During these quarantined weeks, Islander fans have enjoyed reminiscing about the Shawn Bates penalty shot goal against the Leafs. That 2001-2002 team had 96 points and brought life back to the Coliseum.
However, that entertaining season came at a considerable cost.
The 2000-2001 version of the Isles was very different. A very young team with promise.
At 23, Zdeno Chara was entering his fourth season, and the skating issues that plagued him were becoming much less of a problem.
Kenny Johnsson and Roman Hamrlik were just 26.
The Isles three first-round picks from the 1999 draft (not surprisingly one of the weakest talent pools in NHL history) were the supremely skilled Tim Connolly, the huge Taylor Pyatt, and defensemen Branislav Mezei were all playing meaningful minutes at age 19.
However, other than Marius Czerkawski, this team had minimal scoring and skill up-front. Jason Blake was two years away from discovering his ability to finish. Brad Isbister could show flashes of brilliance and then disappear for weeks on end.
Goaltending was an issue for the 2000-01 squad from day one. Ex-Ranger, John Vanbiesbrouck, was asked to hold the mantle for first overall pick, Rick Dipietro. Dipietro appeared in 20 games in this, his rookie season; and he lost nearly all of them.
Milbury canned Butch Goring in March and assistant Lorne Henning finished the 21 win season.
It was a bleak period. But there was young talent, and Charles Wang had just bought the team.
Mad Mike, empowered by new ownership, earned his moniker once again.
And this was his best off-season as an Islander GM.
He traded Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt, and the number two pick in the 2001 entry draft (Jason Spezza) to the Senators for Alexei Yashin. Arguably his worst move as a GM and among the worst in NHL history. This was compounded as Wang/Milbury then signed Yashin to a ten-year contract.
But Milbury did poach head coach Peter Laviolette when he was passed over for the Bruins job.
Lavy brought in Providence free agent and Islander Legend, Shawn Bates.
Milbury moved Pyatt and Connolly to the Sabres for Michael Peca. He traded Matthieu Biron to Tampa for Adrian Aucoin. And realizing DiPietro was nowhere near ready, MM signed both Garth Snow and Chris Osgood.
The 2001-2002 Isles were built to win.
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However, the Isles surrendered picks in each of the first three rounds of the 2001 draft. No Islander picks from that draft would ever play in the AHL much less than the NHL.
The 2002 team gave us some glory with a lot of lean sandwiched in between.
What were your toughest seasons as an Islander Fan? And what made you keep the faith?