The Lee- Eberle Debate, Revisited

The Lee- Eberle Debate, Revisited

Last September 6 (that was 2018, before the hockey season started, I wrote the following on our old website. Apparently it may have been read by an NHL GM, who gave it some thought. Enjoy!

What to do with Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee?

9/6/18

Fans of this blog- go ahead, there are one or two out there, you can admit it- know that for the most part this blog runs in the following cycle:

  1. State a problem
  2. Explain cause of problem
  3. Explain how others handled similar situations successfully
  4. Discuss potential solutions
  5. Use case studies, histories, and current trends to come to a research based conclusion instead of scream like some ignorant asshole.

Well folks, this is no exception. If you read the last blog entry about what it would take to trade for a star player (note: not much) then you have to come to the conclusion that you aren’t going to get a whole hell of a lot of you trade Jordan Eberle and or Anders Lee.

Think I’m crazy? What did the Islanders trade to acquire Eberle? Ryan Strome, a 3rd line center with one outlying career year. This was a STRAIGHT UP trade. No picks, no prospects, no other players. So what do you think the Islanders would get for the same guy on an expiring contract looking for a raise from his current $6 million salary?

Best hope- a pick and a prospect, or two picks. Anything north of that is a steal.

So this presents you with the following dilemma- what do you do with a Jordan Eberle? Do you trade him for the above mentioned package? Pay him the aforementioned raise? Or do you ride out his season and head off into the sunset for nothing like John Tavares just did a few weeks ago?

This is not an enviable position to be in. Eberle is a solid second line wing who helped with the learning curve of Mathew Barzal. Eberle most certainly has value to the team. He’s also a productive offensive player likely to score 25 goals and 30 assists on an average year.

But that’s not what makes this an unenviable position to be in. Every team has to make choices on players. No, what makes this particularly bad is that the Islanders have a first line wing in the same situation, that of 40 goal scorer Anders Lee. Some would say that Lee is a product of Tavares, having put up 76 goals in two seasons with Tavares after putting up 40 goals in the prior two seasons without him.

This situation boils down to the following concept: Islander fans might have a span of 366 days where the Islanders lose three of their top six forwards for nothing. Stuff like that cripples’ teams for years.

So what do we root for to happen, as fans? Well, you have the following scenarios:

  1. Pay both of them
  2. Trade Lee
  3. Trade Eberle
  4. Ride out the season

Let’s explore the pros and cons of all of these options.

  1. Pay both of them

Pro: They stay with the team for the rest of their effective careers.

Con: At least $15 million in combined salary cap hit. Roster inflexibility. Untradable contracts. Keeping younger players with potentially greater talent in lesser roles because you can’t give a 4th liner $8 million. Not even Garth Snow was that stupid.

This is the fan favorite option as we always love our own. But it’s also the one that would eat up at present 3/16th of the salary cap. Leddy, Ladd, Bailey and Boychuk make up another 4/16th of the cap. The 4th line makes up another 2/16th of the cap. 9 players, 9/16th of the cap. That’s on pace for a 16 player team, which probably won’t turn out so well.

Also, this will keep you not only from importing any skill players, but it will force you to choose which of the emerging players to pay from the likes of Anthony Beauvilier, Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, Noah Dobson, etc. A talent ceiling, which is also never a good thing for a team.

  • Trade Lee

Pros: Remove a slow skater from an always getting faster league from the lineup. Plus there are questions whether or not Lee was a product of Tavares and if he can repeat his prior successes. Also, you’re saving somewhere between $7-8 million that can be used to address other areas. And then of course you’re acquiring a lesser player, a draft pick, and a prospect in a trade now, or a little less at the deadline.

Con: I like Anders Lee. He seems like a great teammate, a stand up guy, and has made a career of grabbing those garbage goals that can be a difference maker when you’re in the playoffs. You would not get equal statistical value for 2016-2018 Lee…but if you act now you may get something similar statistically to 2014-2016 Lee at a lower price tag.

  • Trade Eberle

Pro: Save $7 million plus on a guy that is a 25 goal 58 point guy no matter who he plays with. Since Snow brought Eberle here specifically to play with Tavares (just like Ladd!), his time is up. Plus a 25 goal scorer should net you two picks in the top 30 of a draft, which may be nice as the Islanders transition from the team of Tavares to the team of Barzal.

Con: He scores 25 goals and 58 points no matter who he plays with. If Barzal slots in at 1C and they give him Lee and Beauvilier or Bellows of Whalstrom or whomever at wing, Eberle will still score 25 goals and get 58 points on line two. This may help stave off the inevitable statistical decline of Josh Bailey just a little bit, which makes Bailey fans happy. Those fans are overlooking the Bailey production hypothesis that says when Bailey is productive the team isn’t winning. He also has clear chemistry with Barzal and Beauvilier, although that can change year to year as players evolve.

  • Ride out the season

Pro: You get to see what Lee and Eberle do with a real head coach, something neither of them have had in their career. Yes, it’s a defensive minded coach so their offensive stats will inevitably suffer, but they’ll still show a glimpse of what the Islanders will look like in the future if all of the prospects develop as they’re expected.

Con: The scariest of all scenarios. Lose the players for absolutely nothing. Not as impactful as the rejection by John Tavares, but maybe more impactful in the overall standings.

If these are the options, which choice would you make? I’ve already made mine.

I trade Anders Lee. Lee’s skillset will make him injury prone as a contract unwinds. Also, his lack of foot speed will become a greater detriment as time goes on.

What would I seek for Lee? A 1st round pick and a legitimate NHL defenseman- think 3rd or 4th defenseman. If you package Lee with one of our middling defensemen maybe that 40 goal veneer gets you a #2 defenseman. Maybe. But if Lee could get you Mattias Ekholm and a 1st from Nashville would you say no?  Not me. I may make that move for just Ekholm.

Why not trade Eberle? His raise won’t be as dramatic, so it will have less of an impact as the $8 million a 40 goal scorer would command. Eberle also seems better equipped to move from line to line and still play his game, whereas Lee sees lesser production with lesser centers. Also, if Barzal is going to be a first line center, we’re going to see if his two linemates can also step up against the best defenses in the NHL.

Now, there are factors that can change my mind. What if Lee is willing to sign a deal similar to Josh Baileys- 6 years at $5 million? Or even 5 years at $6 million? That would be something that would make things interesting. Or what if Eberle pulls a Boogie Cousins and takes a pay cut so he can pick his team?

Or what if Carolina offers the Islanders Sebastian Aho for Eberle? How can you pass up the Aho to Aho potential! Alas, Aho is much younger with similar offensive statistics and at a much smaller cap hit. And based on the research I’ve done, trades like that just don’t happen.   

So as we approach training camp, the countdown to two major decisions begins. As will the constant questions and distractions about negotiating a contract in season, about two sides in communication with each other, and about what to do at a trade deadline with a UFA. Just like last season, or as we often say around here, more of the same.

