Mar 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Islanders beat the Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Hockey News: John Tavares is NHL’s sixth-best player

In its annual season yearbook, The Hockey News ranked John Tavares No. 6 on its top-50 players list.

THN notes that the Islanders’ captain has put himself among “elite company,” as he has finished as a Hart Trophy finalist two out of the last three years. Had Stars forward Jamie Benn not recorded an assist in the final seconds of the regular season, Tavares would’ve been the league’s scoring champion.

Tavares finished last year with 38 goals and 48 assists and a plus-5 rating.

Tavares is one of three players from the Metro Division to make the top 10, as Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are No. 3 and 4, respectively.

barclays center at night

Isles ticket prices on the rise at Barclays Center

It was expected that tickets to see the Islanders at Barclays Center would fetch more than a game cost at Nassau Coliseum, but just how much has it increased?

Forbes contributor Jesse Lawrence rattled off some numbers that compared the final season at the Old Barn to the inaugural campaign in Brooklyn (Aug. 18).

“A year ago, New York Islanders tickets saw a solid $120 average on the season, while the new campaign is now yielding a considerably higher $175 average. The spike is never more evident than when fans look at New York’s upcoming home opener. In 2014, their home opener against the Carolina Hurricanes was just $137 on average, with a get-in price of $60, but this year’s Barclays Center debut is all the way up to $466.67 on average, while the cheap seats start at $165 on Ticketmaster.”

Brian Erni

We all knew that ticket prices would go up. New arena, modern amenities and a good team. It just comes with the territory. Needless to say, the days of finding $8 tickets on Stubhub on the way to the game is probably over.

The only thing I don’t love about current pricing is the dynamic element to it. I know many teams have employed dynamic pricing over the years, and yes, I know what supply and demand is. But that’s what the secondary market is for. Why should a seat you purchase from the team cost $80 one night and $165 the next? The opponent? That seems silly.

There’s no guarantee you’ll see a better game against the Blackhawks than you would against Buffalo. When I expressed this opinion on Twitter a while back, people came to me with, “If people will pay it, teams can charge it.” That seems like a pretty flawed customer service move to me. Theoretically, the team could walk around with a collection tin before overtime and say that you only paid for three periods of hockey and you need to give $20 more or get kicked out of the building, too. I’m sure some people would pay it, but that wouldn’t be fair, would it?

The Islanders have a good case study in the Nets of what happens when a team goes from a hot ticket to an ice cold commodity in an instant. I’m not saying it will happen to the Isles, but they should probably resist the temptation to price some fans out of the building, especially while everyone is getting acclimated to traveling to Brooklyn.

johnny boychuk

Boychuk: Continuity breeds championships

Johnny Boychuk knows a thing or two about winning a Stanley Cup. And after a summer that didn’t include much turnover on the Islanders roster, he said he believes continuity is a big part of a winning formula.

The Islanders website caught up with Boychuk ahead of his second season on Long Island, and the defenseman said he believes keeping the group together was the right move for this up-and-coming team.

“It’s kind of nice to keep the same core group still together and achieve the ultimate goal,” Boychuk said. “When you have players that play with each other for a long time it’s easy to start the season and not have to build chemistry from scratch. The facilities are going to be different, but that’s basically the only thing that’s going be different about our team.”

Brian Erni

I think there’s a lot to that. We hear all the time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs about how losing a tight series is a good “learning experience” for a team. But if the roster keeps turning over, what good are the lessons learned?

The Isles are banking on last year’s club going to school on the experiences of a season ago. What it takes to win close games, how to kick it up a notch in the postseason, and how to close out a playoff series. These are the kinds of things good teams learn to do together. Boychuk knows from what he speaks. He was there as the Bruins evolved as a close-knit group and eventually became champions. Hopefully, he’ll be a part of that again in Brooklyn.


The Hockey Writers: Leddy is NHL’s ninth-best defenseman

Nick Leddy is going to be an Islander for a long time, and The Hockey Writers think that’s a very good thing.

In the first installment of their two-part series breaking down the NHL’s top-10 defensemen, the publication ranked Leddy No. 9, just two spots below former teammate and reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Duncan Keith.

“When on the ice last season, [Leddy’s] team had possession of the puck for 55 percent of the time, good for fifth in the NHL,” James Tanner writes. “In two less minutes per game, and two less games overall, he put up virtually the same stats as Duncan Keith.  Leddy is comparable to Keith over the last three seasons, but he’s averaged four less minutes per game.”

Leddy, 24, signed a seven-year, $38.5 million extension with the Islanders last February.

Brian Erni

Tanner writes what many Islanders fans have been saying for a while. In fact, I’m not even sure some of the orange-and-blue faithful realize just how good Leddy is. Remember that late-season lull? It all started with Leddy missing four games (the team went 0-4 during his absence). His possession stats speak for themselves, and there aren’t many players in the league who are better carrying the puck over center to generate a chance in the opposing team’s zone.

