Let the Mike Babcock speculation begin

Brian Erni

It’s a question that has been on some fans’ minds all year: Could Mike Babcock be the next coach of the New York Islanders? But after the Red Wings were ousted by the Lightning in Game 7 of their first round series Thursday night, the speculation will start to churn even harder for those ready to move on from Jack Capuano.

Like most New York coaches, Capuano faces constant scrutiny. His sometimes-puzzling lineup decisions are based on perceived-chemistry and superstition, two aspects that don’t fly in the modern, analytic-driven hockey world. He’s not a big name, and — as a result — is the object of the “can’t get them to the next level” argument. Those criticisms — some fair, others too soon to tell, in my opinion — reached a fever pitch in the wake of the Islanders no-show in Game 7. And now, the “Fire Cappy” faithful has the perfect muse to project their visions of greatness on.

Babcock has 950 NHL games under his belt, 527 of them wins, for a staggering 242 games over .500. He has his name etched on the Cup, courtesy of the Wings’ 2007-08 season, and has two other Finals appearances to show for it. Detroit has offered him an extension that would pay him $3 million per year, but the organization and Babcock haven’t found common ground yet. And even better? Immediately following their elimination on Thursday, Babcock seemed like he was looking for an opportunity that would give him access to more young players.

To read more of this story, click here

Islanders Point Blank Podcast: Goodbye, Uniondale

Brian Compton and Christian Arnold discuss the Islanders’ dismal showing in Game 7, including the absence of Anders Lee, the disappearance of John Tavares, and the lack of a power play. Plus, the guys chat with Isles’ radio voice Chris King (10:05) about the loss in the final year of Nassau Coliseum.

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Newsday: Renovated Coliseum facing hurdles

new coliseum

Bruce Ratner wants to break ground in four months on the re-developed Nassau Coliseum, but there are some obstancles to clear before that can happen.

According to Newsday, the lease Ratner signed with Nassau County requires various conditions to be met before his group can begin construction.

“Ratner has to attract and sign a lease with an American Hockey League team; establish project labor agreements; finalize financing, including his plans to bring in $90 million in Chinese investment and any Industrial Development Agency aid he is expected to ask for; and receive all town approvals on detailed plans and environmental reviews for the Coliseum and its ‘plaza,’ the area surrounding the arena.”

In March, Brett Yormark said that the new Coliseum would open with a University of Kentucky basketball game in December 2016.

Brian Erni

That’s a lot to get done in four months. And, with some of those items on the checklist subject to town approvals, we know all too well that things are likely to drag on. The easiest on the list is probably an AHL lease. I had heard speculation that the Sound Tigers were likely to move across from Bridgeport, and that still wouldn’t surprise me, though I have no idea what their lease  at Webster Bank Arena looks like. But this makes Gary Bettman’s pessimism surrounding this project make a lot more sense.

Like I said last week, don’t bank on the fact that Ratner’s vision will ever quite be realized. Even if it is, it’s very far from a sure thing that the Islanders will ever play more than a preseason game in the renovated Barn. As much as it’s great to dream about the day the Isles return to Nassau, — for better or worse — Brooklyn is the only certainty in this franchise’s future.

Lee trying not to let end of year struggles dampen a successful season

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

It was easy to see how disappointed Anders Lee was about not being in the lineup for Games 6 and 7 in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His monotone response made it quite clear when the subject was brought up on Wednesday.

“Sorry I can’t really explain it. It was really hard,” the 24-year-old IslanderNHL: Minnesota Wild at New York Islanderss’ forward said. Lee had been one of the Islanders biggest contributors during the regular season. He had the team’s second-most goals (25) and finished the year with 41 points in 76 games.

But in the playoffs, he found himself struggling to make an impact. He only had a point in five postseason contests and was a minus-1. Then he found himself watching from the press box in the final two games of the Islanders’ opening-round series loss to the Washington Capitals

It wasn’t the way Lee had imagined things going, but he understands why it played out the way it did.

“We play so many games and you know what makes you successful,” Lee said. “And what doesn’t [make you successful]. So you have an idea of what’s going on. I knew what I needed to do and what didn’t happen. It was tough just not being able to correct it.” To read more of this story, click here

John Tavares named Hart Trophy finalist


John Tavares has been named a finalist for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league’s most valuable player, the NHL announced on Wednesday.

This is the second time in three seasons Tavares has been named a finalist (2012-13).

Tavares finished second for the Art Ross Trophy with 38 goals, 48 assists and 86 points, and added two goals and four assists in the playoffs.

Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Montreal’s Carey Price round of the finalist field.

Brian Erni

Well deserved. Tavares was unbelievable all season long, and it’s been a pleasure to watch him develop into one of the best players in the world. He may have an uphill battle against Price, who has been the difference maker for the Canadiens this season, but I think this one is going to be close.

Boychuk, Leddy optimistic moving forward with Isles

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

The Islanders continued to clean out their lockers on Wednesday, trying to focus on the positives of the season, rather than what went wrong in Game 7. It was evident the pain was still there from Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. 

“You never want to go home unless you’re going home with a Cup,” Johnny Boychuk said. “Obviously we’re going homeCDxW1jjVAAASQM6 a little bit early and it’s hard to swallow, that’s for sure.”

The loss was far from the ending the team was hoping for and now that it is over, some players are adjusting to not having to prepare for games.

“It’s always weird going from such an emotional roller coaster to just boom, having not to. The next couple of days will be weird,” Nick Leddy said. “I won’t be able to sleep to much. I’ll sleep in I guess, but it’s definitely really weird.”

As strange as the next few days will be and as disappointed as the team still is, there was as a sense of optimism as the players met with the media. The long-dormant Islanders burst back onto the hockey scene in the 2014-15 season and the core of the team will still be together next year for the 2015-16 season.

And the experience from the series with Washington will help going forward.

“Looking back at being in Boston and losing the first time when we were up 3-0,” Boychuk said. “Using that next year to go far in the playoffs and use that as motivation. Take that experience and we won the next year. Hopefully we can do that here and it was a Game 7 where we didn’t play our best.

“Next year if we get in that situation we could use that as motivation to drive us to win that Game 7.”

The Islanders will have the next few months to reflect on the season before training camps begin in September, but the confidence level is high moving forward.

“Obviously, we didn’t accomplish the final goal, but we have a great team,” Leddy said.

Game 7 draws record ratings

game 7 handshake

All eyes were on the Islanders on Monday night.

According to Newsday, Monday night’s Game 7 set Islanders ratings and viewership records on MSG and MSG Plus that dated back 25 years.

“The game, which the Capitals won, 2-1, averaged 4.47 percent of New York-area homes and 459,786 viewers. In the key demographic of adults ages 25-54, the game averaged a 3.31 rating – better than those of Monday night’s Yankees, Mets and Nets games combined.” (Best, Apr 28)

Overall, Islanders television ratings were up 79 percent this season (SBJ, Apr 20)

Brian Erni

As sad as it was to see the Islanders’ season end, there’s some solace in knowing that this franchise is back, both on the ice and in the New York media landscape.

From a business perspective, this is exactly the kind of season the team needed heading into the Brooklyn move. Die hards who are discouraged by the move will be more willing to stick around, while new casual fans stumble upon the exciting brand of hockey the Islanders play. Even though there are so many bittersweet emotions at the end of this season, one thing is for certain: it’s great to see this franchise in its rightful place, getting the attention it deserves, and having it all translate into more resources to re-invest in the club.