POSTSCRIPT:

So far, here’s some on the money predictions from last September:

  1. Lee cam nowhere near 40 goals without Johnny Snake,
  2. The Islanders took my advice and resigned Eberle. My mistake was that he took a DISCOUNT to stay.
  3. The field of players with Lee’s history are earning between $7 to $9 million per season. My prediction was that Lee would seek $8 million.
  4. I overestimated Eberle’s stats, mainly because Barry Trotz plays a more defensive minded system and Eberle actually adapted his game for it which I didn’t expect to happen. Eberle did find his offense against Pittsburgh in the playoffs and was lethal.
  5. I called Lee slow. Anyone watching the Islanders playoff run could not validly disagree. One empty net goal in eight playoff games? Yikes.

On the verge of NHL free agency, that’s all I have Islander-wise for now. Hope you all watch the NHL Entry Draft tonight and enjoy the speculation as to what the Islanders are going to do. Rumor has it that there’s a trade or two in the works…

Is April the Greatest Month for Sports?

Is April the Greatest Month for Sports?

By Chris Klimaszewski

            Here’s why April is the greatest month in sports. I know there is no NFL in the month of April, but look at all the other sports going on. First off, right from the start of April, it’s Opening Day for baseball. Second, the first Sunday in April, the Road to Wrestlemania has finally. Then the exact next day after Wresltemania, you have the March Madness finals. After that, the following weekend will be The Masters. Then, while all that’s going on, you’ll have the NBA and NHL going on throughout April. Finally, at the end of the month, you’ll have your taste of the NFL season with the NFL Draft. Plus, how could I forget, all the UFC fights that’ll happen.

            Think about it. This is a month we’ll see Mike Trout, Rory McIlroy, Seth Rollins, Zion Williamson, Sidney Crosbey, and Roger Goodell getting boo’d, in action all in this one month. You literally couldn’t ask for anything better. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for April.

JT- Bagged

JT- Bagged

Hands down, this was the best Islander game I’ve been to since the game 6 2002 playoff game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe even better.

Usually you don’t open with the closer, but in this case, it could be a description of the pre-game atmosphere. In case you were living under an internet free rock or were in a sports avoidance coma, on February 28, 2019 the Toronto Maple Leafs were supposed to roll into the Barclays Center to face the New York Islanders.

In a rare moment of customer service, the NHL decided to move the game to Long Island at the Nassau Coliseum. This guaranteed a sell out on a Thursday night, which is a rarity in Brooklyn. More importantly, it meant that John Tavares would have to face a crowd of people he promised that he would play his entire career for, include asking not to be traded, only to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs by lunchtime of the first day of free agency.

The details are clear. $77 million reasons to go back home to his Mommy. Tavares put up his picture of himself in Maple Leafs pajamas as a child to defend his decision.

Maple Leaf fans were so happy that they couldn’t understand how a fan base could feel betrayed by lies. But boy, did JT lie. As I likened it, JT had a public Twitter- the one where you can read what he says, but also a private Twitter- the one you use to be sneaky and dishonest and hook up on the sly.

Here’s some catch up reading for you, if you’re not too familiar with the situation:

https://www.sny.tv/islanders/news/john-tavares-wants-to-stay-with-islanders/264717570

https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/john-tavares-pending-free-agency-want-stay-long-island/

https://www.nhl.com/news/john-tavares-has-no-plans-to-leave-islanders/c-281240260

https://www.nhl.com/news/john-tavares-wants-to-stay-with-islanders-wont-rush-decision/c-297838844

I added those links for ignorant Toronto Maple Leaf fans who are like “you’re all just salty he went home to Mommy.” Hey guys, he already lied to you as well. He said you were going to compete for a Stanley Cup.

Not only did he lie, but on the way out he insulted future former teammate Mathew Barzal by not mentioning by name “the kid that won the Calder.” Think Tavares was a little envious that HE didn’t win a Calder? HE LOST TO TYLER MYERS. Tyler Myers SUCKSSSSSS.

Not only did he lie, but it’s widely speculated that he moved back to Toronto because his wife wanted to. She had even taken a job in early 2018 in Toronto. Umm, if my wife made $80K a year and I made $11m? We’d live where I want. And if she had an issue it’d have already been covered in the pre-nup.

The Islanders had previously played the Maple Leafs in Toronto on December 29, 2018 and handed them a complete ass whipping. Before the game Islanders coach Barry Trotz told his players (I’m paraphrasing here) “John Tavares looked around this locker room and decided that he didn’t want to be teammates with any of you.” Final score? 4-0 Islanders. And the kid that won the Calder dropped 3 goals on JT and his crew.

But this game was different. Debates raged on line as what would be an appropriate response. Sports writers and talking heads wondered how classless would Islander fans be, or what would be acceptable dissent. Islanders management made pleas to be respectful. But in the long run, none of that mattered.

What mattered was that John Tavares had made himself a heel. He was the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff from the 1980’s. He was the 2000’s New York Rangers. Shit, he was the 1994 Rangers.

The roughest, toughest…

There would be a pound of flesh. Or in the case of that robotic cuck, a pound of pride.

50 years from now, this accounting will be a primary source of Islander history for future fans sitting in traffic as they leave a run down Belmont Arena headed towards home while the MTA is on year 32 of the renovations at Belmont train station. It’s a modern Anne Franks diary, where Islander fans are Anne Frank and the last 30 years of ownership and management were the Germans.

Looks professional, right?

Upon arrival, fans were taking pictures of themselves tearing apart a Toronto John Tavares jersey at the area in front of the box office/main entrance. There was a different than usual air to the atmosphere. Normally people will have their beers in plastic cups to avoid justifiable police harassment. Nah. 12 packs sitting out in plain sight. People drinking from cans right in front of 4four police cars. Not one or two people. Hundreds. If cops started to ticket people, they would have gotten carpel tunnel syndrome. The attitude was clear.

It was safe to assume that there would be no fucks given tonight.

After some milling around, my crew headed in. And this is where the carnival kicked into full gear.

Understand that for the past 9 seasons, John Tavares was our bright spot. In some of those years he was our ONLY bright spot. You can only do so much with Matt Moulson and Mark Streit and Garth Snow. So there were fans buying Tavares jerseys for nine years. Kids. Youth. Teens. Young adults. Adults. Seniors. Tens of thousands of jerseys. And what did that create?

Tens of thousands of canvases.

Some of them looked like this:

Others looked like this:

Still more:

But that’s not all. Expression can be written a well.

And of course, expression can be verbal.

The booing started with the scoreboard doing something as audacious as merely listing the game roster submitted by Toronto. The booing continued when the Maple Leafs came out for a warm up skate. And so did the signs. As did the rubber snakes.

One of my favorite chants broke out before any anthem was even suggested. As the teams sat in their respective locker rooms, 13900 voices (give or take) warmed themselves up with a unified chant of “ASSHOLE! ASSHOLE!” Some people were chopping their arms karate style as they did such, to my wonderment. Why are we chopping assholes? Is there a firewood shortage?

