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...O.K., Just Wait Till Last Year
Jack Falla
January 31, 1983
The champion Islanders have been sagging, perhaps because they're so complacent they're thinking...
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January 31, 1983

...o.k., Just Wait Till Last Year

The champion Islanders have been sagging, perhaps because they're so complacent they're thinking...

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While a first-place finish would give the Islanders home ice for the divisional playoffs, that's the last time they could get it. The league awards home ice to divisions and conferences on an alternating-year basis, regardless of won-lost records. "There's got to be something more to work for," says Islander General Manager Bill Torrey, who wants to see the league change its playoff format but who doesn't view it as a major cause of his team's inconsistent play.

The Islanders may soon find out that they have something more to play for—namely, Torrey. As the old sales department joke goes: We're having a sales contest; the winner gets to keep his job. Torrey has had a flair for making astute late-season trades that bring his team barreling down the stretch. Or, as Arbour puts it, "Thank God for Bill and March."

In March 1980, Torrey dealt Billy Harris and Dave Lewis to Los Angeles for Butch Goring, who promptly became the catalyst many credit with leading New York to its first Stanley Cup. In March 1981, Torrey traded Chico Resch and Steve Tambellini to Colorado for Defenseman Mike McEwen, who had 14 points in 17 postseason games as the Islanders again won the Cup.

There have already been rumors, whispered and published, of Torrey making a trade for a high-scoring forward to take the heat off Bossy and Trottier. Hartford's Blaine Stoughton and Toronto's Rick Vaive and Bill Derlago have been rumored to be high on Torrey's shopping list, while McEwen and Defenseman Stefan Persson are thought to be among those most likely to go.

Torrey—who won't confirm trade rumors, save to say, "If I think something can be done to bring in better players, I'll do it"—adds, "It's pure fan fantasy to think that I can just go out, make a deal and solve the problem." And given Torrey's record of shrewd deals and the Islanders' three-year lock on the Cup, rival general managers aren't exactly dying to help him. "Put it this way," says Torrey. "I'm not getting a lot of calls from guys saying, 'Gee, Bill. Sorry you're in a jam. I'd like to help you out.' I told the players, 'You dug yourselves in, you're going to have to dig yourselves out.' "

Victory over Montreal and Philadelphia would have gone a long way toward reestablishing the Islanders as the Blue Meanies of the NFL. Instead, with five-eighths of the season gone, the Islanders find themselves sometimes playing, and often sounding, like a team waiting for last year.

This year, last year may not come.

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