Celebrating 50 years of NY Islanders Hockey With the All-Decade Team: 1982-1991

Three Islanders
Three Islanders / B Bennett/GettyImages
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As we head into the second decade of NY Islanders hockey, the franchise continued its dominance winning another two Stanley Cups until finally being dethroned by Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers.

Head Coach Al Arbour lead the team to 19 straight playoff series victories between 1980 and 1984. A record that stands to this day and may never be broken.

In the late 80s, the Islanders see a changing of the guard as the greats from the dynasty era retire, passing the torch onto new, younger talent. Later in the decade, the club struggles to find the success of their predecessors, yet make a name for themselves in their ownchapter of Islander history.

*Note: A player cannot be named in multiple all-decade teams. for example, Mike Bossy cannot be selected for 1972-1981 and 1982-1991.


C- Pat LaFontaine

New York Islanders v  New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

Just as the Islanders dynasty was ending, Pat LaFontaine, the organization's next prominent star, was just beginning his career. He made his debut during the 1984 season and was part of the team searching for its fifth straight Stanley Cup, ultimately falling to the Oilers.

LaFontaine would suit up for eight seasons at Nassau Coliseum, his best coming during the 1989-90 season. The St. Louis, Mo, native tallied 54 goals and added another 51 assists, becoming the first Islander not named Bossy to score 50 goals in a season. To this day, he remains one of only three Islanders to accomplish the feat.

The most memorable moment of LaFontaine's time with the Isles, and one of the most memorable in team history, was the "Easter Epic" in 1987. In the longest Game 7 in Stanley Cup Playoffs history, LaFontaine scored the game-winning goal for the Islanders in the fourth overtime against the Washington Capitals, sending them to the second round. The game ended in the early hours of Easter Sunday, earning it its nickname.

"It was the most memorable moment in my hockey life. Even today, wherever I go, people come up to me and start telling me where they were during the Easter Epic."
Pat LaFontaine

Before the 1991 season, LaFontaine rejected a new contract from the Islanders, forcing the front office's hand to find a new landing spot for their all-star goal-scorer. He was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in a deal that involved Pierre Turgeon heading to Long Island.

In 2006, LaFontaine would make his return to the Islanders as a Senior Advisor. However, his tenure was short-lived. The former sniper resigned from his position just six weeks after being hired - a result of GM Neil Smith, being fired. The incident seemed to put a damper on LaFontaine's standing within the organization, rarely mentioned as one of the team's great players while Charles Wang was majority owner.

In his eight seasons with the Isles, LaFontaine accrued 287 goals. He sits at fifth all-time in Islanders goal scoring, tied with Brent Sutter.

In 2003, LaFontaine was immortalized in Toronto as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.


LW- John Tonelli

New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs / Graig Abel/GettyImages

The name John Tonelli may not ring as loud as the likes of Denis Potvin or Bryan Trottier when it comes to the stars of the 1980s, but it is just as important to the success of the franchise as any other.

Tonelli always seemed to be around the puck when the team needed a big goal in the playoffs. In the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers, Tonelli had the primary assist on the overtime goal scored by Bobby Nystrom to clinch the franchise's first championship.

During the 1982 playoffs, as the Islanders were on the brink of elimination, trailing by two goals in the final minutes of play, Tonelli assisted on a Mike McEwen goal to bring the Isles within one. He then scored the game-tying goal with 2:21 to play and would add on the game-winner in overtime to continue the Islanders dynasty.

In eight seasons on Long Island, Tonelli finished with 50 points in every season but one. In 1984-85, he even eclipsed the 100-point mark, scoring 42 goals and adding 58 assists for an even 100.

In 2020, during the Islanders' final season at Nassau Coliseum, Tonelli's number 27 was raised to the rafters to join the other members of the dynasty era. Tonelli told current captain Anders Lee, to continue wearing the number 27 for the remainder of his career with the Islanders.