Next on the agenda was the national anthem. The first on the table was “O Canada.” I enjoy that anthem. It’s patriotic, it’s easier to sing than the Star Spangled Banner, and it’s subtle. People were afraid that Islander fans would shit on “O Canada.” Instead? We sang along with it. Someone asked me if I was Canadian because I don’t even need to read the words, I’ve heard it so many times.

Next up was the more rambunctious “Star Spangled Banner.” First off, there are not many other national anthems- if any- that let you know that if you come and fuck with us, ROCKETS AND BOMBS WILL REIGN ON YOU. Also, it’s a hard song to sing well. And yet, 13,900 were all in.

Finally, gametime. The Islanders send out their 4th line against Toronto’s first line- a line without an $11 million player. The fans wait like the calm just before the storm. Finally, out steps 91. The booing begins.

This is a primary source, for you college kids.

I’ve never been booed by 14000 people. Yes, there were less than 14000 fans, but I’m sure the concession people were booing, ushers were booing, vendors were booing, and outside of the arena a police horse took a noisy shit that sounded like a boo.

More to the point, I wonder if after that shift Tavares returned to the Maple Leafs bench and thought “well, they got that out of their system. Now I can focus on playing some hockey.” IF that went through his mind, he learned nothing in his nine years here, part of the infamous “12 Years of Failure” of Garth Snow’s design.

It wasn’t just his first shift. It was every shift. Booing with the puck, “JT sucks” without it. After a long run came the first TV time out. Usually a red light goes on to let you know you have a moment to get up and take a leak or grab a snack. For this game they kept the camera rolling for the video tribute of John Tavares.

First hand account…superhistorian, yo!

Tavares was a good guy in his time on Long Island. He showed up to every promotional event they programmed him for. He went to hospitals to try to learn what humanity was like. He looked at little kids and wondered how they upgrade. The video tribute I’m sure had some kind of “thank you” song to along with it.

I have no idea because I couldn’t hear shit over all of the booing. EVERY SINGLE SECOND WAS BOOED. The booing was supported by chants of “JT Sucks” and “We don’t need you!” Tavares, as his programming dictates, can do no harm to humans, so he raised his stick to the crowd. Some players would be moved to tears to see their 18 year old self score a goal in his first NHL game, to break a 25 year playoff drought with a game winning goal, to…well, that’s about it for his highlights. But does A.I. cry?

Something else interesting happened at this point. As the video tribute ran, Islanders players tapped their sticks out of respect to Tavares. Except Mathew Barzal. He kept his in his hands. As did Ryan Pulock. I sense there was a caste system in the Doug Weight locker room, and JT was on top, like Skynet.

Toronto drew first blood in the game, as Zach Hyman scored for Toronto. I find it very ironic that just like in nature, Toronto placed a Hyman with a vagina. There was an uneasy silence from the crowd, considering that the last time the Isles played Toronto the Leafs failed to score at all. Maybe they caught some video? Maybe they’re better prepared?

Those doubts went away 3 minutes later as Anthony Beauvillier tied the game. Fans booed lustily for the rest of the period as the teams exited as they entered: tied.

During the first intermission, I felt emotionally exhausted. I hadn’t had a stake in an Islanders game this big in years. I was out of shape, fanwise. Fortunately my resolve was fortified by fans asking to take pictures of my customized Tavares jersey.

The second period came and delivered the first non-obvious chant. Anders Lee scored and the roof blew off of the building. First off, it was a lead. Secondly, who scored it? THE CAPTAIN. Well, there was now a need for a new chant! “That’s our captain!” Another dig at JT. Oh, so tasty.

That pesky Hyman scored again, but a review showed it was 2 or 3 strides offsides. I’m not sure why they don’t allow replays in arena of the play, but the arena waited in suspense for the results. Fortunately for us, the NHL sent superstar referee Wes McCauley to officiate, and he did not disappoint.

The arena blows up again!

The next goal decided the game long before the score was decided. Casey Cizikas singlehandedly forced his will upon a Toronto power play that was completely buzzing. Cizikas and Valtteri Flippula pinned the Leafs into their own zone. Seriously, Toronto looked defenseless against their will. The crowd was already cheering the effort when Cizikas took a Cal Clutterbuck pass and came in to score a shorthanded goal, something the Islanders rarely do.

Oh, the “We don’t need you” chants reigned down. What made it worse if you’re a Toronto fan is that Filppula scored soon after on a strong pay by of all people Andrew Ladd, who looked energized, and there was joy in Mudville. There was booing. There was JT sucks. There was “We don’t need you.” There was “Barzy’s better.” But the best was yet to come.

After the second period, I had a headache. My voice was on life support. My crew was well lubricated, but I wanted to experience this moment and truly savor it without any filters. No, this was beer free hockey for the first time since our star player was Mariuz Czerkawski and going to Islander games forced you to drink.

I stood at the stairwell for the start of the beginning of period 3, because I have hockey manners, when I watched the Islanders scored another one. 5-1. I think there’s a stat that says if the Barry Trotz Islanders score 3 goals in a game then they can’t be beat. They were most certainly not getting beat.

As I returned to my seat, an older gentleman behind us started chanting “We want chili.” For those too young to know what that means, the dynasty Islanders had a promotion tied in with the local Wendy’s establishments in which if the Islanders scored 6 goals in a game and your brought your ticket stub to Wendy’s, you got a free bowl of chili. As an aside, one night in 1979 against the Rangers, your ticket stub got you double chili. Try to figure out the score there. Hint- it was more than nine.

At this point, the chanting lasted for the entire rest of the game. I kept a list. “Who’s your Daddy?” was lustily chanted. “You can’t beat us!” “Our team’s better!” “First Place!” “Barry!” When Ryan Pulock manhandled JT in the offensive zone, the place went nuts. When Mathew Barzal drove JT in to the boards as best as he could, the place went nuts. Even fan favorites like the chicken dance went rogue.

Halfway through the third period, the “Nah Nah Nah Nah, Hey Hey Goodbye” chant started. With ten minutes to go, that’s normally tempting fate. Just not on that night.

The fans then started to get personal. More personal than asshole? Yup. “You’re a liar!” and “Please don’t trade me!” were in reference to Tavares asking not to be traded at the deadline last year, and his constant assurances that he was an Islander for life.

“Past your bedtime” and “Where’s your jammies” were just fantastic references to his lame attempts at justifying his turning his back on a fanbase that did nothing but accept him, circuits and all.

There was a moment where Johnny Boychuk took a skate to the face and had to leave the game, but he returned for the third period because he’s a tough S.O.B. If he played for Toronto? They may have had a national day of mourning, but more on that later.

“Thanks for leaving” and “It’s your mistake” are references to the Islanders being in first place and having more points now without Tavares than they had in all of last season. To be honest, I predicted 82 points in the preseason with this roster, so this game was my reminder to serve me up some crow as well.

