It’s Not Just About The Players
The players typically get most of the credit for winning those four championships, they did, after all, put the pucks in the net. But if not for General Manager Bill Torrey they don’t end up together, and if not for Head Coach Al Arbour they may not have reached the level of success they had as a group.
It’s important to recognize their vital contributions to this team.
It takes a next level mastermind to not only build a championship-caliber team but to build a championship-caliber team that would be one of the best dynasties in hockey. Only two teams have ever won four Stanley Cup championships in back-to-back years. The Montreal Canadiens and the New York Islanders. That’s it, that’s the list.
Torrey turned an expansion club into a Stanley Cup winner within eight years of it’s existence.
Through the draft, he found eleven of the 17 players of the Core of Four. Only four were first-round picks and only two were top four overall picks (Denis Potvin and Clark Gillies).
Bryan Trottier and John Tonelli were second-round picks, Bob Nystrom was a third-round pick, Stefan Persson was a 14th round pick.
He also had his finger on the pulse of his team and knew what they needed and when to acquire those pieces in the trade market. He brought in Gord Lane to give his team an edge and brought in Butch Goring to seal the deal. They’d win their first cup the season both Lane and Goring were acquired via trade.
Again, next level mastermind.
It’s one thing to amass talent and another to turn that talent into a champion. That was Al Arbour’s job. As the Isles bench boss, Arbour did exactly that.
The former defenseman and coach for the St Louis Blues came to the Islanders – with three Stanley Cup rings on his fingers – in the second year of their existence.
In year one under Arbour, the Isles shed 100 goals against. They’d even make the playoffs in year three and go all the way to the semi-finals where they fell to the Flyers in seven games.
The man knew how to get the most out of his players. My biggest takeaway from anything I’ve heard said about Al Arbour is his reaction to Kelly Hrudey calling him his second father. (Get a tissue ready.)
The man wasn’t just a hockey coach. Sure, he turned some of these guys into superstars or at the very least NHL players. But his coaching went beyond what happened on the ice. He turned a lot of these guys into men and was a huge influence on them. Case and point Kelly Hrudey’s comments about his former coach.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll go over all 17 Core of the Four players but before I got to the players I wanted to give some necessary love to the Architect Bill Torrey and Al Arbour.