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
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.
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.
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.'
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.