Brock Nelson closed the scoring with his 20th of the season, and gave a nifty little hand spin to celebrate what would have been chili, much to the dismay of Mr. Taggart. At that point it was a party. The booing was countered by standing ovations for every Islander shift change. It was an atmosphere that quite frankly you’re not going to find in most modern giant NHL arenas, and probably with fanbases nowhere near as rabid and betrayed.

Even the post game was awesome. The players gave a shortened “Yes” chant to the fans, probably figuring that we were exhausted. Fans weren’t exactly filing out, however. We needed to praise our heroes. The 3rd star of the game, goalie Robert Lehner came out pumping up the crowd by raising the roof, then threw a puck and his stick to the crowd. If anyone thinks Lehner doesn’t want to return here next season, they’re crazy. If he doesn’t its all on his agent, rest assured. Fans love him, and he loves them back.

The first star of the game was Casey Cizikas. He came out and was interviewed but I have no idea what he said, because the crowd was overpowering the PA system. This happens often at the Coliseum with a packed house.

On the way out I ran into a few more deliriously happy fans dressed appropriately.

As we sat in 25 or so minutes of Coliseum exiting traffic, we fans got to engage in a Long Island tradition that we are deprived of in Brooklyn- HONK HONK HONKHONKHONK.

Tavares was not his usual soulless self in his post game presser. He voice synth sounded agitated. He was defensive. He let down the guard for a second and said the equivalent of what an out of control teen says on the Maury Povich Show: “You can’t judge me! You don’t know me!”

Um, I don’t know you but I do know this: You’re going to make $100 million and more in your life playing a kids game. Grow a pair, Nancy.

Granted, for me the night wasn’t perfect. I tried and failed repeatedly to get a chant of “Snake! Snake!” going, but alas.

But the best was yet to come.

The Mayor of Toronto was so concerned for the Hectoring of Tavares by his former fans that he wanted to declare a John Tavares Day in Toronto. The next home game ScotiaBank Arena set aside a “John Tavares Appreciation” Moment.

Can you believe that shit?

I’m not a hockey expert by any means, but I do know this: if your psyche is so frail that you cave in and need social and emotional support from an entire city just to bounce back and beat on a bottom half NHL team? I don’t foresee you doing all that well in the playoffs. And for Toronto, your window is NOW. You think Tavares will be faster in 3 years? That Mitch Marner isn’t going to want his $10 million RFA payday, too? That a rebuilding team with cap space like the New York Rangers wouldn’t mind giving up a few late first round picks to shore up 7 years of Marner? That if the Leafs lose repeatedly in the first round for the next few seasons that Austin Matthews isn’t leaving after his shorter than need be taken deal is up? That you won’t be “salty” if Matthews leaves in the exact same way? That the salary cap is going to double?

No, Toronto, your window is now. As is Tampa Bays. Never mind those guys, because you can’t get through the Boston Bruins. And do you want to know why? Because your prize possession can’t take being booed. Imagine what every arena will sound like for the postseason? And the worst case scenario? You get the Islanders in the playoffs. In that case, my prediction- another early offseason.

Hands down, this was the best Islander game I’ve been to since the game 6 2002 playoff game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe even better.

Epilogue:

On Friday, March 1 2019 I was wearing my Islanders swag around town like a proud peacock, complete with my awful scratchy voice still not close to recovered from the lusty boos and the joyous chanting. I completely random person stops me and says “Hey Islander fan, did you see that game last night?”

See? I was there!

She goes on “I’m a Rangers fan, but I enjoyed the shit out of that game. You gave him what he deserves for what he did. I’m glad you kicked his ass and rubbed it in. Our season is over, but I hope you guys go a long way.”

Normally I’d say Ranger fans are classless douchebags. But that lady in the supermarket had more class in her pinky than John Tavares had in his whole chassis.

One of the best games I ever attended, hands down.
Everything Old is New Again

Everything Old is New Again

I’ve been going to Islander games live an in person for 3 decades. Before that I was relegated to watching them on my TV at home, on SportsChannel or on channel 9. Yeah, the Islanders used to play on the same station that ran Benny Hill, Bowling for Dollars, and Morton Downey Jr. I remember watching hockey with my Grandmother one day when a fight broke out on the ice. “Beat the shit out of him!” she cheered. I’m not sure exactly which guy she was rooting for as her comment isn’t exactly specific, but it dawned onto me at that young age that hockey is exciting to kids in single digits and seniors equally. Yes, everything that was old was new again.

That young boy got to watch one of the most dominant teams in hockey history. Witnessing 19 consecutive playoff series to younger fans is like Grandpa talking about the moon landing. Yeah, you read about it in books so you know it happened. But the folks that saw it? They EXPERIENCED it. I’m sure young people would tell me how awesome a Kanye West show is, and I’d smile and nod as to not diminish their enthusiasm, but in all honesty, no it wasn’t.

But back to 19 consecutive playoff series wins. I want to talk about #IslesKoolAid. For the large part, Islander fans under 30 have playoff memories consisting of a Shawn Bates penalty shot, and two players carrying the Islanders to a first round victory over the Florida Panthers. They may recall 1993, but they were 5, so I’m sure it’s not as sharp a memory as a good episode of Blue’s Clues.

But #IslesKoolAid loves to dismiss the glory days. Can you imagine a fan base so embarrassed about who it roots for that they discard their past? Could you imagine the ever arrogant Yankee fans saying “Well, you know, if you consider the dissolution of the Negro Leagues and the westward expansion and the absorption of the Continental League, then the Yankees only have 7 World Series in 45 years.” Oh, only 14% of all of the World Series won between 30 teams? Sorry Boston. You’ve got a ways to go.

My point- can you imagine a Yankee fan ever shitting on Babe Ruth? Yet here are Islander fans shitting on Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier and Clark Gilles and Billy Smith and Denis Potvin and Pat LaFontaine? Because clearly John Tavares is a better player. And who else could they root for since 1994? Bryan Berard? Claude LaPointe?

Here’s a true story. The year was 1990. I was an 18 year old asshole working at the newly opened K Mart in West Babylon, NY.  For the opening of the first K Mart on Long Island (which is now out of business over no fault whatsoever of mine) the company went all out, bringing in K Mart celebrity endorsees such as the beautiful even at her age Kate Smith of Charlie’s Angels and the race car driver Mario Andretti (I think. I give a shit about a sport I can do as well as professionals. I once did 130 mph on the Robert Moses. In daytime traffic. Top that, circle driving jerkoffs!)

I liked it better when it was TSS

Anyway, my job that day was to be security to the line that was there to see Pat LaFontaine. Pat was about 25 years old at the time, and would soon screw the Islanders over by demanding a trade based on a broken promise made by then owner John Pickett. The promise was about money, which Islander owners never like spending. I can’t blame them. Neither do the fans.

As I’m standing on line as “security,” I’m noticing that the crowd was mostly female, and mostly between the ages of 15-25. Let me say this- women have an instinct to throw their vagina at anything that can afford them the opportunity to not have to perform a moment of labor north of being in labor, but often south of such. I didn’t feel so useful warding off girls from a professional athlete, so I just took in my environment. And that’s when I noticed something. At 18 years old, I was 100% sure that I could kick Pat LaFontaines ass.

