In hockey circles, the Islanders are renown for some form of interesting character test that they administer to potential draft picks in order to gain an understanding of said players psyche. This test is obviously mysterious in both what it looks for regarding character, and what the expected outcomes are regarding talent. For instance, based on the lack of scoring forwards and power play quarterbacks developed by the organization in the Garth Snow regime, it would seem like questions regarding running an effective power play filters out future draft picks. We’re looking at you, Jeff Skinner and Cam Fowler!
Understand that we find no enjoyment in picking on the many vast failings of the Islanders. We wish we could limit our criticisms to our articles like “the beer at Nassau Coliseum sucks” or “Wang Should have started a high school hockey team in Uniondale.” We wished we could say “two conference finals losses in a row? Time to reevaluate and take the next step.” Instead, the past 7 days brought us two different examples of a real life character test- one person passed, and one person failed miserably.
We aren’t talking about the ice bucket challenge. Personally, that’s not impressive. Get two of these competitive guys going at a head to head presser test…now, that’d be interesting. No, we’re talking about words and actions that came to light in the past week or so that we wanted to explore for a bit.
Our first analysis comes from a player that we had asked the Islanders to pursue in prior articles- Brooks Laich. Let us look at what Brooks said about the prior Capitals season on August 6, 2014, compliments of NHL.com:
“My honest opinion is not making the playoffs last year might have been the greatest day going forward for our organization, because I really think it made us all take a look in the mirror and at our failures and why we are failing,” Laich told NHL.com. “If we would have made the playoffs and lost in the first or second round it would have been the same old story, but you wouldn’t have had that hard, brutally honest look at yourselves to realize why you are failing.”
Laich is referring to a season in which the head coach and the general manager of the Capitals were fired for not making the playoffs. He’s GLAD that people were forced to “take a look in the mirror,” even if it meant that the coach did not keep his gig despite how well he did X’s and O’s. But Laich didn’t just point fingers at others. Let us see who else he blamed:
“Now the onus is on us,” Laich said. “The coach has changed numerous times, but for the vast majority of us we’re the same players, and we need to be better. The core guys, the guys that have been there for eight, nine years, need to establish that right away.
“Change is coming for all of us. Some people might not like it right away, but you need to adapt, change, and buy in right away.”
He blamed himself and his teammates. He points out the obvious- that there have been numerous coaches, but the players remain the same. That the veterans needs to step up. You know, guys who have been there 8 or 9 years. The Islanders have those guys, too. There’s Garth Snow, Charles Wang…none of the players mind you, but definitely guys who aren’t stepping up after 8 years.
Now, before you get all snotty and say “What about Kulemin? Grabovski? Halak? Conacher?” which is a fair criticism, here’s the more than fair answer, and you aren’t going to like it- Andrew Barroway. The July 2, 2014 Islanders were under the assumption that Charles Wang was done paying bills- including loans he took out that he was passing on to the new owners because guess what? WANG WASN’T LOSING ANY MONEY WITH THE ISLANDERS. NOT A DIME.
And now that Barroway is out of the picture? Ladies and gentlemen, take a look at the 2014-2015 New York Islanders! Trading 2 low salaries and a draft pick or prospect for a guy making money? FAT CHANCE. Or as we said in early July- #SnowChance at this roster looking different. And yes, we are foreshadowing part two of this blog.
Getting back to Laich, this is maybe the best part of his interview:
“We cannot go through the year, get to the playoffs, make it to the first or second round and say, ‘OK, that’s good enough, we now know our coach and our general manager and our system and what’s expected of us,’ ” Laich said. “We can’t burn this year. We need to win this year.”
By win he really means the Stanley Cup, or at the very least the Prince of Wales Trophy. Laich isn’t making any predictions mind you, but he is confident that the Capitals have the talent, depth, defense, goaltending and leadership to get it done.
“You look at these teams and it was automatic that when they got the puck they would push and they would push through people, push with speed,” Laich said. “They would win the territory game and eventually break teams down. It wasn’t by winning 5-1 with a dominant power play; it was by perseverance, will, determination. The Kings went through a lot and persevered.”
If you will, contrast the sentiment of Laich with the Islanders own players from last season, who were “looking for a way to get back into the playoffs” and were “disappointed by not making the playoffs,” two universal sentiments coming out of last years’ locker room. No talk about winning rounds, just talk about making them. Zero talk about competing for a championship. From players competing on a nightly basis for… what?
