Cohen’s Conundrum

Cohen’s Conundrum

When Steve Cohen dropped a mere bag of shells to buy the New York Mets, everyone knew that the team he was inheriting was being mismanaged on just about every level possible. The prospect pool was hardly that, the pro talent was inconsistent, he was saddled with a trade where the Mets top prospect was moved for an average closer and a $25 million contract with 2 years left on it. The manager was hired because he was sitting around after the guy that was really hired was just a dirty cheater who somehow twice disappointed the Mets organization.

And Cohen stepped in to the organization and…continued to make bad decisions. Cohen wanted a head of the organization. Somehow, he fell flat in hiring anyone for that gig. Instead, Sandy Alderson was brought back to right the ship. That’s understandable, as Cohen knew Sandy from his time as a partial owner of the Mets and needed someone he trusted. Sandy immediately hired Jared Porter. The Jared Porter decision was a good move, until it was discovered that years ago Porter sent too many text messages to someone. Man they should hang that guy, because girls never do shit like that ever. Clearly this guy that’s good at his job should never work again because he sent a girl a text and she wasn’t happy.

The Mets promoted Zack Scott to interim GM, a spot that he’s held on to for an awful long time as an interim. Scott’s biggest contributions as interim GM so far was the firing of the hitting coach, only to watch Mets bats seemingly get WORSE after Chili Davis was let go, and for drafting Kumar Rocker – a potential first overall pitcher – then selecting undervalued picks after that, then to ultimately NOT sign Kumar, thus ruining the entire 2021 MLB draft. What an amazing asshole!

Then there was the whole Francisco Lindor trade. The new owner wanted to make a splash and show how serious he is in creating a winner. So what does he do? Go out and take advantage of a small market team that did not want to pay their big player big money. And the cost? Two basic players. While Amed Rosario is playing well for Cleveland, Andres Giminez isn’t hitting his weight. Which really makes it a steal for the Mets as former All Star Lindor is hitting…224 as I write this? WHAT? And making $21 million dollars a year?  And was a $13 million raise for next year? And signed for 9 more years after that at $34 million a season? After coming off a career worst year? HOLY SHIT. I get Cohen is into investments, but he’s also into risk management. That’s a gigantic risk, and so far? No reward at all.

You’d think that’s enough fucking up for one season, right? Nah, it gets worse. The Chicago Cubs have a fire sale and send off their 2016 World Series Champion team heroes. The make Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo available. The Mets were flirting with a Bryant deal all off season, so of course at the deadline the Mets get….Baez.

Bryant ended up with the San Francisco Giants. The Giants sent a top pitching prospect and a below average hitting prospect to the Cubs. Rizzo ended up with the Yankees for a not good pitching prospect and a average hitting prospect that’s not even in A ball.

And Baez? The Mets traded Pete Crow Armstrong. Armstrong was hitting over .400 in A ball, and is considered by anyone that watches baseball a future gold glove center fielder.

As of this writing, Baz is hittieng .220 with the Mets, while flashing the lack of power one would expect to happen when a player leaves Wrigley Field and their high school distanced walls. Oh, I also fully expect the Mets to offer him $20+ million a year to retain such services, as Baez is buddies with Lindor.

Mets fans are screaming that Jacob DeGrom is underpaid and deserves a new contract. This would be yet ANOTHER mistake that the team can avoid making. While it is without a doubt that DeGrom is among the best pitchers in baseball, let me share some 2021 math:

Gerrit Cole: $1.57 million per start, 12 wins. The cost per start will go down and the wins will go up as the season goes on.

Jacob DeGrom: $2.33 million per start, 7 wins, season over.

Based on statistical analysis, which would you prefer? Especially considering DeGrom is 2 years older, was ALREADY given a $10 million raise over last season, and his arm seems to have fallen off in 2021. And has $100 million left on his deal if he doesn’t opt out, which he will not because said arm is falling off.

Am I out of mistakes? Of course not. The Mets will try to bring Noah Syndergaard back to pitch this season. But why? Will THAT be the push that gets them to the playoffs? I get why Noah would want to be back, he’s in a contract year. And he pissed it up. If he had guts, he would do the same as Marcus Stroman and take a one year deal.

More mistakes? Sure. Signing Michael Conforto is a mistake waiting to happen. Remember Bret Saberhagen? He had that shitty batting cage in West Babylon before his wife divorced him and stole his money. Point is, Saberhagen was good every other year. Sound familiar?

Now it’s an old age home.

Conforto has that lack of consistency, AND he has Scott Boras as his agent. Boras will cherry pick stats and try to make Conforto a $20 million a year player. For reference purposes? His best full season slash line is 33/92/279. The problem is those numbers are from different seasons. What’s not from different seasons is his averaging a strike out a game. His 162 game average is 28/83/254/154 strike outs. Sounds more like Jay Bruce than Mike Trout. Hmm…. There is an upcoming Met UFA whose 162 slashline is 28/87/262. So if Mets fans think Conforto is worth $20 million a year, then so is Javier Baez, who also plays gold glove defense. And Baez is a year younger than Conforto.

What about signing a same aged as Conforto player whose career slash line is 31/91/279? Looking at you, Kris Bryant.

And as if they knew I was in the middle of writing how awful the Mets have been this season, the franchise star decided that Sunday was a good day to piss on the fans, bringing other first year Mets along for the ride. I don’t think people even realize that the ten year deal Lindor signed starts NEXT season. What a horrible, thoughtless introduction. This will end like an ARod trade, except ARod was actually hitting when Texas sent him to New York.

Well, the Mets must have done SOMETHING right, right?

Sure. They resisted calls from other teams to trade Francisco Alvarez, Bret Batty, and Matt Allen. I’d add Rony Mauricio to this list, but the guy they signed to a decade long contract at $34 million a season blocks his path to the majors at short, because a $34 million contract is untradeable for at least 5 more years. Alvarez is looking like he may be a special player. Batty is looking like a solid 3B with power. Allen looks like he’ll be in the rotation in 2023. And Mauricio needs to be traded before he starts looking like shit.

But even the successes have a moose shit lining. The Mets A, AA and AAA teams all have losing records despite whomever their prospects are. And that’s with the Mets signing a lot of former major league players to add to triple A.  Triple A prospects are beating the shit out of MLB retreads. That’s not a good sign for the future, but it’s also an indicator of how to proceed. More on that soon.

What else have the Mets done well? Fortify their bench. Historically with the Wilpons, any single injury ruined a season. The Mets suffered 300000 injuries by August 1, and were still in first place. Largely because for the first time in recent memory, the Mets were staffed with a bench that were starters for other teams very recently. Jonathan Villar has more home runs than most Mets regulars. Kevin Pillar is putting up all time power numbers per at bat at this stage in his career. Brandon Drury may have found a career as a pinch hitter by accident at a young age, like a slim Rusty Staub. The rest of the bench? Wilponish.

Guts

What else? The Cohen Mets addressed the bullpen. In a horrible way. After this season they will have a chance to rebuild it, as they ride out the Dylan Betances and Jeryus Familia deals. That is key, and a door opener.

Why? Because now we get to the part about how to fix this. This is absolutely fixable, and quickly. But for fans, it will be painful. Which Mets fans should be used to at this point. The Mets need a fast rebuild.

But who to rebuild? Zack Scott? I’m ok with him doing math somewhere in the organization. But not as GM. So who? Honestly, I’d chose me as the new GM. While my lack of experience would seem a negative, the last 3 Mets GM’s have zero experience as well. But I have played baseball before, yet I would not instruct a catcher on how to catch unlike the last owners. And I’m not sure how many have my background in economics. A cost benefit analysis of players would be useful, as would comps to other players to make decisions on other investments in time, money, and strikeouts. Plus, bargain shopping can actually be smart.

But only a Wilpon would hire a GM for New York that has no experience in order to save a few bucks. No, if Cohen is smart, he will start with a known commodity. He will offer a boatload of cash to former Boston and Chicago older wunderkind Theo Epstein. Epstein says he wants part ownership of whatever team he works with. That’s a bad call. You can’t truly fire an owner. But you can pay a guy enough to buy ownership into a different team when he abandons the team he’s presently with- see Theo in Boston, Chicago.

Epstein can hire me, which would be smart. Or he can be smarter and hire Brian Cashman. Cashman is in the last year of a $25 million deal, and is totally used to the New York environment. If anyone thinks that is not a factor, you are not from New York.  If you are looking to find ways to avoid the salary cap tax, you can spend on everything that isn’t salary cap. A GM buyout with the Yankees is a start. Then a Cashman contract at $30 million a year is another start. Jeff Luhnow looks like a good add to the staff as well. He did his time. Isn’t forgiveness a thing anymore?

What next? Scouts. Triple the current amount. The Wilpons failed at a prime opportunity to steal the Braves scouting staff. I think it’s a fair assessment to say that the Braves scouts have run circles around the Mets scouts for the last 30 years. The Wilpons should have brought every one of them in. Fail.

Next up? Coaches. In the age of consultants. I’d allow every player to hire a personal batting or pitching coach as a consultant. What is a batting coach? Or a pitching coach? A guy that is supposed to fix EVERY pitcher or hitter? That’s an impossible task. Why not have each payer have a personal coach, supervised by a pitching manager and a hitting manager that reports to the team manager?

