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27 NEW YORK Islanders
B.J. Schecter
October 04, 1999
It's hard to imagine things getting much worse for the Islanders. In the past year this forlorn franchise, which has had one winning season in the last 11 and is suffering through the NHL's longest current playoff drought (five seasons), has traded three of its best players—high-scoring forward Ziggy Palffy, captain Trevor Linden and defenseman Bryan Berard, a former No. 1 pick—dumping roughly $8 million from its already-low $24 million payroll. Remember, this is a team that last year lost 48 games and finished next-to-last in the Eastern Conference. But if things can't get worse this season, it's equally hard to imagine them getting much better for a young, inexperienced club devoid of stars and scoring threats, all the while toiling in a crumbling arena.
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October 04, 1999

27 New York Islanders

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INSIDER

CATEGORY

SI RANKING

SKINNY

OFFENSE

27

Last year's top three scorers were traded

DEFENSE

28

Young group may be solid in a couple of years

GOALTENDING

22

Potvin a bust last year; Luongo's a future star

SPECIAL TEAMS

27

Lack of talent will show

COACHING

28

Goring back in NHL after 12 years in minors

It's hard to imagine things getting much worse for the Islanders. In the past year this forlorn franchise, which has had one winning season in the last 11 and is suffering through the NHL's longest current playoff drought (five seasons), has traded three of its best players—high-scoring forward Ziggy Palffy, captain Trevor Linden and defenseman Bryan Berard, a former No. 1 pick—dumping roughly $8 million from its already-low $24 million payroll. Remember, this is a team that last year lost 48 games and finished next-to-last in the Eastern Conference. But if things can't get worse this season, it's equally hard to imagine them getting much better for a young, inexperienced club devoid of stars and scoring threats, all the while toiling in a crumbling arena.

In 1998-99 the Islanders were one of only seven NHL teams to score fewer than 200 goals, and lighting the lamp should be even more of a chore this season. Inconsistent forward Mariusz Czerkawski is New York's only returning 20-goal scorer, so the Islanders will be forced to rely on 20-year-old center Olli Jokinen (nine goals), who came over in the Palffy deal, and third-year wing Mike Watt (eight).

Felix Potvin, 27, whom the Islanders acquired from the Maple Leafs for Berard last January, got off to a shaky start. He did make 55 saves in a win over New Jersey last season, but he'll be hard-pressed to do that every night. Potvin is just keeping the pipes warm until the Islanders' top prospect, Roberto Luongo, is ready, but that won't be for at least another year. Backliners Kenny Jonsson and 6'9", 240-pound Zdeno Chara are a capable first pairing, but beyond that the Islanders' defense is leaky at best.

Off the ice, the Islanders' ownership situation is a mess—the team is about to change hands for the fourth time in four years. Current owners Howard Milstein and Steven Gluckstern bought the team last year but were so distraught when a federal judge wouldn't allow them to get out of the team's lease at aging Nassau Coliseum that they are in the process of selling the team while slicing the payroll even more.

Butch Goring, a centerpiece during the early '80s when the Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups, is the new coach, but even in a best-case scenario it will be a few years before New York returns to the playoffs. The Islanders do have a few top prospects in the minors, although the usually-optimistic general manager Mike Milbury says, "I don't have a clear vision for this year." Which means it's going to be another long season on Long Island.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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