RW- Mike Bossy

New York Islanders
New York Islanders / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

Arguably the greatest goal scorer to ever lace up a pair of skates, Mike Bossy still remains at the forefront of the NHL record books.

Drafted 15th overall in 1977, Bossy wasted no time becoming one of the most feared snipers in hockey history. During his rookie season in 1978, Bossy totaled 53 goals at age 21 - the most ever for a rookie at the time, which has since been broken by Teemu Selänne, scoring 76 goals in 1992-93. His success earned him Calder Trophy honors as the league's top rookie.

Bossy's rookie campaign was only a sign of things to come. He would top the 50-goal mark in nine of his 10 NHL seasons, eclipsing 60 goals five times. His nine 50-goal seasons are the most ever consecutively and tied for the most overall with Gretzky and Alexander Ovechkin, while his five 60-goal seasons are the most all-time, tied with Gretzky.

Bossy was part of the "Trio Grande" line along with Trottier and Gillies, which was so successful in each of the Islanders' four Stanley Cup runs. After winning the team's third title in 1982, Bossy was named winner of the Con Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs, scoring 17 goals and ten assists in 19 games.

Aside from being among the most talented players on the ice, Bossy was also recognized for his sportsmanship. Three times ('83, '84, '86), he was awarded the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy given to the player "adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."

Perhaps the most memorable moment of Bossy's incredible career was becoming only the second player to reach 50 goals in 50 games. Needing two goals in the 50th game of the season, Bossy remained at 48 with five minutes to play. Bossy would beat Quebec Nordiques goaltender Ron Grahame, twice within five minutes to accomplish 50 in 50.

Bossy's illustrious career was cut short at 30 due to lingering back issues. Though his career was short, he still managed to leave his mark on the game. His .762 goals per game is still the highest in league history. He totaled 44 career hat-tricks and led the league in scoring twice (1978-79 and 1980-81) but somehow never managed to win a Hart Trophy for league MVP.

The Rosemere, QC, native was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991 and had his number retired by the Islanders in 1992.

After announcing that he was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2021, Bossy passed away six months later, on April 15, 2022.


D- Ken Morrow

New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs / Graig Abel/GettyImages

Before Ken Morrow joined the Islanders at the tail end of the 1979-80 season, the team struggled to get over the playoff hump, losing in the Conference Finals four out of five seasons. The addition of Morrow along with Butch Goring seemed to give the organization the extra juice it needed.

A fourth-round pick of the Isles in 1976, it took Morrow four years before making his debut with the club in 1980, at the age of 23. Before even stepping on the ice for the Islanders, Morrow became a household name all across the United States as a member of the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team that defeated the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

Morrow made his Islanders debut on April 5, 1980, just over a month removed from the Gold Medal ceremony in Lake Placid. From here on out, Morrow solidified himself as a shoo-in along the Islanders' blue line. Head Coach Al Arbour paired Morrow with Potvin right off the bat, a move that helped the organization win four consecutive Stanley Cups.

"In my 10 years, I was lucky to play in so many memorable games. I can't forget when we went for our fourth straight Cup. We beat Edmonton in three straight and now it was Game Four on the Island. We nursed a one-goal lead in the third period and, finally, the Oilers pulled their goalie. I was so happy to put the puck in the open net. We did not want to go back to Edmonton."
Ken Morrow on his Finals goal

Not known for his offensive prowess, Morrow always seemed to take his game to another level come the postseason. Across his 10 seasons and 550 games in the NHL, Morrow only managed to find the back of the net a mere 17 times. However, in only 127 playoff games, the Flint, MI native tallied 11 goals.

Goal scoring for the Islanders in this era was accounted for by the likes of Bossy, Trottier, Potvin, etc. Morrow only had to play his position, which he did so proficiently.

Following the 1989 season, Morrow was forced to cut his career short following several knee injuries. The Islander's time without Morrow did not last long, as he was brought on as a scout in 1992. He remains a member of the organization, currently operating as Director of Pro Scouting.

Though his number does not hang in the rafters, his name does as he was inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame on New Years' Eve of 2011.


