Work in Sports
ATLANTIC DIVISION |
5 New York Islanders
Team Page | 2000-2001 Schedule | Roster
Sports Illustrated Ranking: 22
By Mark Beech
It's understandable if the Islanders faithful cringed when the team's new owners, Sanjay Kumar and Charles Wang, said they were studying the finer points of the game by reading Hockey for Dummies . After all, front-office incompetence is commonplace on Long Island. The two computer software executives, who bought the team for $187.5 million in April, are the club's fourth owners in five years, and their predecessors were adept at little besides cutting costs and reducing the franchise to a laughingstock.
What a pleasant surprise, then, that Kumar and Wang have tried to ensure their team won't play like dummies. They increased the payroll from $16.4 million to nearly $25 million, allowing general manager Mike Milbury to bring in much-needed experience. (The average age rose from last season's 25.5 to 27 this year.) New faces include right wing Mark Parrish, who scored a total of 50 goals for Florida over the past two seasons; defensemen Kevin Haller and Roman Hamrlik, who have combined for nearly 1,200 NHL games; and 37-year-old goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck. "The veterans will let our kids go a little slower," says coach Butch Goring, whose team went 24-49-9-1 last season. "We're optimistic that we can get back to where we'd like to be."
That's only going to happen if the Islanders improve their pitiful offense. Goring will look to Parrish to energize a team that ranked 27th in scoring last season, even with the efforts of right wings Mariusz Czerkawski (35 goals) and Brad Isbister (22 in 64 games) and center Tim Connolly (14 as an 18-year-old rookie). On the power play, Hamrlik and his heavy slap shot join a unit that converted only 14.1% of its chances, 23rd in the NHL. "Roman will have a tremendous effect on our special teams," says Goring. "His addition is the biggest change this year."
Already the changes have engendered optimism that's been missing for nearly a decade. "We're better than just average now," says defenseman and captain Kenny Jonsson. "We are definitely going to make the playoffs." Goring is more realistic. "The new owners have had a very positive effect on everybody," he says. "On paper we should be better, but we've got to get it done on the ice.
Issue date: October 16, 2000
Click here to look back at CNNSI.com's training-camp previews.