By Peter Schwartz
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With the Islanders stumbling to the regular season’s finish line, fans of the orange and blue (and now sometimes black) have to be wondering what lies ahead. One has to wonder if they even have enough to make the playoffs this season, let alone win a series for the first time since 1993.
It would be extremely disappointing if the Islanders somehow miss the postseason tournament or get bounced in the first round. The team’s first season in Brooklyn would have to be labeled as a colossal failure. Either of those two scenarios would trigger a new topic of conversation for fans, particularly those who like to vent on social media.
Sometime this summer, majority control of the Islanders will shift to Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, with current owner Charles Wang maintaining a minority stake in the franchise. The transaction, which was announced back in August of 2014, allowed Wang to oversee the Isles’ final season at Nassau Coliseum as well as the team’s initial campaign at Barclays Center.
Given the team’s recent playoff failures and past regular season disasters, one would have to think that the change in majority ownership could lead to other changes for the franchise. There are certainly a lot of questions about the future of the team and the fan base wants some answers.
It would be logical to assume that when the ownership switch takes effect, Ledecky and Malkin will hold a press conference to usher in another new era in Islanders history. They’ve had a first-hand look at how the Islanders have been run during their two year “apprenticeship” and soon they’ll have a chance to put their own stamp on things.
So, let’s take a peek into the future and see just how the new owners could answer some of these questions. Fans will either hear what they want to hear or what they fear. I’ve been to enough press conferences in my career to have a feel for just how this might go.
The press conference will start with an opening statement from the new owners and it could go a little something like this:
“We are excited to be assuming majority ownership of the New York Islanders. This is a franchise rich in tradition and we look forward to bringing a fifth Stanley Cup to the best fans in the NHL. We thank Charles Wang for his dedication to the franchise over the years and for guiding the team through a challenging and exciting transition over the last two seasons.”
And here are a few of the questions that the media will likely ask:
Reporter: “Will (general manager) Garth Snow and (head coach) Jack Capuano return next season or do you plan on making changes in hockey operations?”
Answer fans want to hear: “Today, we informed Garth and Jack that they have been relieved of their duties. We have begun a comprehensive search for a new general manager who will lead the search for our new head coach.”
Answer fans fear: “Garth and Jack will return for the 2016-17 season. They have both done a fine job and we believe that they are the right people to guide the Islanders towards a Stanley Cup.”
Reporter: Will the team be active in free agency and trades and will there be the ability to add salary?”
Answer fans want to hear: “Yes, we will be very active and we will leave no stone unturned in building a team that can compete for and win the Stanley Cup.”
Answer fans fear: “We believe in the group that we have in place. John Tavares is a world class player and we have some very good young players here and on the way through our system.”
Reporter: Do you believe that the team has a long-term future in Brooklyn or can you envision a possible return to Long Island?
Answer fans want to hear: “This franchise has deep roots on Long Island. Most of our fan base is there and we have made a commitment to our new state-of-the-art practice facility at Eisenhower Park. While Barclays Center is our current home and the management there has done a tremendous job marketing our franchise, we will explore a way to bring the Islanders back to Nassau County.”
Answer fans fear: “Barclays Center is our home. Charles tried everything he could to provide the team and the fans with a new arena on Long Island, but it didn’t work out. We have a long-term lease in Brooklyn and we look forward to a long and successful run at one of the finest arenas in the country.”
In reality, Ledecky and Malkin will have to decide for themselves how to set the course for the Islanders’ future. Wang will have a voice, but the new owners now hold the hammer and have no loyalty to people they didn’t hire.
We don’t really know how they feel about management or Barclays Center because they aren’t in charge yet, and, as a result, have kept their thoughts to themselves. We’ll get the answers to those questions in due time, but let me offer the new owners some free advice as someone who has rooted for and covered this team.
Listen to the people around you, but have the conviction to do what you think is in the best interests of the franchise. Listen to the fans and what they look for in the game-night experience. Status quo isn’t good enough. Be true to the tradition of the franchise, but don’t always live in the past. Make the future part of the tradition.
Make the New York Islanders great again!
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