D- Tomas Jonsson

New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs / Graig Abel/GettyImages

As the Islanders plowed through the competition for much of the early 1980s, it was not possible without constantly bolstering their roster. With the club's consistent winning ways, a target was tattooed on the NY logo that dons the famous Islanders sweater.

At the 1979 NHL draft, Bill Torrey and Isles management selected defenseman Tomas Jonsson out of Sweden. Jonsson stood at only 5'10", a rarity for a defender in the days of open ice hits and a reluctance to blow the whistle for a ticky-tack penalty.

Having already played professionally in Sweden with MoDo AIK, Jonsson made his North American debut during the 1981-82 season. As a 21-year-old, Jonsson left his mark on the blueline as he joined the likes of Potvin, Morrow, and fellow Swede, Stefan Persson. Jonsson became a luxury in an already affluent defensive corp and was part of the cup-winning teams in 1982 and 1983.

"We had a solid defense having added Mike McEwen to go with Gordie Lane and the guys who'd helped us win Cups. But I felt that we should infuse new faces in the lineup when guys were ready. By the fall of '81, Jonsson was ready."
Bill Torrey

Jonsson was a participant in the playoffs in each of the seven full seasons he spent on Long Island. His most successful season came in the 1984-85 season, tallying 16 goals and 34 assists.

Midway through the 1988-89 season, Jonsson was traded to the rival Edmonton Oilers, who were just finishing up with a dynasty of their own. After playing only 20 games in Edmonton, Jonsson called it a career in the NHL and elected to return to Sweden

Though his NHL career was over at age 28, Jonsson continued his playing career in Sweden, lacing up for another 10 seasons.

Like Morrow, Jonsson did not put up the eye-popping numbers like Potvin or even Persson, but was just as valuable to the franchise's success as anyone else.


G- Billy Smith

New York Islanders v Boston Bruins
New York Islanders v Boston Bruins / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

Selected by the Islanders in the 1972 expansion draft from the LA Kings, Billy Smith became the backbone of the team's Stanley Cup runs.

Before taking control of the crease in 1980, Smith backed up longtime netminder Chico Resch for his first 4 seasons on Long Island. Once he owned the space between the pipes, Smith became one of the league's best goaltenders, policing his crease like no other.

For those who dared to step near his crease, Smith made sure opponents didn't make the same mistake twice. With his stick used as a baton at times, Smith had no issue chopping at anyone's legs, back, knees, or anything within reach to let opponents know he owned the space surrounding him.

Once Smith became the everyday goalie, The Islanders began their streak of four consecutive Stanley Cup victories and five straight visits to the finals. Though his regular season numbers were rather pedestrian, Smith showed his clutch gene when the playoffs rolled around, especially during crunch time.

For his playoff performance in 1983, Smith was named winner of the Con Smythe Trophy for the MVP of the playoffs. In 17 games, the Perth, ON native posted a 13-3 record with a .913 SV%.

Aside from his Stanley Cups and Con Smythe Trophy, Smith also managed to bring some regular season hardware back to Long Island. In the 1981-82 season, Smith was the winner of the Vezina Trophy for the league's best goaltender in the regular season. The following season, he won the William M. Jennings Trophy along with crease-mate Roland Melanson for the fewest goals against throughout the season.

Aside from his typical job of stopping pucks from entering the net, Smith was also credited with the first-ever goal for an NHL goaltender. After a delayed penalty was called against the Isles in their 1979 matchup against the Colorado Rockies, Smith made a save that deflected to the corner. Rockies forward Rob Ramage made a misplaced pass to the blue line, which ended up in the back of the Rockies net. As the last Islanders player to touch the puck, Smith was credited with the goal.

Smith played 16 seasons with the Islanders, hanging up the pads following the 1989 season. In 1993 he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame and had his number 31 retired by the Islanders. With 674 to his name, Smith has more than double the amount of wins than any other goalie to wear the blue and orange.


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