arbour banner snow

Garth Snow reacts to the passing of Al Arbour

Islanders President and GM Garth Snow reacted to the passing of legendary coach Al Arbour on Friday.

“Al will always be remembered as one of, if not, the greatest coaches ever to stand behind a bench in the history of the National Hockey League,” Snow said. “The New York Islanders franchise has four Stanley Cups to its name, thanks in large part to Al’s incredible efforts. From his innovative coaching methods, to his humble way of life away from the game, Al is one of the reasons the New York Islanders are a historic franchise. On behalf of the entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Arbour family.”

Arbour, who led the Islanders to four Stanley Cup titles and 15 postseason appearances during his time on the bench, passed away on Friday at the age of 82.


Legendary Islanders coach Al Arbour passes away

Al Arbour, who was the head coach of the Islanders from 1973 to 1986 and again from 1988 to 1994, has passed away at the age of 82 (Aug. 28).

Arbour led the Isles to four consecutive Stanley Cup titles from 1980 to 1983, and guided them to 15 postseason appearances during his time on the bench.

While with the Isles, Arbour coached 1,500 games, compiling a record of 740-537-223.

Prior to joining the Islanders, Arbour coached for St. Louis from 1970-1973 after wrapping up a playing career that began in 1949 and ended in 1971.

Arbour, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and Islanders Hall of Fame, is second all-time in wins and games coached in NHL history, behind only Scotty Bowman.

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

Today is a very sad day in Islanders Country. If there was islanders royalty, Al Arbour was it. The man is one of the greatest hockey coaches to ever stand behind an NHL bench and he helped turn the islanders into one of league’s greatest dynasties. Arbour was also as beloved as he was respected by his players and the hockey community as a whole. By all accounts, he was a kind man who cared deeply about the players under his command.

Today will mark another loss for Islanders fans who said goodbye to Nassau Coliseum and the team in April. Now, they say farewell to the man who helped turn the Coliseum from a hockey barn to a hockey cathedral.

Brian Erni

“The greatest coach of all time.” That’s how my father started when he told me the tale of Al Arbour. For my money, he was right. If my dad’s testimony wasn’t enough, the 1993 Islanders’ run to the Prince of Wales Conference Finals against the Canadiens sure was. I think I realized even back then, as young as I was, how lucky I was to get to see Arbour take his team on one last magical playoff run.

Al will always be a legend on Long Island for what he gave this community on and off the ice. From all accounts, Arbour the man was as great a human being as he was a leader. My thoughts go out to his family during this time, and I hope they take solace in knowing he bought countless smiles to the faces of fans all across the Island. God’s speed, Coach.

travis hamonic

Travis Hamonic comes into his own

Travis Hamonic has been a stalwart on the Islanders’ blue line for years, but his head coach believes last season was his coming out party.

“He really took a step forward for me,” Jack Capuano told the team’s website. “He didn’t have to play 28, 29 minutes the way him and Andrew MacDonald were doing that one year. It was a defense-first mentality where it always needs to be with our hockey club, but he gained more confidence with the offense. He always knew what the system was, but he executed it much better.”

Hamonic scored five goals and tallied 28 assists in 71 games last season. He averaged 21:47 of ice time per game.

Brian Erni

Ah, yes. The good old days, when Andrew MacDonald was playing 30 minutes a night. Not really sad to see those in the rearview mirror…

The thing that impressed me the most about Hammer’s 2014-15 season was his poise. He really looked more confident under fire, like the presence of some bonafide defenders helped him relax and just execute every minute of every shift without having to worry about carrying the whole defensive corps. I know some have criticized the Islanders’ lack of depth on the blue line, and it’s fair to an extent. As we saw in the postseason, an injury to any of the d-men could seriously hinder this team. But the Isles’ top two pairings can play with anyone, and a large part of that is due to Hamonic’s continued development into one of the steadiest hands they have.


Are the Ice Girls on their way out?

Since the 2001-02 season, the Islanders “Ice Girls” had been a mainstay at the Nassau Colisem. But that looks like it will end when the team moves to Brooklyn.

According to a source close to the organization, the Ice Girls won’t make the trip to Barclays Center. Instead, a co-ed team will clean the ice during TV timeouts, and will adorn matching, gender-neutral track suits.

The Islanders were the first team in the NHL to incorporate Ice Girls to clean the ice shavings.

Brian Erni

The idea of Ice Girls has come under fire of late, specifically in San Jose, where a group of Sharks fans began a boycott of the team unless they allowed the women to wear the same outfit as the men in the same job. It would seem that Brooklyn management sees the writing on the wall here, and wants to be ahead of the curve. I think their intentions are part noble, part risk-averse.

My only concern is that the existing girls get an opportunity to be part of the new team. A lot of these ladies have worked for the organization for years, and always did a great job interacting with community and enhancing the fan experience at the Coliseum. I hope they’re given the option to move to Brooklyn with the team, even if the on-ice presentation will be different.