Don’t get me wrong. LaFontaine has taken tons of hits from pro skaters. He’s also taken tons of concussions. But as I stood there in a pair of Bugle Boy slacks and a tie borrowed from my Dad, I kept glancing back at Mr. LaFontaine. And I kept thinking “I could punch the shit out of that guy.” And at some point he must have noticed my frequent glancing, looking away, and thinking about beating his ass.

Understand at 18 I checked in at an unimposing 5’ 10” and 155 pounds. With a horrible moustache. Sure there were things that looked like abs and biceps, but at best there was a wiry yet angry quality that made the fight in the dog bigger than the dog itself. And I was absolutely certain that I could punch the shit out of this professional athlete.

You can see why I thought like I did…

As an aside, that same year I happened into meeting the Iron Sheik of pro wrestling fame. He was “old” and wrestling at a local high school (Copiague represent!) because he was suspended from the then WWF for a drug arrest. As I saw the Sheik in person I never once thought “I’d wreck that guy.” Probably because his lats were 60 feet wide.

The roughest, toughest…

As LaFontaine kept making eye contact with his goofy security guard, he looked increasingly uneasy and maybe even concerned. I remember the look on LaFontaine’s face like it happened at lunch today. He looked uncomfortable and awkward. It’s probably because he was thinking a lot about leaving Long Island. Just like when that 7 year old kid asked John Tavares about if he was leaving Long Island. 

Maybe he thought I was a Rangers fan. Maybe he thought he could skate without falling down. Whatever he thought, as his time for being paid to be around his fans expired, he never once offered the staff a private moment for autographs. I must have scared him off. Or he was an asshole.

Imagine a die hard Islander fan so disappointed by a player that he didn’t even want to ask said player for an autograph? Also, its not like LaFontaine is an inferior player. Sure, he couldn’t carry the jocks of the top 6 that came before him. And even though inferior to the Trio Grande, he’s still a Hall of Famer. Josh Bailey projects just about the same, because he’s elite. At inseminating.

Now that Kate Smith? Beautiful and charming. She took photos with the staff. And when I say photos, I mean cameras with actual film that need an effort to use. Not a cell phone camera…because no one invented them yet. Not even Joey Motorola.

At this point it’s fair if you ask what the fuck I’m talking about. And there’s a few themes here. Name the top 3 offensively gifted players drafted by the New York Islanders that never won a cup with the franchise. I don’t give a fuck who you thought of. Here’s my list.

  1. Pat LaFontaine
  2. Zigmund Palffy
  3. John Tavares

I put them in order of talent, in my opinion. Also, I feel that Pierre Turgeon- the guy Lafontaine was traded for- is better than all three. But we didn’t draft him, and we traded him for shit, so go live life, Pete.

Now, what do all three of those guys have in common? After leaving, none of them returned as players to the New York Islanders. Dudes drafted in the 1980’s, 1990’s and the 2000’s. Everything old is new again. And here’s the next thing- that’s not the only thing these guys have in common.

These guys were all at their time representatives of promise. Promise that they never delivered on. LaFontaine was the wheelman for the drive for five. Palffy was to usher in the Fisherman jersey era. Tavares was meant to revive the franchise, but just ended up slithering along the lawns of Long Island. They never made an impact. Old, new.

And they all share something else that Islander fans have all experiences at what I feel is an unusual rate. Two things, in fact. Feel free to disagree in the comment section. Here’s the list:

  1. If you have never scored an NHL goal ever, we got you.
  2. If we have a one goal lead and there’s 2 minutes on the clock, we’re going to ruin us.

The first one is an anomaly. I’ve never researched it, but I go to a lot of games, watch a lot of games, and had season tickets for years. Islander fans, how many times have you heard “(Opposing team) goal, his first of the season/career/posthumous scored by number…” It’s fucking stunning how often it happens. Every year. I can’t remember a year without multiple someones popping a cherry with us. Awful.

But the other one is more stunning. As previously mentioned, I watch a lot of Islanders hockey. I remember the days that whenever the opponent pulled his goalie, we just tacked another goal on. I was raised to believe that’s how it went.

Then it changed. I’ll say 1995 was a drop dead line. Suddenly, when the opposing team pulled a goalie, not only did we not grab an empty netter, but the other team scored. Especially if it was in the last minute. To be fair, that also happened a lot in tie games 5 on 5, so there’s assuredly a cultural issue.

TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 10: Brett Lindros #75 of the New York Islanders skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during NHL game action in which he was completely fucking useless again on October 10, 1995 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

But the stunning thing is this- the coach doesn’t matter. Good ones like Peter Laviolette, Ted Nolan, Barry Trotz. Bad ones like Steve Stirling, Butch Goring, Mke Milbury. Absolutely horrible ones, like everyone Garth Snow hired because he’s an insecure piece of shit. No matter the coach, we either fail to extend a lead or squander one once the extra attacker rolls onto the ice.

Now, for this season I expected Barry Trotz to fix this. Yes, he inherited just about the same defense that was both worst in the NHL last year as well as having the honor to be among the worst defenses ever assembled. But he has a system. He has goaltender coaches. He’s won a Stanley Cup, making him only the second ever active Islanders coach with a Stanley Cup, and as far as I can tell only the third ever guy to coach the Islanders that won a Stanley Cup in a head coaching capacity. Which sucks considering that they’re 46 years in the making.

As a fan, I am excited at the steps that Trotz has made in fixing this squad, but he hasn’t entirely fixed this issue. As an #IslesRealist, I think Trotz is doing a fine job in fighting a decades long uphill battle. Culturally, the Islanders were used to losing and needed a complete culture change. Actually, that’s an overused phrase. They needed a cultural overhaul just to do things like hit an empty net goal.

I mean, look at all of the losing the team has done in the last decade. They lost a voter referendum for a new arena. They lost their present home arena. They lost a draft pick to a mountainside. They lote Turgeon to a dirty hit and a bad GM. They lost a Hall of Fame goalie to a bad GM. They lost an all time wing to a budget. They lost adorable ice girls for a chunky analyst. They lost a GM to a backup goalie. They lost an all star to pajamas. And worst of all, they recently gifted us with a rolling 12 years to failure.

Despite their present success, this year is about growing pains. The Islanders are above NHL 500. But at the same time they’re evaluating a roster to see what stays and what goes going forward, although what stays is a remnant of the aforementioned 12 years of failure based on bad contracts. But that said, even with a new coach, a new GM, new player signings, this team hasn’t consistently been able to lock down a formidable opponent since before Bill Clinton was president. That’s something that good teams do. We haven’t been a good team since we were coached by Al Arbour, who is not only retired but also is permanently deceased.

Sure, you may be saying “But they’re in first in the Metro!” With 30 games to go. And they were first in 2015 with 13 games to go, yet somehow lost home ice and had a 3 more games longer than the shortest playoffs that you can have. And has this team has grown by leaps and bounds?