And then there’s #IslesKoolAid, who actually get OFFENDED when you tell them that they should expect a hockey team to both make the playoffs and be victorious in them. OFFENDED. Losing is good enough when you have a 21 year history of being a loser, it seems. Accountabilty – a constant theme of this blog- is a dirty, dirty word for the #SnowBlowers and #WangSuckers that are just happy that they can drive down Hempstead Turnpike and see their favorite boys play in a barn. Oh, and by the way, Wang took that away from you too, #IslesKoolAid. So you’re not going to have a team by a mall and college, nor are you going to have an arena pop up in Suffolk County overnight – to the the idiots that thought Heartland was going to be a game changing saving grace despite not wanting to pay union wages to ironfitters: hey, how’s that project coming along? Which gets us to both part two and to the theme of the piece- character.
It was revealed on 8/11/14 in many news outlets that Charles Wang backed out a months long negotiation/ done deal with Andrew Barroway because although he was receiving $420 million – $120 million more than he asked for the team, and more than double what he paid for the team- Wang felt that it wasn’t enough. So read that again, a team set for sale by an owner at $300 million that took an offer for $420 million feels shortchanged.
If you needed a better example of the mismanagement of this team and the incompetence of its leadership, you couldn’t find one.
Very likely what was stuck in Wang’s craw was that of that $120 million over his asking price, he’d only see $45 million, because $75 million was to pay back a loan he took in order to NEVER LOSE MONEY with the team he claimed he was losing money on. To be clear- if there were losses on the team, they were covered by a bank, not Charles Wang.
Still, $345 was roughly double the $175 or so million that Wang paid for the team, along with the criminal Sanjay Kumar’s contributions back in the day, so if you’re looking at it realistically, Wang took a loan to bridge possible shortcomings that he passed on to another guy, and doubled his money in the process.
That’s why billionaires are billionaires and we aren’t. They have stuff to leverage and use as collateral. If your mortgage is paid off folks, use your house as collateral and buy a second house to rent out. It’s basically the same concept as to what Wang- and Mr. John Spano before him- did. They took a property- the Islanders- used it to secure financing as collateral, felt no out of pocket pain as the team itself is a rent roll (tickets, tv revenue, advertising, etc)- and then sold it…maybe.
So, back to character. Wang asked for a price. He got it, plus 40%. He made a verbal deal. A handshake deal. Congratulated the new owner quite a few times, according to Barroway. The Islanders alternate governor said that the deal was done via email. And then…Donald Sterling. And even though his racist comments were awful, and the legal system tearing his property out of his hands for private speech is even worse, at the moment, Islander fans are being screwed for such, which is the worst of all.
Screwed how? Because we as Islander fans still have Charles Wang as an owner. He has shown in recent weeks –and years- that he is indecisive, he lacks judgment, he has no sense of decency, he can’t be trusted, that he’s a liar, and he’s in this for one guy- Charles Wang. He hates the team, hates the fans, and hates not getting his way, even when he sets the conditions to get his way. Why so much hate?
Because as we have written ad infinitum, Wang buying this team was never really about Wang owning a hockey team. This was an epic land snatch, yet Wang never read Haley vs. United States, nor was Garth Snow able to effectively pull a number 6 on Kate Murray and the rest of her flunkies. So when Wang was looking to sell, he set a number that would protect every asset involved in maintaining his wealth, and got an offer worth roughly 40% above that. Double his money in just over a decade means an annual 6% growth for a team always “losing money.” Folks, if you believe Wang was losing money, as we’ve been saying all along, you got played.
And what did Wang do with the Barroway offer? Show no character. Show no leadership. Show no class. Show none of his famous “loyalty to Long Island” –although folks living in Plainview have already seen Wang’s brand of loyalty firsthand. Wang showed all parties with functioning eyeballs that this has been about ego, and that his is insatiable.
And what of the alleged $500 million offer for the team? Before we hope it exists, let us hope it’s not guys who are in the same mold as Wang. Let us hope it’s for a group of people who want to do things like win- think Mark Cuban in Dallas or the Illitch family in Detroit, or 90’s Steinbrenner with the Yankees. Let Islander realists pray that this isn’t a land purchase. Barroway had a sincere desire to own an NHL team, and will likely one day have his way. We know Barroway’s involvement influenced Islander free agency, because they were actually active this year for the first time in Snow’s era of misleadership. Heck, maybe Barroway was the guy making calls to free agents, and not Snow.
But mystery owners? Recruited by a real estate agent for a sports team solely based on highest bid? Heed the words of Carl Crawford, a baseball free agent that made his decision based solely on highest bidder and had immediate regrets- money doesn’t guarantee happiness.
So when we talk about character, let us elevate a guy like Brooks Laich, who demonstrated more character than any Islander on the roster not names Tavares. And let us not follow the character example of Charles Wang, who much like his awful general manger time and time again feeds us more of the same.
About the Author: We are two long time hockey fans who certainly have our own opinions and points of view. Feel free to share yours. Follow on twitter @joshbarely