Report: Isles to begin contract extension talks with Kyle Okposo

NHL: New York Islanders at Philadelphia FlyersThe Islanders are in early talks with Kyle Okposo about a contract extension for the 27-year-old winger, according to a report by The Fourth Period (Aug. 24).

Okposo’s agent and Isles general manager Garth Snow have had conversations, but they are in the beginning stages of negotiations. Talks are expected to heat up early next month, with the hope of signing Okposo to an extension before the season starts in October. It is unclear if negotiations will continue during the season if a deal isn’t reached by the time the 2015-16 season begins.

The St. Paul, Minnesota, native is in the final year of five-year, $14 million deal he signed in 2011. Okposo will be owed $4.5 million this season.

In 60 games last season, Okposo recorded 18 goals and 33 assists for 51 points. He missed 22 games due to emergency surgery he had to have during the All-Star break to repair a detached retina in his eye. Prior to the injury Okposo had begun to heat up, scoring five goals in the five games leading up to the all-star break.

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

It’s been a while since we have heard anything regarding an extension for Okposo. Since the NHL Draft and the trade rumors that were buzzing, it has been pretty quiet on the Okposo front.

Snow has a lot to consider when trying to work out a fair deal for Okposo. One of the bigger items to consider will be what effect Okposo’s eye injury last season will have on his career long term. The Islanders’ winger didn’t look like himself after returning from the injury, although part of that can be chalked up to missing 22 games and returning in the thick of the playoff hunt. But will there be any lasting effect down the road that could hinder his game?

Then there is the consistency level of Okposo’s game to consider. He had a career year in 2013-14, with highs in goals (27), assists (42) and points (69), but during the lockout shortened season Okposo only had 24 regular-season points (four goals, 20 assists) and didn’t heat up until the playoffs. Okposo is clearly a talented player and his skill set is evident, but he will certainly be looking for a pay raise on his next contract and his consistency level will have to match whatever he will be earning.

For now, it is good to hear that the two sides are beginning to talk about a long-term extension. It is hard to imagine the Islanders and Okposo not finding common ground on a deal because he has been with the Isles for so long and is clearly a believer in what the organization has put together over the last several years.


How will the Isles lines shake out?

Brian Erni

Jack Capuano has a very good problem to have. He has a ton of NHL-caliber forwards, and just 12 spots to slide them into. So, with a month and a half to go before the puck drops on the 2015-16 season, I’m ready to take my best guess on how the lines will shake out on October 9 when the Isles hit the ice at Barclays Center against the defending Stanley Cup champs.
fourth line goal

First line: Ryan Strome-John Tavares-Nikolay Kulemin. The top line for the majority of the postseason, this looked like a winning combination, as it cashed in on scoring chances, most notably in Game 1 in Washington, then for the clutch winner in Game 6 at the final game at the Coliseum. Strome has a laser of a shot, and playing on JT’s wing will encourage him to shoot more, while Kulemin (like many before him) seems to do his best work alongside the Isles captain.

Second line: Josh Bailey-Frans Nielsen-Kyle Okposo. I hesitate to put Bailey down here, because I think the organization loves the defensive responsibility he brings to the first line. But I’m going to bank on Bailey playing on Frans’ wing, with Kyle Okposo starting out on the second line to space out some of the shooters. Nielsen and Okposo could both be playing for contracts, too, so what better way to emphatically scream, “Show me the money,” than to anchor a killer second line?

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Jack Capuano

Will Jack Capuano be on the hot seat this season?

Jack Capuano is second winningest coach in Islanders history, but could be be on the hot seat if his team gets off to a slow start?

ProHockeyTalk took a look back at the various votes of confidence the organization has given their head coach over the last few years and asks “could 2015-16 be Capuano’s last chance?”

In his six years behind the Isles’ bench, Capuano is 165-148-46 and 5-8 in the postseason.

Brian Erni

We’ll see exactly how well Capuano works under pressure this season. In addition to trying to navigating which 12 forwards he’ll put on the ice every night and overseeing the development of Ryan Pulock at the NHL level, he’ll have a world of expectations on his shoulders as the lights get turned up even brighter on the Brooklyn stage.

I know some fans aren’t in love with Capuano (to say the least), but I often think it’s an unfair criticism. His players play for him, and — now that he has a legitimate NHL lineup — his system has proven to be effective. Do I love his Russian Roulette-like lineup choices that often seem to be dictated by superstition (like scratching Anders Lee in Game 7 or the late-season stretch of benching Calvin de Haan)? No, but I also understand that he’s trying to bring along a very young core while trying to contend for a Cup, and that’s not always the easiest thing to do. If the Isles are slow out of the gate, Cappy will absolutely feel the heat.