have to introduce their shenanigans to a whole new fanbase, the question that hovers over this franchise is not whether releasing DiPietro is the start of the rebuilding effort, but instead whether it is Snow, Wang and everybody else making decisions for the Islanders that need to be released instead.