Oh, that guy? Luis Rojas needs to go back to the minors for seasoning. In the meantime, the Mets need a legitimate manager. See how Tony LaRussa has made the White Sox winners? No, I’m not saying bring Terry Collins back as a manager. Bad call. But maybe Mets legend Davey Johnson? What’s old is new again, or at least until its proven ancient. Speaking of,  how is Tony LaRussa doing with the White Sox today? Johnson’s winning record speaks for itself, unlike Luis Rojas, who may be the manager of the future, but in fairness, his decision making sucks rhino assholes right now.

I’m not saying that Davey Johnson is the perfect candidate. I’m just saying, name a better one. And yes, I would accept Wally Backman.

Also, the Mets needs to make some trades. For next season, the Mets need a real outfield. Bryant in right, Brandon Nimmo in left, and whomever Dominic Smith can bring in return to staff center field would be a good start. Nimmo gets on base. That matters. Bryant has 5 years left in his career. Probably 4, but you give that last year as a draw, and you can play him at 3 positions. But center field? George Springer was the draw last year. What a welcome pass. Peter Crow Armstrong would have been an interesting experiment. However, trades can always fill a hole.

More deals? Starting pitching. Syndergaard should be back as a Met on a very team friendly deal. Honestly $10 million on a one year deal should be enough to say welcome back, but agents will assuage him to find more money.  If that money is $20 million? See you later. The Mets still have Carlos Carasco and Taijuan Walker under contract, as well as DeGrom. Stroman seems to be doing OK in NY and may want to stay here. He’s been the best pitcher on the Mets this season, and thats saying something. He’s also a guy that you don’t overpay for. Clearly there needs to be a move to be like the Dodgers and add 3 1A pitchers. So outside of DeGrom, everyone is tradable for upgrades or tradable to fill holes like bullpen and free up money for unrestricted free agents. Shit, ever restricted free agents. What are we giving up? Draft picks that will likely get fucked up?

Also, the Mets need more scouts. I know I already said it, but that’s how much they need quality scouts.

Honestly, as presently managed and performing, I expect the 2022 Mets to be an 80 win team. That’s not the worst thing ever. Unless you want to win now. And now is today. They can’t win today. However, the Mets are fixable. They can be a 90 win team easily. Why? Because money can fix a lot, especially when it’s spent in smart ways. It can happen overnight, because with will and with smarts, lots can happen overnight.

But you need clarity in a process and a culture, and right now, the Mets have none of that shit. Nightly, Rojas looks like he’s overwhelmed. There’s a saying that someone plays chess while you play checkers. Rojas? He’s licking the checkers. But in the next 13 months, Cohen can change much of this. He can have process and culture. I would help bring both, but ideally someone more experienced than myself will bring New York some deserving winning experience. Lovable losers are indeed lovable, but at the end of the day, it skews fans expectations to always think that losing is acceptable. It’s not. You want to piss away your money for 100 years before the next World Series title? Fuck you. Grow up. Until that happens, the Mets can get away with a lot that looks like right now. Demand better fans. Demand better, Owner. Until then? It’s just more of the same.

The Islanders Are Halfway There

The Islanders Are Halfway There

I feel like Peter Jackson. Not because I’m fat and furry, but because I’m telling a story that suddenly has grown into at least 3 parts, and is going to be more likely six parts regarding the Islanders off season in 2021.

In an article I wrote on July 7, 2021, I mentioned ways the Islanders could fix themselves. I’ve linked the article, but in case you’re too lazy to look at it, the article proposed the following:

  • Trade nick Leddy to Detroit.
  • Sign Zack Parise
  • Resign Kyle Palmieri
  • Resign Casey Cizikas

How did I do? I mean, some writers suggest or say or infer ideas or rumors. I predicted EXACT EVENTS. My Islanders foil Kool Aid Rob critiqued me saying that if I was so smart, why wasn’t I an NHL GM, and my family should be disappointed in my not raking in NHL GM dough. Based on Garth Snow, that dough is Cookie. But he’s probably right.

But he does have a point. Why can a layperson see so many obvious things that a professional can not.

Now, when I say professional GM, understand that a professional GM is not exactly the same thing as a professional teacher or doctor. Those jobs have qualifications.

But hockey GM? Before he had the New York Islanders playing “Smaht” and “Haard”, Jack Capuano was a hockey GM. So how hard can it be?

But I digress. The gist of the article was that the Islanders needed to do more than just add one new player.

I suggested Vladimir Tarasenko at forward, Zdeno Chara to replace Andy Greene, and to promote the most deserving AHL player at 6th defenseman to be budget conscious.

So far I’m 67% exactly precise with the moves Lou Lamoriello has made. But I think there’s a better ending to my predictive ability and actual NHL Hall of Fame GM foresight. And it’s right in the face to be snatched up.

Don’t get me wrong, Tarasenko is still a possibility. It’s just that the bait to get him has changed. The bait however will still be by trade. Unfortunately, Islander fans have two ideas in mind about what a trade means. Anything on the Islanders roster has no trade value. Also, anything on the Isles roster is invaluable. Example?

“Who would want Leddy? He sucks. We’d have to include 4 1sts to move him.”

Reality? Contract moved to the EXACT TEAM I predicted, and the return was a 2nd and a player with Detroit retaining half the salary.

#IslesKoolAid the usual zero, #IslesRealists for the win.

“Ladd is untradeable.”

Reality? Ladd moved for 2 draft picks going the other way, which is very fair.

“Bailey unprotected? We’re fucked.”

Reality? No GM in the NHL WANTS Bailey. Not without inducements to take the zilch preventing the Islanders from winning a Stanley Cup. So technically, #IslesKoolAid is right on this one. We are fucked, because Seattle didn’t pick Bailey and the Isles are still stuck with him.

“Komorov is untradeable.”

Realty? You’re going to be wrong on that call, too.

As per my thesis in this piece, the Islanders can not take a step forward without a better infusion of new blood. By new I don’t mean teenagers. By new I mean guys who did not get to the highest stage of their career and fail. Parise is baby steps toward that. Tarasenko – a cup winner – would help that. Dunn – a cup winner – would help that.

Wait, did you say Vince Dunn?

Whereas I predicted the Isles reuniting with Chara, my mistake was Lou’s ties to the New Jersey Devils. Hello, Palmieri and Parise? Greene is done, but Lou is looking to fulfill something on a personal level that most people have no understanding of. It’s called loyalty. Old school. Respect.

But I did predict Tarasenko. And I’m feeling Dunn would be something interesting. But why would the Seattle Kracken trade Dunn?

Well, anyone watching Seattle’s expansion draft would be underwhelmed. Seattle needs contracts to reach the league floor. And Dunn is a restricted free agent. Dunn can hold a new team hostage for an overpriced contract. So what would help everyone?

Trade Josh Bailey to Seattle for Dunn.

Seattle benefits. Bailey and Eberle can combine to form….something. Maybe Seattle can become the best #IslesKoolAid first line in the NHL, and Bailey will prove how amazing he is. My guess is about as amazing as arena food Seattle gets contract security. They acquire a “top 6” forward for a defenseman that may bend them over. Seattle hits the cap floor. Joy! Just…don’t hold your breath waiting.

And the Islanders? They wrap up the defensive acquisitions that they need to and waylay a rookie from joining the league for one more season.

And Tarasenko? After the St. Louis Blues management trash talked VT, they ruined his asking price. So if I’m the Islanders? My offer is salary offset and a 1st. So see ya Komarov, Hickey, and a 1st. Next years first will be 32rd anyway, as with the removal of Bailey from the top 6? The Islanders become instant Stanley Cup favorites.

But Tarasenko has a messed up shoulder! He can break? True. 100% true. So what to do?

Make the trades. If Tarasenko does go down with an injury? You have $7.5 million to replace him. For this season and probably next season, if the team is smart. You know what you can acquire for $7.5 million?

Here’s an example: Patrik Laine. He just signed a 1 year deal with Columbus, which has a history of losing trades for good players. A pick and a prospect gets that deal done. Also, anyone else that has a cap hit under $7.5 million and is productive. That’s a long list.

And you want to know what else? The Islanders with Komorov, Hickey, and Bailey gone can roll 4 productive lines. Looking back at the Tampa Bay elimination series, what line could you call effective? The first one? 2 goal scorers on line 1 is not effective. The second line? One goal each is not effective. Did Tampa’s second line only score 3 goals in 7 games? Isles third line? No goals whatsoever? Ouch. Isles 4th line? They don’t score, they break balls. And they did…although there was zero significant, momentum changing hits from that entire line over 7 games. But at this point, they are the identity line. Sadly, our identity is almost aggressive enough hits, and low scoring.

You may say, why do you want to unload Bailey? In the playoffs, his game always steps up. Statistically, that is true. So let’s do a fast review of Bailey’s “stepping up:”

First two playoff series ever? Isles lose. Losing isn’t stepping up.

Then Florida? Thomas Greiss and Fuckface Scumbag puts the team on their back. Isles win, then promptly get destroyed by Tampa Bay. Amazing that Tampa Bay has been competitive since 2016. We have 2 competitive years out of 20 and we want to retire 23 numbers.