This team saw an opponent pull a goalie with 10 minutes to go, and managed an empty net goal in the last seconds of the game. Nine minutes. No goalie. No goals. I watched them do nothing against Minnesota when the Wild left a yawning net to dump into.

So how does this team of coach and GM fix that loser mentality? I have no answers here. I’m already hearing that the few of the games at the smaller and remodeled Nassau Coliseum for the 2018-19 season aren’t sold out. That fans are complaining about ticket prices. And I feel that there’s a correlation.

Let’s go back to 1995. The Islanders owner want to unload the team. Anyone interested in the team wants it solely for the land. Pigs at the trough. Spano. Wang. Maldecky. Most of those owners weren’t filthy rich. One of those owners was so non- filthy that White Castle felt like Peter Luger. So what did these skinflints do? Not spend on the team.

In fact, the preceding era into the early Wang ownership spent so little on the team that the NHL instituted a cap minimum. And Charles Wang’s genius was to find ways around spending for a product.

But every Isles owner- Wang included- expected fans to do what they would not. Spend money on the team. And when I say the team, I mean any roster out there. An owner makes $37 million from TV deals, $5 million from league revenue sharing, $3 million in advertising, and has a ticket gate of $30 million with a payroll of $40 million- below the cap floor but using roster bonuses to circumvent the cap- but when fans don’t spend, THEY’RE the bad guys?

So the origins of blowing late game leads comes from owners not investing in players as they implore the fans to invest in the team. This is a nice way of saying “we’re pocketing your cash and giving you a shit roster. Drink up!” And what came from that Immaculate Ingestion? #IslesKoolAid.

People, this is Trotz’s time. He needs a year- maybe two- to repair over a decade of stepping in elephant shit, which is what happens when Garth misses the bowl. Yes he inherited a team that sees 3 goals are a luxury. But they also have expiring deals coming up, some cap space and can really reshape this team at G, D and F.

#Loupon

And this is Lou Lamoriello’s time. Lou has decisions that are more pressing- the trade deadline- and less pressing- the offseason. He has a lot of current key players walking into unrestricted free agency. He clearly needs more offense, but his offensive prospects aren’t setting the world on fire. And he’s also facing losing 3 of his top 6 forwards, and has one restricted forward on the verge of a big payday, if NHL trends continue. He also has to think about this season being one to reset this team, or to make a splash at the trade deadline. So he has a ton of work on his table.

But Jesus Christ, look what it’s taking to shake off the loser mentality from this organization. Two hall of famers at their respective jobs, a billion dollar arena motivating owners, intervention from the Governor of New York, and 9 minute power plays.

I love the surprise that the Islanders have been this season. I’m not sure where this ends now. But they have to do more. This is good, but it’s not good enough. Because theres a remnant from the loser Islanders era- we’ve seen a glimpse of promise here and there, only to watch it go nowhere. So here’s hoping that unlike all of the other times, everything new isn’t old again.

Let’s hope these days are done
Josh Bailey will be Mr. Islander. That’s bad.

Josh Bailey will be Mr. Islander. That’s bad.

Currently the organization’s greatest players hold all of the significant awards. Some of those awards are totally made up. For example, Bobby Nystrom was known as Mr. Islander. Nystrom never really gabbed individual awards, but his tenacity made him the embodiment of what it means to be an Islander. The team still names an annual Mr. Islander as a legacy.

There is one player that should never be Mr. Islander, because it would mean that Mr. Islander is a cuckold. That player is Josh Bailey.

This brief piece will point out two things: one, Josh Bailey has never been and will never be among this organizations significant impact making players. And two, Bailey has a very strong chance of ending his Islander career with the most games played ever by an Islander, which is an insult to players who actually accomplished things.

First off, let me quote liberally from a piece I wrote entitled “Attendance Award.” Since I wrote it, I can steal the fuck out of it.

“I would argue that the most offensive stats Bailey has put up are “games played” and “points per game without playing next to John Tavares” because those stats are truly offensive.

We also have to address the elephant in the room. Hi Garth! And thanks to Garth, there’s this simple fact: if Josh Bailey plays out his present six year deal with the Islanders, he will have spent 16 years doing nothing with the same franchise. Why is that a big deal?

Understand that 6 years of a healthy Josh Bailey- healthy meaning 75 games a year- would place Bailey’s career total of games played at 1165. This number of games played would make Josh Bailey the all time leader in games played for the New York Islanders, surpassing all of the Islander Hall of Famers and legends.

You know, maybe with 1165 games, Bailey will close in on the top 12 in points.

Coattails

Can you imagine a player with as many games played with so few accomplishments? And I’m sure that #IslesRealists all recognize that the Bailey extension was the ultimate “Fuck you” to the franchise by Garth Snow, who is looking to get his fat ass attached to something in the records book somehow without doing much, as per usual.

But the point of this is not meant to bash Josh Bailey. Well, actually, it is, but even I have to pay respects to the next potential Mr. Islander. But how?

Bailey is accomplished neither offensively or defensively. He has a highlight reel that can play on Snapchat. In looking at some way to honor Bailey for a career full of nothing special, we have to dig deep into the well of meaningless awards. And what award is the most meaningless? A service award.

“5 Years on the Job!” What a shitty award. That’s no accomplishment. It means you knew enough to show up to work to grab 130 paychecks. “Perfect Attendance.” Great! You did the most basic element of what you were supposed to do, and perfectly! Sadly this is all Bailey has given us to work with. So we’re going to do that.

Introducing the first ever New York Islanders Attendance Award. And the initial recipient? Josh Bailey. In over 700 games, Bailey has failed to accomplish anything tangible in the form of successful, team lifting, awe inspiring results. Or even just scoring 20 goals in a season.

What he has done, however, is show up to work. So much so that he’s among the pantheon of Islander greats. For just showing up.

Sure, he hasn’t grabbed assists like the top 10 draft pick playmaker that he was promised to be. And no, he hasn’t scored goals on a clip equal to legendary 200 goal scorer Bob Bourne. His total points are also nothing to marvel over despite being in the league for a decade. And I can assure you he’s not leading the franchise in hat tricks. It took him a decade just to break into that club, the fucking zilch.

No, today we honor Josh with the only thing no one can take away from him: he knows where the arena is.

So kudos to Josh Bailey for finally being recognized both for his lack of greatness, but also his contractual perseverance to be listed sans accomplishments among the greats. Take a victory lap Josh. You’ve earned it. And see you at the rink for the next game…continuing your lifelong quest at being statistically insignificant.”

So there’s the first part of my thesis. Bailey is not an impact Islander. Part of that isn’t his fault. He was a first pick brought into a rebuild. And part of his lack of impact is his fault. As a rebuilding piece, there was probably better available.

