By Nick Colombo
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About 2 weeks ago, in the midst of their 14 game winless streak, the Islanders revoked blogger Chris Botta’s press credential and were thrust into the spotlight. On Mike’d Up, person after person called to criticize Botta’s expulsion. However, just as many Islanders fans called up to complain about the sorry state of their beloved team. So it’s time to ask ourselves – what went wrong?
Let’s just get right to the point and lay it all out there. The Islanders stink for two reasons. First, their young talent hasn’t developed enough to carry the team. Second, the Islanders don’t spend the money to bring in the right kinds of veterans to match with those young players. It may sound sexy to have a “young team,” but those teams don’t win. Look no further than the Pittsburgh Penguins who acquired great young stars in guys like Crosby and Malkin, but also paired those guys with the right group of seasoned NHL players to create a winning team.
When you realize that the Islanders don’t spend enough money to win (they’re barely above the NHL salary floor) it’s easy to lay blame for the team’s sorry state at the feet of owner Charles Wang. However, to blame the Islanders’ owner outright is just plain stupid. Wang has done nothing but lose money on this team since the moment he’s purchased it. It’s been reported that Wang loses approximately 20 million dollars a year, and these losses aren’t simply the result of poor ticket sales. Up until last year’s renegotiation, the Islanders were owners of one of the worst building leases in the history of sports. The lease negatively impacted several key revenue streams; all for a facility that is so bad that it makes many fans and free agents not want to come to the Islanders to begin with.
Wang responded with the Lighthouse project, a privately funded project that would renovate the arena and allow Wang to make money off of other new real estate additions. Money I guarantee would’ve been reinvested into the team considering he’s done nothing but use his personal fortune to support the team from day one. Yet, for a variety of political reasons the Lighthouse project has been killed. As a result, Wang has been forced to keep operating costs as low as possible to ease the losses because he has no hope of making money off the team in the near future.
Now, I’m not saying Wang hasn’t been guilty of some serious missteps. Allowing Mike Milbury to run the franchise into the ground is a Wang error that the team is still in some ways struggling to overcome. Wang is also guilty of signing players to some idiotic contracts. Giving 10 year deals to Yashin and DiPietro was just plain crazy. Yet, anyone with a brain has to acknowledge that the Islanders struggles have been caused just as much by politics and finances as they have been by poor player decisions. If anything, Wang and GM Garth Snow are to be commended. Wang loves this team and has spent the personal money to prove it. Meanwhile, Snow has brought in quality young talent and managed to operate a front office without many of the luxuries most GMs enjoy.
The one thing I do think Wang and Snow are absolutely wrong on is revoking Botta’s press credentials. Chris provides some of the best Islanders coverage available and his analysis is always critical yet fair. His work is invaluable to bloggers like myself and fans everywhere, and I hope he is allowed to return to games and practices soon. In the meantime, feel free to send me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chris Botta Point Blank On The Islanders (newyork.cbslocal.com)