The most recenf ECF against the Lightning? What did Bailey produce? What, 20 points? How many came in the Eastern Conference Finals?

Reality says, when the going gets tough, Bailey is wet toilet paper. Smears shit all over himself, does nothing for his team. Ask Yanni Gourde, who was assited on his game winning short handed goal by I Josh you not Bailey. #Elite.

If assists to opponents counted, Bailey would be the next Wayne Gretzky.

Also…that’s it. Baileys first decade in the NHL was 4 playoff series, 3 losses, 1 miracle. What changed since then? Bailey? Or the coaching staff?

It is insane to think that Bailey is a catalyst.

To wrap this mini reality lesson up., Bailey is absolutely replaceable, and is overdue to be replaced. Look at hockey reference for his modern counterparts, production wise. Most of those guys were on 4 or more teams, because they produced as much as Bailey, which means they were unimportant.

The Islanders are a team that is built for the playoffs. They are the second best playoff team of the last 2 seasons. The issue is that those seasons were shortened.

So if the Islanders roll the same team in a shorter season, when that late season decline starts, the team can in reality fall out of playoff position. And a playoff team that doesn’t make the playoffs is kind of like when a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to see that tree fuck up.

In short, the Islanders made one significant change. On the third line. The need a significant first line change, and a significant top 4 defense change. And could make a cap saving statement in goal, but I don’t think Lou or Barry Trotz trusts Ilya Sorokin that much yet. Thus, they have no free salary cap money to sign free agents. Personally, if we are not promoting young talent, I would like Sami Vatanen and Vince Dunn to fill out the defense at the expense of Greene at Bridgeport, but cap space is cap space.  

But here is what I do know. With the offseason moves of Tampa Bay acquiring Brent Seabrook’s dead contract? They have the funds to reload the bottom six that left, and they have locked up Brayden Point for the productive part of his career.

And the Islanders? They replaced Palmieri with Palmieri. They replaced Lee with Lee. They replaced Eberle with Whalstrom. They replaced Dal Colle with Parise. They haven’t replaced Leddy. Teams that win cups tend to make multiple substantive changes, as I demonstrated here.

Some people think that Bailey should retire with the Islanders as a career player. If Bailey was a true Islander? He would gladly leave the team so that they could win a Stanley Cup two, and then sign a one day contract at the end of his disilustrious career to truly become an Islanders legend.

You telling me that’s an improvement? If so, I have a bag of dogshit you may be interested in acquiring.

The Islanders went from losing in 6 to Tampa to losing to 7 in Tampa. Trotz went from being run over by Hedman, Kucherov, Pointe, and Vasilevski to just being destroyed by Pointe and Vasilevski.

Tarasenko and Dunn for Bailey, Hickey, Komarov, and a draft pick. Less than that? Next season is going to be more of the same.

How to Fix the New York Overpay-Landers

How to Fix the New York Overpay-Landers

The New York Islanders have peaked as a team in its current form. And they face a serious issue, thanks to the global pandemic and a frozen salary cap, but also an even bigger issue with the overpay of many, many contracts on the present roster. It’s ok, though. I’m going to tell you how to fix this.

Overpaid contracts, you may say? Didn’t the team just make it to the conference finals for a second year in a row? How is that bad?

Fair questions. And here’s the fair answer. It’s not bad at all. It’s just not good. Being in 3rd or 4th place, depending on how you look at it, isn’t something you aspire to. Yes, last season’s unexpected bubble playoff run was fantastic. Going to a game 6 in a conference final was a very needed step forward for this organization.

But the 2021 season? I have no idea how Lou Lamoriello won GM of the Year. In case you missed Lou’s moves? I’ll help you out:

  • He traded away young defenseman Devon Toews for a pair of second round draft picks.
  • He made a move to acquire a scorer after the leading goal scorer had a season ending injury, giving up a first round pick to do so.

That’s it, folks.

Now, if Lou brought in a goal scorer LAST fall to bolster the team for a whole season? I’d be impressed. Instead, he rolled out basically the same team that lost in 6 games, only to see them lose in 7 games. The excuse will be “We didn’t have Anders Lee!” True. And if you did? You don’t have Kyle Palmieri and his playoff hot streak.

Going from wining a round of playoffs before going home versus two games away from a cup is an impressive step. Going from missing by two games to missing by one game? And losing to the same team? It means you need changes.

Don’t believe me? Look at the recent 2 cups in 3 years trip of the LA Kings. They had 6 different starters and a 33% turnover on Defense the year they won the first of two cups compared to the year before. The Pittsburgh Penguins followed the same plan, and did 2 cups in 2 years with 6 different starters from the year before when they lost in the payoffs.

What hot dogs?

But the Islanders have a problem. They have good players, absolutely. Mathew Barzal is stifled a little in Coach Barry Trotz’s defensive minded system, but preventing a goal is the same as scoring a goal in the end run. Anders Lee grew exponentially against Washington in the 2020 playoffs as a clutch player. Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech have become a legitimate top defensive pairing.

BUT THE CONTRACTS. HOLY SHIT.

Lou is bad at contracts. Take, for instance, his first Islander negotiation- John Tavares.

Lou offered Tavares 8 years at $11 million a year. You may say “That was the market for a scumbag,” and you would be right. Allegedly the San Jose Sharks offered Tavares $13 million per.

So is it a bad contract? Ask Toronto. The vast majority of their fans started hating that contract last year, only to be confirmed with this season. And there’s still 4 years to go.

Would John Tavares help this Islanders team? Absolutely. Would his salary fuck the entire team like he’s doing in Toronto? Undeniably.

The same thing applies to the Artemi Panarin deal. Panarin is, in my opinion, a better player than Tavares. More speed, sneakier….and overpaid. Lou was in on that as well. And I’m not talking overpaid because he has an 8 figure annual cap hit, although that helps.

No, I mean NHL overpaid. Because the last time I checked? No team paying a guy an 8 figure salary has ever won a Stanley Cup. Not a single one. Shit, one player from Buffalo hasn’t even made the playoffs for that 8 figure deal.  

Now, despite their trying, the Islanders have no players making an 8 figure salary. But they have a lot of guys punching above their weight class.

Take, for instance, Anders Lee. Lee is a 20 goal scorer. It may be 21, it may be 25, but he’s a 20 goal scorer. Sure, with Tavares at center he was a 40 goal scorer, but there’s no Tavares here, and I think that his playing two years now with Barzal shows Barzal is no Tavares either. It’s easily arguable that Barzal makes no one better, whereas Tavares got Lee to 40 goals and Bailey to 71(!) points, totals that they will never touch again.

Anders Lee makes $7 million dollars a year to score 20 goals. Is that an overpay? Absolutely. Not even looking around the league but at their own roster? It’s an overpay. Why isn’t Brock Nelson being paid $7 million a year, except for the fact that he’s not worth it?

If you look around the NHL, Anders Lee’s stats look an awful lot like Mike Hoffman. An outlier of a goal scoring year, but a 20 goal scoring power play guy. And Hoffman? His highest cap hit ever was basically $5.2 million. That means Lee is overpaid by 1.8 million dollars, and that’s just the beginning.

Another Lou contract- Brock Nelson. Islander fans may remember how soft he was before Trotz came around. They may recall his very soft 2021 playoff series vs. Tampa Bay. But they may have forgotten that he gets paid $6 million a season.

You know who else gets paid $6 million a season? Nathan McKinnon. $6.3 million, to be exact. And if I asked you “Hey, would you trade Brock Nelson straight up for Nathan McKinnon?” The only people saying they wouldn’t do it are true #IslesKoolAid, or brain damaged. Yeah, Brock Nelson is overpaid by league standards.

I’m not even finished.

JP Pageau. He was a 1C on the Ottawa Senators in a season where a 1C in Otawa is a 3C on a playoff team. And that’s exactly what he was for the Islanders. Now, I like Pageau, but when the Islanders extended him for $5 million a year? During the COVID crisis? Knowing the cap was frozen for a few season? Bidding exclusively so no one could influence your offer?

Pageau’s best season for goals was 24, and points was 43. Those bests were NOT in the same season. But you know whats funny? The Edmonton Oilers also made a COVID signing when just like the Islanders they were bidding against no one. And you know what happened?

Ryan Nugent Hopkins got paid $5.125m. RNH’s best seasons for goals and points? 28 goals and 69 points. In the same season! And he followed that season with another 60 point season. 69 is 50% more than 43, and yet they’re paid the same. RNH has 4 20 goal seasons, would have had a 5th in 2021 if it was 82 games, was 1 short in a season where he missed 2 games, and 2 short of 20 in a season where he missed 20 games. That’s a combined 7 20 goals seasons compared to 1, and a best year that was 67% as good as the guy making virtually the same money.

“But Pageau plays defense!” Yeah, I saw that defense versus elite forwards two years in a row now, and I’m not impressed. Regular season isn’t playoffs. Selke up Brayden Point, jerkoff.

“Are you going to attack Mat Barzal’s contract?” you may be wondering. No, no I’m not. Mat Barzal is a guy that would be a 20-60-80 player on other teams in this league. He was on pace for 20 goals in this shortened season DESPITE having Leo Komarov as a wing. He was the Islanders best player against Tampa, and the ONLY player who elevated his game versus the champs.