Understand that Bailey will be in the top ten all time in Islander scoring if he lives out this contract. He’s about 100 points off from 10th place, and he has five plus years to do it. Even at non-coat tail riding pace, Bailey was good for 160 points in 5 years. Now that he’s got scorers who do the work for him, Bailey will probably end up passing Snake Tavares as a – GAG – top 5 scoring Islander of all time. He’s 202 points away from that, so if he finishes this deal the New York Islanders can proudly point to him and say “This is the next face we’d put on our Mount Rushmore, after Bossy, Trottier, Potvin, and Gillies. And a year or so like last year? He’d pass Gillies, too.

Now, the second part of my premise- why is this bad? Because what organization would want a player so unaccomplished to go down as anything other than what he is? A defensive liability. A coat tail rider. A guy that never achieved 20 goals. A guy with one playoff series win- of which he hardly contributed- in 11 seasons. This frankly is not what you want as the upper echelon of franchise history. This is the type of winning production that causes teams to relocate. Which has already happened in Bailey’s tenure. And may do so a second time.

This is bad because this is a team that had a drafted core that won a series of Stanley Cups. When Garth Snow had the same opportunity with 5 top 5 picks – including a 1st overall- who was the first building block? Bailey. And all we have to show for that Snow rebuild? Bailey.

Look at a team like St. Louis. The Blues have never won the Stanley Cup. That’s a franchise where Bailey belongs. Look at a team like Arizona. The Coyotes have never won a cup. There’s where a player like Bailey belongs. The Florida Panthers come to mind as a good Bailey spot. Instead we are saddled with a nobody that’s won nothing until his contract runs out because no one is trading for his scary talent. All we have to do is sit back and watch his assault on the Islanders record books slowly unfold. An assault as enjoyable like sexual assault.

As we wrap up, I want to leave you with this final thought. If you had to pick any 70 players in the NHL to form a travel team to bring hockey to other parts of the world and show them the best players in the game, does Bailey make that list? No, no he doesn’t. Does Bailey make a list of personal award winners? Not today. Championships? No. So understand that this inconsequential nobody is at some point going to be enshrined in team history as the one player that represented us the most. Not the best, just the most. He showed up.

Is that all we want from our team? For ourselves? Is that in any way satisfying?

Failing Owners Should Be Made to Sell their Shitty Team

Failing Owners Should Be Made to Sell their Shitty Team

By Dan Radzicki

People have dreams. For a LOT of people, the dream they have is to be a major league athlete. Maybe the Quarterback that leads his team to a win in the Big Game. Maybe it’s having the ball in the 9th inning to win the game. Or maybe you want to be the player that is first to hoist Lord Stanley’s trophy. Or hold that big metal basketball against your head because you were the next Jordan?

Not me. Nah.

Sure, when I was 13 I wanted to be the starting centerfielder for the New York Mets. But then I faced major league pitching at one point and realized it was time for plan B. I thought “maybe a coach?” So I tried that, and it was fun, but it came with limits. Coaches have short careers, and can’t manage a roster, so coaching was a fleeting thought.

The next want was General Manager. Anyone who has read the last near decade of these blogs on various platforms knows that I was 100% confident that I could do a better job with running the Islanders than Garth Snow. But who couldn’t?

However, walking from a different career into a GM spot is something that no team would do. After all, who would hire a guy with no experience to run an entire organization? They’d be a world class moron for such. #Wilpons #Wang Another dream deferred.

Thank god he’s gone.

What about ownership? Now, that’d be something awesome. But how to finance a sports team? Can you or I buy a sports team? Can we mortgage a house to buy a team? Can we get a few buddies to join in to cover the difference?

I was quoted in Newsday a few years back (https://www.newsday.com/long-island/liers-scoop-up-tickets-for-325m-powerball-jackpot-1.4257051) saying that if I hit a big Powerball jackpot that I would absolutely buy the Islanders and keep them playing in the Nassau Coliseum. That wasn’t a lie. Say I won and cleared $500 million and used all of the money to purchase the team. Financial advisors would say I’m stupid. It’s always a bad idea to put your eggs in one basket. Why would I do such a thing? As a Series 7 license holder, wouldn’t I want to keep a few bucks for myself instead of put my eggs in one basket? Wouldn’t I want to diversify? Save for a rainy day? Earn some profits from the investment?

If I bought a pro sports team, I just did.

Owning a major league sports team is akin to having a bank account with a crazy interest rate. Say I did spend the entire lottery winnings on a sports team. Would I be afraid of a downturn in value? Would I be afraid of my $500 million becoming $400 million a year or two later?

Not a fucking chance.

Look at that pig Donald Sterling that owned the LA Clippers. He bought that team for $12 million in 1981. He sold the team for 2 billion dollars. I’m not sure about how many investments earn 1400% in 30 years. Even if interest rates were 10% a year, it would take 140 years to see the same return. Of course you can add the value of the tax breaks, business write offs, annual profits, and you’re looking at the Clippers guy that hangs with gold digging skanks making money all the way during his ownership on top of his $1.988 billion profit. Well beyond $2 billion. So he earned 1800%? And won what exactly?

What about…well, just name the owner that lost money. These other rich shitbags that buy franchises, make some changes, usually fail, then sell to make a fantastic profit while simultaneously holding a city hostage for the new owner to come in and get a sweetheart deal. Oh, does that sound crazy?

Look at the deal New York State gave to the New York Islanders. There are lots of arenas within 20 miles in state of each other. There’s an arena in Queens. There’s an arena at Jones Beach. There’s a remodeled Nassau Coliseum. There’s a Barclays. MSG. So why was New York in such a need to build a Belmont, where the owners will PAY NO TAXES. NOT A DIME.

Do Long Island homeowners pay taxes? The highest in the country. Now you know why. We pay for rich assholes.

Do you think that two guys who agreed to a sale price with Charles Wang- another guy that vastly profited from owning a sports team- suddenly had to add a third owner because they didn’t have a bigger picture? They kept money in hand so that they could make a billion dollar investment for a new arena complex. And to stop paying taxes. And to increase the resale value of the team. After all, what’s the resale on a team with a Stanley Cup winning coach in a brand new 19500 seat arena with a hotel and shopping complex next to a major horse racing site that pays no taxes to anyone? With a Hall of Fame general manager? You think when Ledecky and Malkin sell the team- and they will- they’re not seeing a $2 billion return? You don’t think they’ll double their money? After Wang nearly tripled his? Pfft.

The astronomical returns these owners make are unmatched by hedge funds, companies that play with options, and other investments. Why? Because nothing appreciates without such unique circumstances. Cities want a team. That demand inflates a value from the get go. Cities with no teams will make plays to take your cities investment. Ask the salty fans in San Diego about football or heartbroken Hartford fans about how your team can be poached. Look out Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes! Why? Because another city will overpay to steal your brand and organization and history.

Just look at the expansion fee paid by the new Seattle NHL team, or the last fee paid by Las Vegas. Vegas dropped $500 million just to exist. That means that every other team in the NHL is worth more than $500 million. Seattle is paying even more. The baseline for owning an NHL organization is just about $700 million. Has any owner paid as much as $700 million dollars to field a team?

