18 New York
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2000-01 Record: 21-51-7-3 (52 Points) ... H: 12-27-1-1 ... A: 9-24-6-2 ... GF: 185 ... GA: 268
By Kostya Kennedy
The brain trust gathered after last season, surveyed the team that had gone 21-51-7-3 and missed the postseason for a seventh straight year, and devised a two-pronged plan. First, the Islanders wanted to acquire a No. 1 center -- the Senators' Alexei Yashin, they hoped, or perhaps the Bruins' Jason Allison. Second, they wanted to acquire the Sabres' Michael Peca to center their second line. An established winner, Peca would give the Islanders leadership, someone to guide them out of their long run of failure.
In a frenetic weekend at the Florida draft the Islanders got their men. Acquiring the uncommonly large Yashin (he's 6'3", 225 pounds) and signing him to an unprecedentedly fat contract (his $87.5 million over 10 years is the most an NHL club has ever committed to a player) was the club's splashiest off-season development, but landing the smaller Peca (5'11", 181) and signing him to a slimmer deal (five years, $20 million) was its most crucial. Though he has only one 50-point season in his eight-year career, Peca, 27, is among the league's most tenacious defenders and was the tone-setter on a Buffalo team that consistently achieved more than was predicted for it. "We have to believe we can win every game, even if we fall behind," says Peca. "Alexei helps a lot with that."
Yashin can dominate the offensive zone and gives the Islanders their most skilled forward since Pat LaFontaine in the early 1990s. In Ottawa, Yashin's captaincy was undone by his battles with management, his cool relations with fans and his aloofness in the dressing room; New York, though, will ask Yashin only to play hard and play well, two things he's always done.
For all the excitement that those moves created, it was the Sept. 28 waiver-wire acquisition of goalie Chris Osgood that led general manager Mike Milbury to proclaim, "We're back in business." In eight seasons with the Red Wings, Osgood, 28, went 221-110-46 and played for two Cup winners. That's invaluable experience for a roster of players that, Peca aside, has been accustomed to losing. "The key is that if we lose a few games, not to think about the past of this franchise," says Peca. "Given what's behind us, we have to look forward and move forward." The Islanders believe he can show them the way.
Issue date: October 8, 2001
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