But that fucking Komarov? A minimum wage player eating $3 million.

Matt Martin came off of a deal paying him $2.5 million, but took a hometown discount to stay with the Islanders. Wait, who gave a 4th line grinder with no offensive output $2.5 million? Lou Lamoriello!. And then traded for him when Lou came to the Island!!

Maybe this trend started with Garth Snow giving Josh Bailey $5 million a year to score 13 goals a year- which is his career average of 13 years and 162 goals.  Or maybe it was that Casey Cizikas taking $3.4 million to score 9 goals and be a part of the highest paid 4th line in the NHL. No wonder they call it the “Identity Line.” The entire line is overpaid. They all need a Martin correction to stay with this team, or else they’re hurting it. Two time and soon to be three time cup champ Patrick Maroon does that exact same job with maybe better statistics for $900,000. So Cizikas is a million dollar player, statistically. And Maroon has not only Cizikas’s intangibles, but the experience of 3 cups, compared to zero for CC. And CC. And MM. All overpaid.

Yes, I know Cizikas had a 20 goals season. So that makes Bailey even MORE overpaid, as he’s never done that entry level top 6 achievement in 13 seasons. Bailey compares points per game to Craig Smith in Boston, who makes $3.1 million although Smith has a few 20 goals seasons under his belt as well.

Let’s talk goaltenders. Seymon Varlamov is being paid $5 million. Yes, he was a Vezina finalist, but by this point if you don’t realize that it’s Trotz’s defense first system and the incredible goalie coaching that helps these guys out, I don’t know what to tell you. But ;ets talk about Varlamov’s stats when he received that contract.

The Islanders signed Varlamov to a $5 million a year for 4 years deal coming off a season where his GAA 2.87 was and his save percentage was .909. Hmmm, there was an Islander goalie recently that was coming off of a season with a 2.69 GAA and a .913 save percentage and was given a 3 year deal for $3.3 million. And that same guy- with a much worse team- put up a 2.70 GAA and a .913 save percentage for…$3.6 million dollars just this last season.

Yeah, that was Thomas Greiss. Who is just about the same skill set as Varlamov. And makes $1.4 million less against the salary cap.

So, if Lee is $1.8 millon overpaid, Nelson at LEAST a million overpaid, Bailey almost $2 million overpaid, Komarov $2.2 million overpaid, Varlamov $1.4 million overpaid, well folks, that’s over $8 million dollars in salary cap money that can improve the team and retain key players. Lou, by giving bad contracts and not trading away issue contracts, has created a roughly 10% inflation rate on the Islanders cap hit.

And I didn’t even bring up Andrew Ladd and Thomas Hickey. Two complete waste of money deals because neither guy plays, but they eat over $5 million of the salary cap for the team while in Bridgeport.

What could the Islanders do with $8-$13 million more? Field a team that can beat Tampa Bay and win a Stanley Cup.

But that’s the #IslesKoolAid “Land of If’s.” We have to deal with reality. And the reality is, there needs to be some changes for the Islanders to get to the next level. Want some ideas?

Vladimir Tarasenko is a very recent Stanley Sup winner. I tend to like guys that win Cups. It’s the experience that the Islanders are lacking in, as they shop from teams like Ottawa and New Jersey. So to start, you can offer a Jordan Eberle- a top line offensive player until Trotz- and his $5.5 million contract to take back Tarasenko and his $7.5 million deal. Maybe St Louis even eats $1 million of that deal to facilitate it. That’s a net $1 million add to the Isles cap.

Next, Detroit has said we will take salary from you if you send us defense. Hey Nick Leddy, its time to go. And we’ll even throw in “veteran leadership” with Leo Komarov and the last year of his contract. Plus, Komarov is being paid less than his cap hit, which is always a plus for the team acquiring him. We can take a 3rd rd draft pick in return. That’s a net -$8 million from the cap.

The Edmonton Oilers always seems to lose important games. I’d bet its because they roll out Islander castoff Mikko Koskinen as their starting goalie. The Islanders have a goalie of the future in Ilya Sorokin, and he needs to get paid. Varlamov as a $5 million backup is crazy.  But $5 million as a starter with playoff experience? Here you go, Oilers. We’ll take a 3rd round pick in return.  That saves $4.2 million on the cap.

ADURRRRRR

There’s also an expansion draft. Wouldn’t a team that’s new LOVE some veteran leadership? Here you go Seattle- take Josh Bailey. We’ll throw in that 3rd from Edmonton to ensure that taking. Savings? $5 million on the cap.

How do we replace Nick Leddy? That should be Noah Dobson. Or, you COULD play Thomas Hickey and honor the bad contract Lou gave him. But I say be creative here. First off, the Andy Greene era should be over. But if you want a veteran at minimum wage And a feel good story? Zdeno Chara. He forms half of the bottom pair, has a homecoming, the fans can cheer a hall of famer who started and maybe ends his career on the Island, and he is absolutely coming in at minimum wage. Add $800k to the cap.

That’s still only 5 defensemen on the roster, however. So I’d look to promote either Bode Wilde or Sam Bolduc as the 6, and have Chara teach them like he did in Boston with Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy seems to be pretty good, and gave Chara a gigantic hug on the handshake line when Boston beat Washington in the 2021 playoffs. That speaks volumes to his tutelage. And a rookie deal? $800K.

If you’re doing the math, that leaves the Islanders $15 million to retain Kyle Palmieri, resign Pelech, Cizikas, Sorokin, and Beauvilier, and to add a backup goalie- Pekka Rinne maybe at a minimum deal? – which should be more than enough money to make that happen. Especially is Cizikas takes a Martin deal- time over money. That’d save the team $1.5 million.

Also, there’s rumors that the Minnesota Wild are looking to buy out Zach Parise. If they do? A Father-Son homecoming, at a league minimum deal. Or dare to dream and add cup winner Blake Coleman to your roster in between $3.6 million per season, a 100% raise for the player.

The end result?

TarasenkoBarzalLee
WhalstromNelsonPalmieri
BeauvilierPageauBellows/Parise/Coleman
MartinCizikasClutterbuck
PelechPulock
DobsonMayfield
CharaBolduc/Wilde
SorokinRinne? An $1m backup?

What’s the cap hit for this lineup? Well, that’s a tough one. Lou is bad at market value. But the knowns? Line one is $21.5 million. Line 2 projects to $11m. Line 3 projects to $9-13 million. Line 4? $7 million. That’s $49.5-52.5 million at forward.

Defense? The knowns and minimum deals combine to $9.5 million. Pelech getting $4-5M? $14.5 m on defense.

In goal? Sorokin should come in between $3-4 million, as he is a restricted free agent and there’s no need to pay hi like a king without seeing him perform like one. And $1m for a backup makes goal AT MOST $5 million.

The future, right?

Total cap hit? $69 – 72 million dollars. Leaving the Islanders $9.5 -$12.5 million under the cap. And an arguably better roster. And future flexibility. And this lets Hickey’s contract fade away in that season to free up another more than $2 million or make him a in season trade option on a cheap expiring contract on a defenseman, which is an asset in this league. Clutterbuck needs a pay cut as well after this season. And if Ladd goes fishing again? You add over $5 million in LTIR to chill with Boychuk’s $6 million that’s already there, giving the Islanders a total over $20 million of cap space to Tampa up the roster. Ovechkin, anyone?

The above is a deeper team at forward, a similar team at defense and goal, and a team that has a financial future which will be needed with all of Lou’s draft pick trade aways. It adds cup winners, experience, youth, speed, and subtracts nothing. It follows the trend of teams making serious moves to get over the top. It adds guys with power play experience. It creates a top six spot for their top offensive prospect. And I can absolutely guarantee you this- no team with Josh Bailey in the top six will ever win a Stanley Cup. This lineup fixes that.

Or, you can wait for Lou to trade another good, young player to make sure you pay the same team minus one part to compete against the two time champs. More to the point, do you think that having Toews on the blueline instead of Greene gets you the same results? You know, a speedy guy who had 6 goals and 28 points with Trotz and followed with 10 points in 22 playoff games compared to Greene’s last 2 playoffs combining for 5 points in 40 games?

Another guarantee- unless there’s some substantive changes on this team, you’re going to see the return of the same roster, only slightly diminished, and probably a second round loss versus Carolina. Or at best? A third round loss to Tampa Bay. Again. Or as we say a lot around here, more of the same.

A Cautionary Tale for the New York Islanders

A Cautionary Tale for the New York Islanders

This is the story of the 2021 New York Islanders hockey season. And maybe the 2024 Islanders season. And possibly the 2027 Islanders season.

The 2021 New York Islanders season on the surface was an excellent run. With a shortened regular season, we won’t spend too much time discussing the day by day or month by month progress of the team. That was not the goal of the Islanders. They were built for the postseason. Rather, we will explore two aspects of the regular season that helped shape the Islanders postseason, and will help shape both the near and distant future.

