Defined Through the Decades

The 2011-12 Season was the 40th-Anniversary for the New York Islanders organization. The Islanders have seen stretches of brilliant play, which has accumulated four Stanley Cups, five Conference Championships, and six Division titles over the years. The Islanders have also seen their fair-share of lost seasons, including two last-place finishes since 2000 and only four playoff-berths over the last seventeen seasons.

Over their 40-year history, the Islanders have played 3,124 games. Throughout their history, they have accumulated a record of 1,347-1,345-347-85, or basically, NHL .500. This record really defines the ups-and-downs of the franchise, as the Islanders have seen both historically amazing and horrible seasons.

The 70s and 80s consisted of extremely strong Islanders teams, while the 90s and 00s have turned the Islanders from the NHL’s powerhouse to the NHL’s burden, until recently, when the Islanders announced their move to Brooklyn. Each decade churned out Islanders heroes and villains, but only a select few players could really define each decade for the Islanders storied history.

Although I only had a chance to witness the 90s-present, here are my Islanders that represent the franchise decade-by-decade (and I would love to hear yours in the comment section below).

1970s- Ed Westfall: He was named the Islanders’ first captain after being selected by the team in the 1972 NHL Expansion Draft. Fittingly, Westfall scored the first goal in New York Islanders history. A consistent 45-55 point scorer, Westfall stayed an effective player through 1977, where he won the Bill Masterton Trophy for his perseverance and dedication to the game. Last season, Ed was finally inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame. Although #18 was not retired, Ed will always be “18.” Unfortunately, Ed never won a Stanley Cup with the New York Islanders, as he retired after the 1978-79 Season, but fortunately for Islanders fans, the 80s were kind.

Runner-Up: Denis Potvin

1980s- Mike Bossy: This decade is tough. The Islanders won four Stanley Cups, and made the finals five times. All of the Islanders’ retired numbers come from this era. Bossy, Potvin, Trottier, Nystrom, Gillies, Smith….a point could be made for every single one of them to represent the New York Islanders of the 80s. My last two were Denis Potvin and Mike Bossy, but as Potvin’s best days came in the 70s (including a 101-point season as a defenseman), I had to select Bossy.

Mike Bossy was simply dominant. During his 10-year career, Bossy only had one year with less than 91 points. In 752 games, Bossy scored 573 goals and 553 assists. He had a monster 147-point season in 1981-82, and 100-point seasons were a normal occurrence for him. Bossy had 7.

He reached 100 goals faster than anybody in NHL history (129 games), and became only the second-player (at the time) to reach 50 goals in 50 games during a season. He is also the only player to have scored 17 goals in three-consecutive playoffs.

Bossy is third all-time in career points-per-game, behind only Mario Lemeiux and Wayne Gretzky. If Bossy did not have to retire by the young age of 30, it could be argued that he had a chance to finish his career with more goal than Gretzky.  #22 hangs in the rafters at the Nassau Coliseum.

Runner-Up: Denis Potvin

1990s- Kenny Jonsson: I know a lot of Islanders fans think Turgeon or Palffy. Both players were extremely productive for the Islanders, but both players played in New York during two completely different eras in the 90s. Turgeon was part of the best Islanders teams in the 90s. Palffy was part of the worst Islanders teams in the 90s. This decade saw greatness and misery. I decided to go with a player that contributed to the Islanders in a positive way during a really dark time.

Kenny Jonsson saw it all. He saw bad ownership. He saw the trading away of talent. He saw the fisherman jerseys. He saw a Coliseum that was emptier than it was today. Somehow, Jonsson stayed calm through it all, and let his play do the talking for him.

Jonsson was one of the most underrated players in the NHL. He was an outstanding skater, and extremely gifted on both ends of the ice. If he stayed in North America after the 2004-05 Season, Jonsson would have been considered one of the best defenseman playing in the NHL. He was a true Islander, and he is now in the Islanders Hall of Fame.

Runner-Up: Zigmund Palffy

2000s- Rick DiPietro: I mean, how isn’t he? The Islanders started off the decade with the first-overall draft choice. They selected Rick DiPietro out of Boston University. The face of the franchise, he played 20 games in his first season, and posted a 3-15-1 record. I don’t remember 100%, but I swear he was carried off the ice towards the end of his first game because of a groin injury (I swear I am not kidding. Can anyone confirm this? That would be ironic.).

Since, Rick has taken the Islanders to two playoff-series, and we have seen one All-Star game appearance out of him, where his plague of injuries started.

Islanders’ fans haven’t stopped hearing about DiPietro’s 15-year $60 million deal since he signed it in the summer of 2006, and since, Rick has missed more games than he has played. Yeah. DiPietro is the Islanders from 2000-09.

Runner-Up: Alexei Yashin

2010s- John Tavares: Our savior? The Islanders and their fans are expect JT to carry the Islanders out of a mess, and lead them to the team’s first Cup since the 80s. I mean, a lot of us would be thrilled with a playoff-series win, too.

Tavares is the current face of the franchise, which has helped heal any thoughts of Rick DiPietro. Considered one of the top players in the NHL, Tavares has worked hard to improve his game every year, and it has showed, as he scored 81 points in 82 games last season.

Of course, Tavares has been carrying this team on his back to a 26th-place finish, and could use some help from here on. As the Islanders prepare their move to Brooklyn, look for the Islanders to find pieces that fit around him.

Moving forward, it’s all about Tavares, who has a 6-year commitment to New York (sit down, Toronto). Expect to see JT with the “C” in the next season or two, and if all goes right, we should see #91 hanging as the first banner retired in the Barclays Center.

Runner-Up (so far): Matt Moulson

Thanks for Reading.

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About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants

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