Islanders: What new fans need to know about the franchise
If you’re new to the New York Islanders here are some things you’ll want to know.
Every year around the playoffs, fan bases swell for the teams participating in the postseason. That includes the New York Islanders. As one of the 24 teams heading to Canada to get a chance at the 2020 Stanley Cup – and with all of the built-up positivity swirling around the club – the Isles will certainly attract a few new fans.
And if they happen to go the distance the number of new fans will certainly swell even higher.
So to welcome any new fan, or for any casual fan that might be passing by, here’s a Coles Notes version of the New York Islanders history, where we are now, what you need to know, and who you need to follow.
First, welcome to the Islanders family.
If you’re new to the Islanders, you might not be aware that during the 80’s they were the best team in the league and actually put together one of the greatest dynasties in the sport.
From 1980 to 1983 the New York Islanders won four back-to-back Stanley Cups. They’re one of only two teams to do that. The Montreal Canadiens were the only other team (they did it twice).
The Islanders almost extended that run to five Stanley Cups but lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals. The Islanders 19 playoffs series victories in a row from 1980 to 1984 are the most in the NHL. And is the greatest postseason run in North American sports.
Powering them to that dynasty was GM Bill Torrey who is rightfully named ‘The Architect’. Al Arbour was the coach behind the bench that got the most out of his players. And then on the ice, the Islanders had a collection of Hall of Fame players:
- Denis Potvin (D): drafted 1st overall in 1973
- Clark Gillies (LW): drafted 4th overall in 1974
- Bryan Trottier (C): drafted 2nd round in 1974
- Mike Bossy (RW): drafted 15th overall in 1976
- Billy Smith (G): drafted in 1972 expansion draft
The Dark Years
After the championships in the 80’s things dried up for the Islanders. From 1984 through till today, the Islanders were rarely a factor in the postseason. Their longest playoff run came in 1993 when they marched all the way to the Conference Finals against the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Montreal Canadiens.
If it had to be boiled down to a single factor, it would be ownership. Dealing with the Islanders ownership issues over the years is a post-in-and-of-itself, what you need to know is for most of the post-dynasty years the blue and orange either had a disinterested owner or one who was literally a fraud.
They also had some of the worst GM’s in the league at the helm for way longer than they should have been.
Mike Milbury was easily one of the worst GMs in the sport. He was at the helm from December 1995 to June 2006 and is responsible for some of the worst trades ever and a number of questionable decisions. Here’s his greatest hits:
- Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen to Florida for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha
- Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt, and 2001 1st round pick (Jason Spezza) for Alexei Yashin
- Signed Yashin to a 10-year ~$64 million deal
- Bought out Yashin five years later
Milbury made the postseason three times in nearly eleven years in charge. He never won a playoff round.
Garth Snow was at the helm of the Islanders for nearly 12-years from July 2006 to June 2018. In his 12 years, the Islanders made the playoffs four times and won a playoff round once. Garth Snow wasn’t much better than Milbury. Here are his greatest hits:
- Signed goalie Rick DiPietro to a 15-year $67.5 million deal
- Bought out DiPietro six years later (His deal is still technically on the Isles books)
- Signed Andrew Ladd to a seven-year $38.5 million deal in 2016
- Missed on four top-five draft picks between 2010 and 2014
Where We Are Now
In 2018, Garth Snow was replaced by Lou Lamoriello as the President and eventually as the GM of the New York Islanders.
Lou brought in some of the best minds in the business to reshape the Islanders. Stanley Cup champion Barry Trotz was brought in to coach the team. Mitch Korn was brought in to direct the Islanders goalies.
It wasn’t all positive though. The Isles lost star center John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency and everyone believed that the Islanders were destined for the bottom of the NHL.
The Islanders surprised everyone with a 103 point season in 2018-19 and swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs.
Now in 2019-20, the Islanders put up a 17-game point streak (the longest in franchise history) and were one of the better teams in the league for a while. Until injuries took some key players and the Islanders slipped down the standings.
With a 0.588 points percentage, the Islanders are one of 24 teams to continue playing in 2019-20. A journey that re-starts on July 29 with an exhibition game against the New York Rangers before they begin their best-of-five qualifying-round series against the Florida Panthers.
Of course, this is a high-level overview of the Islanders history. There’s way more to cover here, but this is a good start.
Who to Follow
As you begin your journey as an Islanders fan here’s who you’ll want to follow. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start for all new Isles fans.
Arthur Staple – Senior writer for the Athletic covering the Isles: Website (subscription required), Twitter
Andrew Gross – Newsday Islanders beat writer: Website, Twitter
Brian Compton – NHL.com Islanders writer: Website, Twitter
And of course us, Eyes on Isles
No Sleep Til Belmont
Isle Seat podcast
And of course us, Eyes on Isles
We also have a Patreon for exclusive podcasts
Isles Meetups – Looking for a group of Isles fans to watch games with (when we can)? Find a local meetup
Yes Men Outfitters – Want to get some good looking Isles swag designed and made right on Long Island?