I’m sure you can predict that one event for consideration would be the Anders Lee injury. Lee’s torn ACL was a giant setback for a team that struggles greatly with offense- especially the powerplay, which is the most important aspects to Lee’s game.. This setback also hurt Matt Barzal as not only did he lose a twenty goal scoring wing, but that wing was immediately replaced with a two goal scoring wing. The decision to play Leo Komarov on the first line of the New York Islanders is absolutely the biggest NHL mystery of the 2021 regular season or postseason.

The next aspect of the regular season I wanted to discuss were the trade deadline acquisitions. Adding Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, and Brayden Coburn was the equivalent of adding Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri was the only player of those three to make any significant impact due to having two excellent playoff rounds. You can point to Zajac preventing a goal during the playoffs as maybe something worthwhile as well, but ultimately in acquiring Zajac and convincing the New Jersey Devils to retain salary on both players, the cost to the Islanders was a first round pick – something they have not had a lot of in the last two years. More on this later.

The main focus of an Islander retrospective needs to be on the postseason. The series against the Pittsburgh Penguins it was fantastic. It was enjoyable, it was exciting, and if Pittsburgh had competent goaltending they might have won that series. When Josh Bailey is lighting you up for goals you know you’ve got goalie issues. Personally, I did not expect Pittsburgh to win that series and made it known to everyone I could that the Islanders would win that series in six games. If only there was sports betting in New York…

Pregaming for Pittsburgh

The Boston series was a bit tougher for me to predict as I didn’t see much of Boston during the regular season except against the Islanders. After watching two games of the series I was fully confident that the Islanders would win  because Boston is a one line team, even with the addition of Taylor hall. Boston’s time is clearly fading away. Their title was a decade ago. Getting rid of Zdeno Chara was just one of the many required dismantling moves that the team will need to make in order to stay competitive. Boston has to rebuild their forward ranks as even with Hall they had no effective line after the first one.

Booing at Boston

the Islanders returned to the Eastern Conference finals, site of last years single handed dismantling and manhandling by Victor Hedman. And to make it worse, this time Tampa would have the services of Steven Stamkos, who had missed last year’s playoffs against the Islanders due to injury.

Was this series closer than last year’s series? Yes. absolutely. Did the Islanders perform marginally better than they did last year? Yes, as they played in seven games this year instead of 6. But there was something about the way that series ended that left a bad taste in my mouth. That being the final 16 goals of the series, 13 of which were scored by Tampa. That is an overwhelmingly oppressive statistic.

Shockingly the Islanders were two and two in that span, as the first two of those 16 came after the Islanders built a three goal lead in game 4, ad needed an amazing play at the end of the game to keep Tampa from hitting virtually empty net. This was followed by the worst playoff loss in franchise history in Game 5. The Islanders needed overtime to win Game 6, only to be shut out for a second time in a 5 days in a game seven defeat off of a power play goal, except the team with the power play didn’t score the goal. This is nothing new to any Islander fan that watched that series. They knew that the Islanders were the underdogs just like they were in the first two rounds, but it’s something entirely different to be the underdogs against the Champions.

WHY?

Against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders saw a multitude of players stepping up on different nights to be heroes. And that’s kind of a problem. When a team is relying on Scott Mayfield for game tying goals and Matt Martin for game winning goals? There’s a failure in the execution of your top six forwards. I do understand that Tampa Bay has a perennial Norris trophy candidate on defense and a former Norris trophy candidate on defense as well as an up and coming young defenseman who is already very good making up half of their blue line, but not everyone on the Islanders is guarded by a Norris trophy defenseman.

Take, for instance, Islanders forward JG Pageau. Pageau is the Islanders third line center but just a season ago he was the Ottawa Senators first line center. Pageau was not often facing Norris trophy winning defenseman, even though Pageau has in done such in the past as a 1C.  Pageau had zero goals against Tampa Bay.

Kyle Palmieri also did nothing offensively against Tampa Bay in either goals or assists despite two strong postseason series against Pittsburgh and Boston. Travis Zajac did nothing in any scoring category at all against Tampa unless you count plus minus as a scoring category, to which he was minus 3. Those three players we’re not facing Norris trophy defenseman and yet they did nothing. if you want people to step up and be heroes from unusual places, a good place to look would be from guys you acquired in trades who were top line players on other teams. And also, Travis Zajac.

Why does this matter? Because in acquiring both Pageau and Palmieri the Islanders gave up multiple draft picks. Three picks for Pageau, and 2 picks and 2 prospects for Palmieri. And while it’s true that the Islanders went to the conference finals in both of those seasons, if one scans the Islanders roster and looks at the ages of the players in the top six they threw out against Tampa Bay, you’ll notice that when the next time this team takes ice only two of their top 6 is on the right side of 30. Speaking of a top 6, let’s address that now.

The Islanders first line of Mat Barzal, Jordan Eberle and Leo Komarov combined for four goals. Three of those goals came off the stick of Barzal, and zero of those goals came off of the stick of Leo Komarov. This begs to ask the question “How is a player who only has two goals in 60 career playoff games on the first line of a team that you expect to win the Stanley Cup?”

There is no good answer to that question. A better question would be “Say there was a player you could have rotated in to that spot who was one of your leaders in power play production during the regular season. Would you do it at the expense of the guy that doesn’t score?” The reality is that there was a better option, but the stubbornness of a defense first coach who refused to consider that option on any meaningful level ultimately diminished the production of every other player on that first line.

Now am I saying fire Barry Trotz? Not at all. Without Trotz this team doesn’t make the playoffs, nevertheless the Eastern Conference finals. But can you question Trotz and his decision making process? 100% absolutely yes. Trotz even gave us evidence of his thinking when he pulled Semyon Varlamov out of goal against Pittsburgh to let NHL rookie but very experienced goaltender Ilya Sorokin take over goaltending duties. All Sorokin did was win every game he played against Pittsburgh, to be mothballed after one bad game versus Boston. Who scored by the second shot of every game in which they faced Varlamov.

I bet one team jumps out to an early lead…

Let’s look at that second line. The production of Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson combined equaled the output of Matthew Barzal by himself. While I’m not expecting much production from a fourth line I won’t forget that Matt Martin had the game winning goal in game 4, and that in seven games line 4 scored one less goal than lines two and three combined. I guess line 4 didn’t face elite defenders. Oh, they did?  

By the way, isn’t the second line of a conference finals team supposed to be excellent? Yep. Wouldn’t you expect any team going to the conference finals to at least have two lines? We certainly know Tampa had two lines because after the Islanders finally stopped the first line from scoring in every game of the series, a different line scored. That Brayden Point’s individual output on Tampa was more than half of the Islanders team output in goals is a pressing issue.

Not to beleaguer the playoffs any more than I have to but I do want to come up with one final point regarding the 2021 season and end of the Islanders playoff run. Could the Islanders have beaten Tampa Bay? A fair question. The Islanders had a dominant game one in Tampa, the Islanders lost game three by a goal, and the Islanders lost game 7 by a goal.

Of course the Islanders also won game one by a goal, game four by a goal, and game 6 by a goal in overtime. Also game four will be remembered for the Islanders almost completely blowing a three goal lead without a superhuman play by Ryan Pollack. If Tampa scores in that game 4 at that point in time I would bet my house at the Islanders lose in overtime. There would just be too much momentum after coming back from such a huge deficit.

So good!

So when we come back to the question could the Islanders have beaten Tampa Bay , my answer is in two parts. One part is an old theory that I have that is still 100% right to this day , and the other one is a theory I developed about seven games ago in the Islander season. The first theory- that a team with Josh Bailey in your top 6 will never go to a Stanley Cup finals- is now both 100% correct and on a 13 year “Dan is right“ streak.

The second part of that answer is this- if Leo Komarov is your answer to replacing Anders Lee at wing, you will never make it to a Stanley Cup final. That was the theory I developed with the intense research f watching Komarov play 19 games on the first line in the playoffs and never score a goal. Which was predictable, because last year we watched him play 17 playoff games on a third line and only score one goal against weaker defensive competition. So if you factor in Komarov competing against better defenseman that one would become zero. In Komarov’s Islander career he has two playoff goals in 44 games, going one, one, 0 for those three entire post seasons. 1,1,0. Komarov’s new nickname? Binary.     

No shit.

The next part in this retrospective is the what’s next section. The 2021 Islanders already have a glimpse of what’s next thanks to the 2020 Islanders. After the 2020 game 6 loss to Tampa in the conference finals, the Islanders had to part way with Devon Toews from their defense and also were gifted with the injury retirement of Johnny Boychuk just to hold the remaining players together.

The Islanders face a steeper cliff this offseason. The Islanders have eight players who need new contracts. Some of these eight players are clearly replaceable, such as Travis Zajac, Michael Dal Calle or Andy Greene. Even if all those are ejected from the team? That’s not much of a savings as those players weren’t making that much money.

Then there comes the hard questions. Casey Cizikas is a UFA. Kyle Palmieri is a UFA. Both were key in this Islanders run until they ran into Tampa Bay. The question you have to ask is “are these players worth the money- which for both of them will be north of $4 million per year- to come back and if facing Tampa Bay in the playoffs do absolutely nothing again?”

