One of my goals in writing for Eyes on Isles is to bridge the gap between the Dynasty New York Islanders and today’s team. I was there at the beginning in 1972. An almost 12-year-old kid listening and watching Billy Harris, Lorne Henning, Bob Nystrom, Gary Howatt, and Ed Westfall take the ice for the Islanders.
Not many wins, but I knew that there was something special about this team. In a neighborhood of Rangers fans, these new guys with the great logo were mine.
As the doors closed on the last regular-season game at the Old Barn, I became nostalgic for the Islanders of my youth. I see the many parallels between those teams and our present club (the brevity of this column precludes me from a deeper analysis).
Shades of the New York Islanders dynasty team
It starts with the great coaching of Barry Trotz and the leadership and ingenuity of Lou Lamoriello. The styles and results of Coach Trotz and Lou make them worthy successors to the late great Al Arbour and The Architect, the late great Bill Torrey.
As I watch Nick Leddy lug the puck up ice, I am reminded of the great Denny Potvin. Often Potvin would start from behind his goal, dart across the opponent’s blue line, and launch a ferocious slap shot that found the back of the net 310 times in his illustrious career. Potvin had a hip check that was second to none.
Mat Barzal’s unparalleled ability to set up linemates and score key goals brings memories of Brian Trottier, the best two-way center to ever play the game (524 G 901 A). Although dearly missing from our lineup, Anders Lee reminds me of Clark Gilles. Like Lee, Gillies (319 G 378 A) had an immovable physical presence that allowed him to set up in front of the goal where he redirected shots and passes past opposing netminders. No one wanted to mess with Clark Gilles.
Finally, there’s the burgeoning skill set of Oliver Wahlstrom that reminds me of Mike Bossy. Although that’s high praise for Wahlstrom at this point in his career, he has the same scorer’s mentality and sniper-like capabilities.
After watching these two great rivals square off for the final time at the Coliseum, I could hear the Old Barn rocking with cheers of “Chi-co” (Glen Resch) and “Shoot the Puck Barry” (Ranger Defenseman Barry Beck). It’s all the City could talk about for days leading up to the games.
The intensity of this rivalry was and is unmatched in professional sports. Those were magical times when sports were unencumbered by politics and pure entertainment. It transported us out of our daily struggles and lifted our spirits. It’s what sports are supposed to be.
Today’s Islanders stand on the threshold of greatness. As we watch the culmination of this season unfold, let us appreciate what is and what will be. Let us rally behind our team and call on the ghosts of Islander past glory to haunt our opponents and lead us to our fifth cup. For whether we realize it or not these are the good old days of Islander Hockey. Enjoy them.
For fun, I have drawn a few more comparisons between the Dynasty Islanders and today’s team. My comparisons are based mostly on style of play and intangibles, not necessarily statistics. I would appreciate your thoughts and comments:
Matt Martin (the new Mr. Islander) and Bob Nystrom
Kyle Palmieri and John Tonelli
Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Butch Goring
Anthony Beauvillier and Bob Bourne
Brock Nelson and Ed Westfall (I know Westfall never won a Cup)
Noah Dobson and Ken Morrow