Leddy is so smooth and comfortable, it’s hard to believe he’s still just 24 years old. With his name already on the Cup, Leddy can certainly go from underrated to acclaimed if he’s able to carry his team deep into the playoffs like Keith did this past postseason.

Apr 25, 2015; Uniondale, NY, USA; A general view of the ice surface prior to the final game that the Islanders will play in Nassau Coliseum between the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders in game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Melted Nassau Coliseum ice used for baptism

Nassau Coliseum’s playing surface might be gone, but one fan still got use out of the 43-year-old ice.

After the Coliseum shut its doors, the Islanders allowed fans to purchase portions of the melted ice for $20. One fan, who purchased melted ice from the now-defunct arena, used the water for his daughter’s baptism (Aug. 11, ESPN).

“That’s awesome, awesome,” Mike Golic said on ESPN’s Mike and Mike. “You got some ice, it melted, they blessed it to use for the baptism, on we go.”

Recently, a hockey fan in Sweden did the same thing for his daughter, using melted ice from his local team’s arena (Aug. 10).

Apr 16, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Detroit Red Wings defenseman Marek Zidlicky (28) skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period in game one of the first round of the the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Islanders in talks with Marek Zidlicky

The Islanders and veteran defenseman Marek Zidlicky have been in talks about a possible contract, Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports (Aug. 12).

Staple added that nothing has been determined, but both sides are interested.

Zidlicky, 38, who joined the Devils midway through 2011-12, was traded halfway through last season from New Jersey to the Red Wings. In 84 games between the two teams, he finished with 34 points.

For his career, Zidlicky 85 goals, 316 assists and a minus-69 rating in 783 games.

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

This would certainly fill the need for another veteran defenseman on the blue line and Zidlicky could help the Islanders struggling power play. The soon-to-be 39-year-old has strong shot from the point and doesn’t back down on the blue line, despite his smaller stature.

Defense is one area that I think the Islanders need to upgrade during the offseason, even more so than finding a winger for John Tavares. Zidlicky would be a solid addition to the Islanders defensive core, but they still could use another top-4 defensemen to round out the unit.


Why the black-and-white third jersey might not be all bad

Brian Erni

The time is almost upon us. Soon, we’ll see what Brett Yormark and company have in store for the Islanders’ new third jersey. And despite the fact that we knew as far back as two years ago that it would be black-and-white, some fans still seemed shocked and appalled at the idea.

Let’s get this out of the way: I, too, would prefer the third jersey be rendered in blue-and-orange. Black is not an Islanders color. Teams who turn to black jerseys strictly because they view it as a trend (or Black For Black’s Sake, as it’s called on Uni Watch) are misguided. The 1990’s are long gone, local teams who tried to shoehorn black into their color schemes (the Mets and Knicks) have seen the error of their ways, and the Islanders’ first experiment with a black jersey was a cataclysmic failure.

Frans Nielsen skating in a black practice jersey last season

Frans Nielsen skating in a black practice jersey last season

However, let’s not ignore two elements to all this: 1) we’re very lucky the Isles aren’t getting a full re-brand, and 2) the current third jersey does have its flaws.

Yormark admitted that he originally planned to completely overhaul the Islanders’ look upon their move to Barclays Center, but changed his mind thanks to fervent outcry from the fan base on social media. One can’t really blame Yormark for assuming the Isles would benefit from a redesign. After all, the Nets went from 31st in the NBA in merchandise sales (yes, they were outsold by the defunct Seattle Sonics) in their final year in New Jersey to the top-selling brand upon the release of their new gear. But the Nets aren’t a franchise with the storied history the Islanders have, and there was never a lot of brand equity in their various designs. The Islanders sweater and logo is the symbol of arguably the greatest dynasty in sports, and — as we know — it should never be changed.

At least Yormark was smart enough to open his ears to the Islanders faithful. Which is to say, no, the team’s management isn’t trying to alienate you with a black-and-white third jersey, as some fans asked me on Twitter on Tuesday. They’re trying to monetize the move by putting something new on the ice that fans can buy. Sure, the idea that black-and-white are the colors of the borough is kind of hokey, and reeks of a good marketing guy buying his own shtick, but considering we almost lost our colors and logo again, I’d say having to see the team in black-and-white a few times a year is a fair compromise.

I know a lot of fans are bemoaning the loss of the Stadium Series jersey as an alternate. It’s true, I liked that look as well, but the design had its flaws. Remember, that jersey was designed as a template, with the metallic crest element meant to tie into Coors Light’s sponsorship of the Series in 2014. The weird, diagonal, half sleeve stripes didn’t seem to have much of a purpose, and why was the shoulder yoke pointed? I still haven’t heard a good explanation for that one.

There’s a lot of pressure on Barclays Center management not to swing and miss on this one, because many fans are already predisposed to hate it. So don’t be surprised if some popular elements (like the ‘NY’ crest from the Stadium Series jersey) are featured, and the striping is very traditional. There are a number of ways to go with it, and — if executed properly — it could just be a nice look for 10 games or so during the regular season. The new management knows not to mess with the tradition of the primaries, and that is what’s most important.