On this question I would say one of those players is definitely worth keeping and that would be Kyle Palmieri. No offense to Casey Cizikas. He has been a lifelong Islander, an extra hard player, a guy with a tainted back story who came here kept his head down and worked hard to make himself rich. And if he wants one last contract making big money in his career? God bless him. Let him go and play 60 games out of 82 for some other team for $4 million . And if whoever that team is shows up in a conference finals, understand that Cizikas will not score a goal, as he has no goals in 13 conference finals games. He only scores about 9 per regular season anyway.

I’d rather see a Blake Coleman take a spot on this team- a guy w cup experience, a gritty game, 20 goals seasons, and did I mention the very recent cup experience? Remember how vast the changes were to the Islanders culture with the acquisition of Stanley Cup winners Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk?

The next two players that are restricted free agents are must sign players. Why? Because they are under 30 and the team still has some control on what they get paid and how long their contracts are. This means that they can be had on some level of a discount compared to being on the open market. Anthony Beauvilier and Adam Pelech our players that are key to the Islanders future. They’re young, there is still a level of control over them, and frankly the team is barren of prospects, which gets to the next point in the what’s next section- which players to protect in the expansion draft.

First Derogatory Nickname? Ass Kracken

Personally? If you’re making more than $3 million for the Islanders and if you’re over 30 you would be exposed in the expansion draft. The only player in that criteria I would even consider keeping is Anders Lee. Lee is the team captain and he is a productive player, but he’s also coming off of a major injury and isn’t getting younger. Also it’s the type of injury that could make you slower, and Lee’s game was already pretty slow. In short, if Lee was exposed, would anyone even take him for $7 million a year for the next half decade?

Ideally the Islanders would negotiate a trade with Seattle in which they would send a predetermined player to Seattle for salary cap relief and maybe add an additional asset of a third round graph pick, or even a second round draft pick. Why? Because lately the Islanders have showed no regard for draft picks. They are absolutely a win now team , as our discussion of 67% of the top two lines are players 30 and over. And that trade away the future for the now problem? That problem will fully reveal itself fully when in two years Brock Nelson, Andres Lee, and whatever is left from these 30 year olds are slower and there’s nothing immediately there to replace them. GM Lou Lamiorello is already on that path, and it seems can not be stopped despite common sense, so why not go all in?

Maybe the way to keep Palmieri?

One thing I kept hearing during these playoffs is that Tampa Bay was cheating on the salary cap. Did Tampa cheat the cap? No. They exploited a rule that let them accumulate a $99 million dollar payroll. Another team that also took advantage of that rule for almost $10 million dollars? The New York Islanders. If you think Tampa cheated the cap, then so did the Islanders. Some say that if you ain’t cheatin, you ain’t trying. I’m OK with that.

Barry Trotz is on record saying that this team was special, and will look different next year. You have to expect that based on the expansion draft, the frozen salary cap, and the inevitable decline of aging players or injured players. However, let’s talk about how Tampa Bay handled that exact same situation very recently.

A Tampa Bay Sidestory in How to Create Success

In the 2003-04 season, Tampa Bay’s young forwards Vincent Lecavlier, Brad Richards, Martin St Louis and defenseman Dan Boyle led Tampa to their first cup. After a lockout and a few unsuccessful playoff runs, Tampa traded away Richards. The team did not play well and ended up drafting 1st overall in 2008. While Islanders fans cheered over Josh Bailey, Tampa Bay was taking Steven Stamkos. They traded away Boyle after finishing year one of a deal he had signed for 6 years. The reward for that trade? Drafting Victor Hedman.

As the Lightning improved as a team? They made a move that was brilliant- the bought out the contract of Vincent Lecavilier. Not because of his play, but because his cap hit of over $7 million a year until 2020 would hurt the team’s development at that time.

When St. Louis demanded a trade to the Rangers, Tampa took back Ryan Callahan and gave him a healthy contract extension. Tampa Bay returned to the Stanley Cup finals that season. And when Callahan started to deteriorate, traded him to Ottawa for almost $3 million of cap savings.

So how’d that work out?

Tampa traded starting goalie Ben Bishop for cap concerns, replacing him with 2012 first round pick Andrei Vasilevskiy for a much smaller paycheck and a return in talent. They ignored a 2015 trade request from top offensive prospect Jonathan Drouin, but complied in 2017 after he proved his value in the NHL. The return? Montreal Canadiens top defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

When 2011 2nd round pick Nikita Kucherov had a breakout season? The Lightning took his breakout linemate Vladilav Namestnikov and traded him to the New York Rangers for Ryan McDonough.  

In short, back in 2014, Tampa came off a few seasons of successful playoff advancements including a Stanley Cup championship, and their management looked at their asked themselves “can they do it again?” And the front office looked at that team and said no. The result?

A 2019 Presidents Trophy, a 2020 Stanley Cup championship, and a 2021 Championship defense. And the willingness to trade any player at any time to any place for pretty much hopeful returns, as no player is bigger than the team.

Yuck.

Even in building this 2021 team, Tampa Bay acquired players to put on that injured reserve to exceed the salary cap. On purpose! And what are those teams demand for you taking millions of actual dollars away from their ownerships during a pandemic? They demanded that you also take their draft picks. So when acquiring $4 million of cap spacee from Ottawa, Tampa Bay also acquired the second round draft pick from Ottawa for that service, meaning Tampa Bay will be drafting somewhere in the twice somewhere in the between 30 and 35 in the upcoming NHL draft. Or maybe bunching those two picks to move up into the top 20 in the NHL draft.

As an Islander fan, I’d like to see the misery of John Tavares suffering as he makes $11 million a year in Toronto. The thing I love to pick on is at Toronto has invested over $40 million of salary cap space more than 50% of the salary cap goes to four players. Toronto uses that for four forwards all of which are talented scorers. I had this theory that bas based on Toronto, which was that you cannot invest half your cap in four players and expect to be a championship team.

Which it was why to my surprise it was to my surprise that Tampa has about 50% of the salary cap invested in four players. The goalie Vasilevsky, maybe the best goalie in the world, Victor Hedman – one of the best defensive players in the world , Steven Stamkos- a team leader and who’s been there from the lows to highs, and Nikita Kucherov, whose 9.5 million this year was hidden under the injury clause of the salary cap to allow attempt to create the first 9.5 of the 18 million or so dollars they violated cap space with. So I guess Toronto’s mistake wasn’t paying for guys half a cap it was paying one position half a cap.

What do I share this story? Because if the Islanders do not break into champions next season, it would be time to sell high on your “core” players, and to redefine what the core is. You make the core players Pelech, Pulock, Barzal, Beauvillier, Sorokin. You give legitimate auditions to Bellows, Wahlstrom and Dobsons . Auditions like actual time on ice playing. You try out the kids you have in your system like Bolduc, Wilde, Jenkins, to see what you have. If you’re not willing to do that? Then you trade those players to fill immediate and long term needs.

If you don’t sell high? Look at the shitshow that happened in Chicago. Or the shitshow that happened in Los Angeles. Or the shitshow happening in Pittsburgh. With good management, good scouting, good drafting, good trading, and good coaching? It seems that the Tampa way is the way to not get bogged down in the past at the expense of the future. And different than the Oiler way, where players get paid AFTER they achieve something.

My foil on Twitter is a man that #IslesREealsits call Kool-Aid Rob. KAR will throw his remote control into a wall over a lost game, and maybe even a lost faceoff. To me, that is a respectable fan. But recently KAR said “This season is over. We don’t have to worry about the roster again until October.“ For a guy that loves hockey so much? That is a horrible take. Do fans influence a team managements decisions? I would argue yes. Remember all the clamoring for Miroslav Satan to play with Alexei Yashin? Remember the calls for the Islanders to acquire Michael Peca after his personal strike against Buffalo? I love that when fans clamored for Thomas Vanek, they got Thomas Vanek. Thankfully Vanek isn’t good at betting and turned down 49 million guaranteed dollars when that contract was offered in 2015, because it would have run out last Friday.

But I don’t blame KAR for his view. His view is issue I call the mistake of the fan that has never seen success. The fan that has to root for individuals because the team was so bad. I was there back in the day for Mariuz Czerkawski dropping 35 goals playing with Ted Donato and Mats Lindrgren, so I get it. Sometimes fans like individual players so much that they can’t bear to see them traded.

However, I would argue that those are not true fans of a team.

When a fan base looks at the success of successful teams, they see teams often trade popular players for other players. Case in point- the New York Islanders . When the Islanders were moving toward a Stanley Cup they traded Billy Harris and Dave Lewis- 2 popular players- for Butch Goring. Hard to argue about the results there.

When the Charles Wang Islanders were looking to be respected? They traded future Hall of Fame defenseman Zdeno Chara to acquire Alexei Yashin. Sometimes you trade players people like. Players know that. Which is why players will always tell you it’s a business. When fans wish players would take a home team discount? They are not thinking about the players perspective at all.”Stay here for less money, which makes me more tradable?” Even if a player likes a location, a smaller deal will help insure that it’s a temporary visit.

In fact, the last Islanders player to take a home team discount was Jordan Eberle, who took less money than his previous contract to stay with the others. And the fans now want to see him traded. Keep that in mind when the Casey Cizikas negotiations happen…and expect CC to have a different crest next season. Tampa Bay has becomes MORE successful with frequent purges of expensive plyers from rosters. Good drafting helps that along, so maybe don’t be so hasty in trading away those first and second round picks?

