Backchecking: Half The Job – An Open Letter to Larry Brooks

The following is a letter I sent to Larry Brooks of the New York Post after his article critical of the Islanders — calling them “irrelevant” was published. I wrote the note, not so much to defend Charles Wang and Garth Snow. But I felt strongly enough that while the franchise is continuing to struggle, there are some real positives that have been missed — and my ultimate goal would be to suggest to Mr. Brooks to have the Post begin coverage of the franchise — particularly if he feels so strongly about it (and it seems he does).

The Post article is linked here:


Scott Mayfield - a 2011 draft pick of Garth Snow, is another in a long list of draft picks that have an opportunity to develop, and could bring excitement to Islander fans in the future. Someone please ask Larry Brooks to research some of these guys before flaming every aspect of the franchise the next time!

Mr. Brooks,

It was brought to my attention on another blog of your recent write-up on the NY Islanders, and how they are “irrelevant.”

As a long, proud Islander fan — they have suffered a great deal — nearly 8 years of very poor ownership problems between John Pickett’s ownership and Charles Wang’s forced the team to trade away many young and successful players. 2 very poor GMs in Don Maloney who made some horrible deals, as well as the infamous Mike Milbury who single-handedly set the franchise back 15 years with bad drafting and even worse trades. Of course, Charles Wang’s wacky behavior has not be a help. He came in and spent money, he just did it in the wrong place, and gave the green light to the wrong manager for far too long.

Where I disagree fully with your article is to suggest that they have no chance of going anywhere — ever.

The biggest issue is off the ice in the form of an arena. That has been Charles Wang greatest and most complete failure to date. As a fan of the team, I wish he would stop meddling in on ice issues, and get a new building done in Queens or cut a deal with Barclays in Brooklyn.

Putting aside the arena — you rightly mentioned the emergence of John Tavares, P.A. Parenteau and Matt Moulson as a top scoring line. But you neglected to mention the rapid emergence of Travis Hamonic and the play of Andy MacDonald. And while neither are Dennis Potvin, they are also both not Bruno Gervais.’ The play of Evgeni Nabokov has been a story — as is his recent signing today — a player that snubbed the Isles, came, and saw, and played for them and CHOSE to remain here…. as has many other players!

The Islanders also have a good, strong crop of young prospects — as a rebuilding team should have in juniors and in Bridgeport. You certainly did not take the time to mention that the teams top affiliate and feeder to the NHL — The Bridgeport Sound Tigers — are 19-6-4 since 2012 began. The team is pushing for top spot in its division, despite recent struggles — coincidently those struggles are in part because players like Casey Cizikas and David Ullstrom have been called up and are playing for the Isles now. This level of high end play bodes well for the franchises future.

While I agree that a deep prospect pool does not necessarily translate into NHL success, it is the best way a franchise can rebuild — especially when you factor in the arena circumstances.

You took the time to chide Garth Snow’s drafting, however, many of the players he has selected are not even in the NHL and those that are — you would have to agree are very young. And while Nino Neiderreitter has been mishandled this season by the coaching staff, it is hard to consider him an NHL bust at the ripe old age of 19. He may very easily have taken this season in stride to build and move forward and yet be an impact player. Just as well — to suggest last years top pick Ryan Strome is not capable of becoming an NHL star, or Calvin de Haan wont become a premier puck moving defender is impossible. If you had the ability to prognosticate with such accuracy, you would be the greatest NHL GM — EVER.

You were critical of the selection of Josh Bailey in the 2008 draft, and for the player himself, Bailey has struggled, and has been mishandled as well. No argument. But the decision to trade down twice afforded the Islanders and Garth Snow to select a number of players that are still young, and beginning to make an impact. By stockpiling picks, Snow was able to draft Ullstrom, who is getting his first taste of the NHL. He was able to select Aaron Ness who has a few games in the NHL this season. He also took the aforementioned Travis Hamonic. Later in that draft, Matt Martin — the NHL hits leader was picked by Snow. Also coming from the 2008 draft, one hockey’s top goalie prospects Kevin Poulin, who has shown some very strong play in his stints with the Islanders. By moving down, Snow also added picks for the 2009 draft, adding Calvin de Haan as a second pick in the 1st round. Anders Nillsson is also becoming a top NHL goalie prospect. Anders Lee – one of the top players in college hockey is an Islander selection. There are a number of other high risk/high reward players also on the horizon.

Garth Snow and Charles Wang and the way the Islanders have been run is far from perfect. There are many aspects of the way they run things that make Islander fans — including this one — want to scream into the night air. But it is difficult to move forward as a franchise when you are staring at a bunch of Nassau County and Town of Hempstead political empty suits who would have a hard time finding their ass with both hands. It is a circular dilemma.

As far as the coverage by the Media and holding Wang and Snow more accountable — I suppose that is up to you and your editorial board. As much as the Islanders have suffered on the ice and off, the media has played a small part in that. Your paper, The NY Times and Daily News CHOSE to stop covering the team during the darkest days of the late 1990s during the Gang of 4 and Spanogate and despite a few reasonable teams in the mid 2000s, your paper and others failed to return to covering the team. The team continues to stockpile young talent. And is improved over last season, and the season before. But rather then do a little work; build a little interest, ask a few questions — you chose to sit back in your office and lob a few cheap shots at very easy targets in Snow and Wang — and they are easy targets, as they are far from error free. But you made them sound like the worst GM and Owner combo in the history of sports. I have news for you — the last GM and owners were the worst in sports and these guys are at least trying to change that!

There are major issues and problems with the franchise. You are right about that. But there are some very good things on the ice beginning to happen if you look and ask some questions. It might be time to have the Post get credentialed again to cover the Islanders. Perhaps you can get in on the ground floor of something interesting, and hold the franchise more accountable by providing more coverage. I hope you do!

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About the Author: A graphic designer who loves the game....and knows that age has slowed him down — but the passion is there. Islanders fan since the 70s, Dad, Husband and Coach of the Flying Tiger's Email: Twitter:

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  1. Dr. Generosity says:

    Jim Pickard was the Isles’ assistant athletic trainer in the 70s and 80s. John O. Pickett was general partner and, later, the owner of the Isles from the late 70s until the mid 90s. As Brooks will remember these facts from his early days at the Post, I suspect he’ll read the opening paragraph with something of a twinkle in his eye. But keep the faith! All the best.

    • HyeDray says:

      You’re right. My bad on the mix up. Corrected in the general article here, and in the letter to Brooks. It has been corrected.

  2. Isles5 says:

    It’s about time a member of the msm finally highlighted the fact that Wang is running us straight into the ground. While you may not agree with everything he said, all Islanders fans should be applauding him for at least attempting to hold Emperor Wang accountable for his gross negligence of the NY Islanders. Ou problems have a lot mroe to do with him than they do with the arena.

    • HyeDray says:

      I have no issue with the criticism — I have an issue that only half the story was told in the article.

  3. RobJ74 says:

    So did you get a response from Bookes?

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