The reality is, the Islanders are a win now team. But winning just one more playoff game than last season? That’s not the type of growth you need. The growth the Islanders needed this year was to make it to a Stanley Cup finals. If they lose in the Stanley Cup, THAT’S the learning experience. Losing to the same team in consecutive years in playoffs? They already got that lesson.

And as KAR points out, its really hard to go to three consecutive Eastern Conference finals. Odds are they won’t get there again. And if that’s the case? That’s when you 100% know it’s time to sell.

The problem with selling however, is twofold. Fold one is- will Barry Trotz coach a rebuilding team, or is he too far along in life to you want to start from scratch? Trotz has a history of not playing young players in important situations, which can stunt their growth in the short term. See the handling of Noah Dobson in the 2020 postseason, and the handling of Whalstrom in the 2021 post season, and the overall handling of Keifer Bellows. The Islanders do not have time for short term growth stunting.

Not a lot of youth there…

The other aspect with this team is the brand new arena that opens at Belmont in time for the 2021- 2022 season. If after one year at Belmont the Islanders go into a rebuild, the owners are going to shit a brick. They want that arena full for 40 years. The only way that’s going to happen? An annually competitive product. And the only way a competitive product is going to happen annually is with honest raw player assessments and frequent turnover of non key players.

So to conclude this very long 2021 season wrap up, as the New York Islanders are seeing their championship window closing, they have this one off season to short run redefine their team and gear up for one more deep playoff run, and hopefully stay healthy to have a full team coming into their first postseaon at Belmont. After that? Having not had a first round draft pick in two years? And the one from three years ago already a bust? They better stay friendly with Josh ho sang, because in the long run they may actually need him.

Spaceplex

Spaceplex

This article was inspired by the insurrectionist terrorist raid on the capital on January 6, 2021. While I have never tried to overthrow my country or kill the Vice President,  I remember a time where I too could have been considered a terrorist. It was 1991, and I was terrorizing a giant spider web.

A web? No, THE web. Where does one find a human sized spider web? At Spaceplex, of course. What is Spaceplex? Guess the Web will wait a second.

Spaceplex was a place borne out of my 6 year old head that came to life when someone not aged six used actual money to invest in making a giant ass mancave. And no, not a cave when men went to see giant asses…that’s existed for ages. So what am I talking about?

Spaceplex itself was located somewhere in St James or Smithtown. I don’t know where exactly, but I do know that we used to hang a left off of 347 when we saw the Taco Bell by a Cadillac dealer. I’m sure somehow today that sentence is both cultural appropriation and imperialism.

But what awaited inside of this Spaceplex? You walked in through a funky futuristic feeling tunnel that on occasion dropped some dry ice to create a smoke filled entry for customers, like you were a rock star about to hit the stage. And then?

A gigantic room full of arcade cabinets. A big area for miniature golf. A dark, creepy room for laser tag. A small interior amusement park complete with a 20 foot tall rubber band spider web call….THE WEB. A sports game area, like soccer or some shit. Nobody cared about soccer in 1990. Air hockey. Dome hockey. Pinballs. Lastly, a relatively inexpensive snack bar full of Elio’s pizza and warmed up nachos, with maybe a dirty water dog to balance out a diet designed to create volcanic spastic colons.

Why did I love such a commercially minded, mildly dirty, poorly snack-accommodated place? For the record, I did love Spaceplex. I loved Spaceplex so much that I gave it a pet name, like when you name a pet because you love it or when you make up a cute nickname for your girlfriend before she ruins your life.- Spaceflux. Why? Because flux can mean flowing, which I felt years before I read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, but it can also mean abnormal discharge from your body, like shitting and pissing yourself when you die. Which you do, in case you didn’t know that. Know that when you watched grandma die, while you were squirting tears, she was squirting piss all over herself. Get that shot in your next dead relative selfie, you sick fuck. Unlike your shitty grandma, calling it Spaceflux means I died and went to heaven.

Never have I ever been to a place that fed into my childhood regarding entertainment choices, as well as my love for technology by having the latest games (THEY HAD GAMES WITH MOTHERFUCKING POLYGONS! POLYGONS!!!), plus the time honored passing of the gauntlet from when older kids would push me away from a game to steal my quarter to a time when I would place my foot on an unlucky 12 year old and shove punt his unsuspecting body across the arcade so that a buddy can take over his game as we both laughed our asses off. There was no waiting in line. Fuck them, this is survival of the person willing to push a 15 year old face first into something else over a game token. Allegedly.

And the games? What games were there to draw you in?

STUN Runner sit down version. Terminator 2. a sit down Hard Drivin’ cabinet, Captain America and the Avengers. An old game that was hologram based called Time Traveller. Why the fuck aren’t there more hologram games? Golden Axe was there of course, which was a great game for the time. Smash TV, an all time great, which as far as I know still has the highest deaths per second count of any game ever made was there. They had a Sega R 360. If you don’t know what that is, look at the fucking thing.  There was all sorts of shit there. Games with guns. Games with steering wheels. I’m pretty sure I even played Mortal Kombat 2 there, which seems recent in my head until I discovered that Best Buy sells it as a classic game Arcade 1 up cabinet, which means it is definitely old.

So, about that Web. There was a giant elastic banded spider web called “The Web.” How creative. The elastic bands were those big black bands that you use to strap shit to the roof of your car. Except longer. Which allowed you to use them as a sling shot that didn’t even need a rock. The rubber band quality and size allowed you to pull the strap back and just let it fly, effectively slapping the shit out of whomever was unlucky enough to be climbing up the 20 foot tall bungee nightmare when you let loose with hell’s wrath.

Those webs also let you launch yourself with extra momentum downwards if you pushed yourself into the web and let it sling you towards your target, WWE rope style. This led to flying kicks and torpedo like headbutts that were body numbing. That lack of solid wall on occasion also led to an evasion of a predictable attack, when you leaned back and avoided a punch to the dick, which usually ended up devastating some poor bastard who was attempting to use the Web for a legitimate purpose like a normal human being.

There was one instance when a friend of mine dove from the top of the Web, somehow managed to avoid ANY of the rubber band webs, and landed SPLAT on top of some poor kid who was coming in to do something stupid, like enjoy himself. My buddy gets up and looks at the kid. The kid was mushed into the canvas topped spongy floor, totally unconscious. He asked the kid “You OK?” The kid doesn’t reply. Reply? Shit, the kid doesn’t move, or even twitch. “YOU’RE OKKKKK” he declares for the kid as he tussles the kids hair in a friendly, big brotherly way, then heads back to the top of the perch.

After a while, the kid slowly rotated himself and spent two minutes crawling back the ten feet to the Web’s exit. He was definitely NOT OK. He’s probably missing a spleen today. Allegedly.

This is gonna hurt…

Did I mention that Spaceplex had an indoor mini golf course? And my friends and I treated that golf course like Thunderdome and Polo fucked and had a kid. We’d hit the golf ball as hard as we could at something, which was the excuse to run full speed and use the lead putter smash the shit out of whatever alleged space aged materials they made the golf course out of. Which looked like that hard foam insulation they use on hot tubs. I know this because we broke half of the course. Allegedly.

Spaceplex had this game called Bowlingo. Fucking Bowlingo. It was a tiny bowling alley with these small pins on strings, and a softball sized bowling ball. Which was perfect for overhanding. Truth be told, I’m pretty good at throwing shit. I did repeat my Bowlingo talent when my son was at a 3 year olds birthday party at Fun Zone on Route 110 in Amityville, NY. After bragging to the other dads about how as a misguided teen I was Thanos to Bowlingo’s universe and them calling me full of shit, I overhanded the ball into the equivalent of right between the eyes of the game. The lights on BOTH lanes went nuts, and all 20 of the pins dropped to the lane. I smiled proudly. Twenty with one blow- just like all of their wives! SKANKS!

MANGLED IT

There was a laser tag arena. I never went in there, just because I know that in the dark? With a blunt object? I wouldn’t have shot anyone. I would have pistol whipped the fuck out of people I snuck up on and clubbed like a baby seal. Or clubbed like Captain Caveman. Or clubbed like I had bub. And if I got shot? Club that fuck to show him up. Basically, I avoided laser tag for the lawsuits and assault charges that would have undoubtedly happened.

The pictures that I’m including are here for the sake of veracity. All of these pics were developed at a Photomat and were scanned and edited. Suck dick to anyone trying to figure out who is who, you fucktards. This action breaks my general rule to not photograph alleged criminal activity, but I wanted to capture this moment in life between being a teen and an adult- even though we were all legal adults- because I think we all knew what was coming down the road was going to be a different world. There were signs of this already popping up with PC gaming at early stages and 32 bit consoles coming down the line that would make arcades replaceable. And also, we’d have more income, so we had more choices of where to be awful human beings and cause violence. Allegedly.

No. Fucks. Given.

Besides, I don’t think it’s Spaceplex anymore, and the statute of limitations must be over by now, so fuck it. I’m doing this for an historic reason!

The other shit there, like the sports area? I didn’t give a fuck about that. I think there were bumper cars too, but once you start driving a real car, a bumper car is the driving equivalent of a limp dick. Unless of course you’re smashing into other cars with aggressive purpose and launching glasses off of people’s faces. That’s always funny.

And if security ever caught wind and came to confront us? We’d beat the piss out of them and take off. After all, we weren’t locals, but we were a military draft aged mob. And fortunately, security on most occasions recognized that- because they themselves were like 16, and just asked us to be cool. Which never worked because we were terrorists. You can’t negotiate with terrorists.

You may say “It sounds like you and your friends were asshole bullies.” Well, that’s revisionist history. Judging us by today’s standards? Sure, we’re terrible. But that’s because kids today lack the balls to stand up to someone and defend themselves live and in person. Am I proud of being that terrible? Yes.

Why? Because no one involved was so life rocked and disturbed at what happened to that they didn’t go home, got behind a screen, and use social media to henpeck someone else so badly that they went out and killed themselves? That’s a win. Yet somehow people today see that electronic onslaught as TOTALLY NORMAL BEHAVIOR.

So brave.

If those two worlds collided? Like, I’d see you at a urinal taking a leak and push my foot against your ass until your junk may or may not hit the porcelain. Then you’d go home, gather a bunch of twits, and start an online barrage, attack my job and company, try to dox me, harass my family, demand attention for how much of a victim you while you actively try to financially ruin someone’s life with no regard to generational impacts, and demand a bank holiday for your suffering. Because you are powerless.

Think about that logic. Taking a quarter is bad. Howabout taking a life? That’s good! I can write a “feel bad for me” post, or be even more shallow and take a frownie selfie. But by the standards from the age of Spaceplex? That person is a fucking piece of shit. Everyone would bully the fuck out of a person like that. Or more likely beat their ass. Often.

The bullying we did hurt for maybe a moment, because it was in the moment. It wasn’t premeditated. All we did was mildly embarrass, peer to peer. But now? Social media is forever. That person that you called a cunt on line? One day they’ll hear from their grandkids “Grandma, were you as big of a stupid cunt as Jessica said? Because she said you were the biggest stupidest cunt ever.”

#GrandmasaCunt #FuckJessica

There was one time that I thought it would be a good idea to bring a girl on a date to Spaceplex. Honestly, that was VISIONARY on my part. Trying to look cool by showing how good you are at video games is a somewhat recent phenomenon. Probably because it’s only recently that guys started getting rich playing video games. Vaginas still smell money as fast as Tecuichpotzin changed her name and became Christian after Hernando Cortez killed her husband Cuauhtémoc right in front of her, making him king of the Aztecs. But when I did that? Not kill Aztecs, but showed mad arcade skills? I got a handjob that felt like I was getting beat off by a construction worker. Who knew bankers massaged their hands with dick skin breaking pumice stones? And every Aztec hates me. What the fuck.

And yes, you all need to learn more history. #MeToo is just an excuse.

Spaceplex was so popular in its time that someone started a corporation to sell stock in the concept, probably to take advantage of the dot com bubble. It was so popular that people who lived 40 minutes away- that’s 20 miles in Suffolk, 10 in Nassau- heard of it before there was such thing as an internet. It was so popular that some dude claimed he kidnapped a girl from there and kept her in a dungeon. Of course he didn’t. If my crew saw shit like that happen? We would have made him bite the curb, then throat fuck him with those horrible 75 cent hot dogs until he shit his pants to death. There is no reason to show mercy to a kid toucher.

Hell yeah, Katie

Like all good things, Spaceplex came to an end. Most would argue that things like the Sony Playstation and the Sega Dreamcast and even the Atari Jaguar– the original 32-64 bit generation of home video games is what did the arcade in. After all, why spend $50 at the arcade when you can spend $50 at home and own it, or rent it at Blockbuster for a few bucks and test drive a game? Also, who spends $50 at an arcade? Dave and Busters, put your hand down!

Last one, amigos. Buy a t shirt or a knit hat.

No, what killed Spaceplex was some piss poor owners. I thought I was a bad client, but I wasn’t shit compared to the scumbaggery of ownership that ran that joint. The owners allegedly were piles of shit that had ties to organized crime and tried to defraud the stock market, ultimately getting nailed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Compared to them, my crime was mostly disorganized and spontaneous, and no one even called the cops. I was probably an insurance claim. Allegedly.

The end of Sapceplex wasn’t exactly the end of Spaceplex. It happens that Spaceplex had a child. It was on 347 by the Smithhaven Mall and was called Sports Plus. They had a sheet of ice, an arcade, I think some food, and an indoor roller coaster. But no Web. This was an upgrade in some ways on Spaceplex, except for one issue. The issue was that I was older and in a different frame of mind.

By then I was old enough to have a somewhat real job. And some money. And was at an age where I could get into places that served booze, where it was way harder to find 15 year olds and their tokens.

I think Sports Plus made it all the way to 2007, but I’m going by this account. Today it’s a Whole Foods and I think a gym. But I bet one of the reasons Sports Plus was built where it was built? Because Spaceplex broke the ground of an arcade without a shopping mall attached to it, and it was a mile away. Look at Sports Plus stealing a customer base, just to piss it away.

A few years ago I was in the general area of Spaceplex and I decided that fuck it, I was going to see what was there failing to live up to its standards. What shit took away that sexy bitch of a destination of my youth. It turns out, it was pretty much more of the same. It became a sports arena of some sort, which Spaceplex also had to an extent. But for me, the absolute best part of the visit was the entrance to the place, which was largely the same from my times there. It took me back to the good old days of being able to get away without being recorded as a complete asshole.

Hey baby…

My reaction seeing this superlative sacred site some 20 years later? Truth be told, my eyes welled up. For what, though? Maybe for the passing of my youth. Maybe for the time that has moved on and the changes that brings. Maybe for the inability to destroy someone else’s shit without being filmed by assholes with cell phones or assholes that installed security cameras to stupidly protect their expensive stuff. But I totally teared up. It could have been for missing the closeness of youthful bonds between friends that you have at that time in life.

Or maybe it was for the time in history before we all lived on social media. You know, where anyone and everyone can gain a level of assholiness that was formerly reserved for the people that made you look at photo albums of the shit they did and you didn’t? Then or now, that shit is absolutely fucking annoying. Fuck your pictures of food and vacations. No one wants to see that shit. Not even your kids, and they were there.

While you can never truly go home, you can definitely look back with nostalgia for the good times that you had in your life, and with the proper context of history behind them. Like the time where a place became as sexy as the wild west because it had no closed circuit TV due to the owner being a criminal himself and not wanting to get caught, all at the expense of the massacre of a plastic shitty golf course.

No cash value. Like a marriage if you’re a dude.

I had done searches on the subject and found so little available that I was compelled to share. I hope one thing came across above all else in this: Spaceplex was and is such a wonderful memory from my life. Despite the bravado of the stories of mayhem, it really was a place where a teenager with a pocket full of change could go and laugh their ass off with their buddies. Those memories literally forced me to write this history. My hope is that others who may have stories share them, as I shared my alleged tales. Or maybe even go back and pay a visit, as writing this inspired me to do.

I used to ask if there is a place in the market for a Spaceplex today? Yes, yes there is. But you’d have to build it today, and realize that it will go away. The kids born in the late 1980’s never truly experienced the fun and social activity that was the arcade. Dave and Busters is the only joint that still tries to create the social environment of an arcade while passing that torch to the next generation, but they’ve been running that concept for how many years without it catching on? 20 years? That’s because there’s no soul to Dave and Busters. It’s too corporate. It’s the 50 dollar arcade. I love them, but it’s been years since I’ve been to one.

Well that didn’t work…

A PS5 can be used to help cure cancer while you play Borderlands 3. The graphics that the next gen Xbox can produce are just as good as any dedicated arcade cabinet, and you can play it on a 75” flat screen from a reclining leather couch. A coin op arcade game will pale in comparison to both the personal and social utility of that. Anyone 25 and under won’t give a shit about an arcade.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try.

You can build the next Spaceplex. It needs to be darkish. It needs to be a little mysterious. It needs to have a cross section of classic and modern games that are cool. Technically, it kind of already exists, just not here. But in the end, you have to know it will fail as a solo entity. But maybe, there’s another way.

My idea? Combine the massive number of Long Island home arcade cabinet collectors with the great beer bars on Long Island. Especially now, as the COVID pandemic is taking those places away, but also to team up with the ones that will rise in their places. Creates a network of roving Spaceplexes. Spaceplexi? Make events in multiple localities so everyone can enjoy themselves no matter where they’re from. Support both hobbyists and local businesses!

Asshats from above

Sure, there won’t be The Web, which would be a bummer until 9 people threw out their backs trying to relive their youth. Besides, today the web means something entirely different. And the days of 75 cent hot dogs are long gone, just like the days of 90 cent a gallon gas. And of course, that youthful optimism and hopefulness hopefully has already been replaced by a level of happiness and complacency in achievement. But the things that make life enjoyable- friends, fun, and the opportunity to both reminisce and make new memories- does that ever change?

They’re fucked

Feel free to leave your memories of Spaceplex below. Or share your suggestions on how to bring it back to life. Or your favorite chicken recipe. It’s all good.