Check out the NFL Raiders moving to Las Vegas. Or the Chargers returning to Los Angeles. Or the Vancouver Grizzlies moving to Tennessee. Every time these team moves they became more valuable. BAD TEAMS SOMEHOW BECOME VALUABLE. Does your beat up jalopy gain value after 10 years of depreciation? No, no it doesn’t.

I begrudge none of this profiteering on the surface. It’s American to steal as much of someone else’s money as you can. However, I do have issue with the representation of a very basic concept of capitalism. That idea? You get what you pay for.

Sports teams owners buy and sell teams at amazing profits with assured regularity. But who really owns a team? What is a balance of power? What if fans never showed up for a game?

Look at the New York Mets. The Mets are one of the worst run organizations in all of sports. They play in maybe the biggest market in the league, own their stadium, have their own basic cable channel, insure large player contracts to get a financial return on injuries, actually profited (allegedly) from the Bernie Madoff scandal, and yet spend money organizationally like it’s the Deer Park Little League.  

If I were the Mets GM (see prior dream jobs) my payroll would be 1 cent less than the amount that triggers the luxury tax. My scouting staff would number in the hundreds, maybe the thousands. I would poach scouts, coaches, executives and management from other organizations as a practice, not a rarity. I would have one rule- everyone I hire has to be smarter than me, because those guys will make me look good. Garth Snow never got that. Nor do the Wilpons, who hired an agent to run an organization. An agent that negotiated half a dozen Mets players contracts. That’s like making the guy that does your dry cleaning the buyer for Macys.

Back to the Mets. In the past decade they had two playoff appearances. 20% of the decade was playoff bound. Sounds acceptable? Well, what about the other 8 years?

Sub 500 winning percentage. 8 losing years. Does a World Series loss and a playoff loss balance out 8 years of being shit? No. It’s just a new place to lose. Losers.

Does Charles Wang’s 12 years of ownership with 3 playoff appearances and one series win deserve New York state taxpayers to be on the hook for all of the taxes their new arena will generate for 40 years? Hell no.

And do teams need to be so cost prohibitive that some owners have teams in multiple sports because regular multimillionaires are priced out of ownership? The LA Rams are owned by the same guy that owns the Colorado Avalanche. It shouldn’t.

But how do we fix such a system where demand is inflated and supply is limited? The same way your company looks at your job. Yay capitalism.

It’s time to fire the dead weight. It’s time to increase the supply of owners.

Here’s the starting premise. If your team in any major sport misses the playoffs for 5 consecutive years, you have to sell your team. Why’s that?

Most sports leagues have greatly expanded the money making playoffs format, and in doing so have created extra regular season buzz as your favorite team moves towards making a postseason. That’s all good for a fan experience. But what about the fan experience for a team that loses a lot? What’s the consequence for a team that disappoints fans on an annual basis? Sell.

What would selling more teams cause? Think about what would happen if 5 of your neighbors all put their houses up for sale at the same time. What would happen to the asking prices of their home? What would happen to the value of your home? Everyone plummets. In some neighborhoods it allows for social mobility to happen. American dreams, yo.

Now apply this to the sporting world. How many people would be able to buy the New York Knicks? A $4 billion franchise? But say the Knicks HAD to be sold. Suddenly the price drops significantly. Maybe a consortium is able to pull together funds to own a team. A consortium that wants to win, instead of an owner who wants to badly jam on guitar with celebrities as his team again misses the playoffs as the owner refuses to hire a coach with a championship pedigree.

Capitalism promotes this idea. Winners win, losers go bankrupt. Anyone flying on TWA lately? Driving a De Soto? Eating at Wetsons?  So why are sports owners exempt from this risk? If your product fails, fuck you. NEXT!

So here’s the premise. It’s January 1 2019. An investor named Mike Oxhurts buys an NBA team. Mike has until the 2024-2025 season to just make the playoffs. First question- is this a heavy burden?

No. In the NBA half of the league makes the playoffs. Well, ok, what if his team sucks?

If they suck? They get to draft elite players. They have ability to add established superstars. If they suck it’s simply the choice of ownership to do so. To steal from their fans. To lie to the community. There is no reason for a team taking one of the top 10 best college players two or three years in a row on a 7 man team with the option to acquire an established player to not at least appear in the playoffs. Forced sale.

And not on the owners terms. Say a team is worth a billion dollars. But they missed the playoffs for 5 years in a row, so clearly they’re overvalued. Your billion dollar company is now a $750,000,000 company. BOO HOO. That’s how Wall Street works.

In hockey more than half of the league makes the playoffs. If you can’t make the playoffs in a 5 year span, BOO HOO. Sell. NEXT!

Baseball has a somewhat more selective deal, but with wildcards 10 teams are playoff bound. Opportunity!

Football’s playoffs format needs a degree in chemistry to understand, but 12 out of 32 teams show up. In major sports the playoff participation rate varies between 30-55%. That’s a 42% average. To make it easy we’ll say half.

The agony of perpetual defeat.

Half. Here’s an experiment. Flip a coin. Try to get the results wrong 5 times in a row. It’s impossible. But to demand winning from a team? That should be the goal. Why is that goal impossible? Why would owners want to lose?

That’s an easy punchlist. First off, it’s a long term investment guaranteed to gain value disproportionally to other investments. Next is that the chance to cook books to offset gains in other businesses that these guys own to fatten up their tax returns. After that, you have the guaranteed bank account of not losing on the investment unlike living with market volatility. The ability to relocate creates a new financial incentive. Then there’s what I call the Kool Aid factor.

What’s the Kool Aid factor? It’s something I’ve had to live with since I was 13. By the age of 13 the local teams I rooted for had won 7 championships and lost 2 more. 13 years, 9 title appearances, 7 wins. Add to it the local teams I didn’t root for who provided 4 more title appearances and 3 wins. 13 years, 13 title appearances, 9 wins. Fast forward 8 more years, and local teams added 5 more titles appearances and another championship. So what is the kool aid factor?

Because of this success, fans got “full” from winning, like the team was a buffet and the fans ate enough. They never asked- why did a franchise that was championship caliber stop seeking and/or providing such? But the fans were somehow satisfied with a “good run” of titles, which in all fairness is hard to sustain, and hard to jump back into after you lose. Or maybe it’s not. We’ll discuss that later.

Instead the conversation became “We can return to glory if we just believe!” The Philadelphia 76er’s even made this their mantra- trust the process. The process got assraped in the playoffs last year…BUT THEY MADE THE PLAYOFFS! That’s an improvement. And the best part- under my plan, the owner gets 5 more years to sustain improvements.

So I’m sure you’re thinking like I am. You’re saying “Owners hire league presidents. If they are afraid of losing their team, they’ll fire league presidents.” No, they won’t.

League presidents add value to franchises. So do you think in a sport where half a league annually earns a postseason paycheck that they’re going to fire what works over what doesn’t? You think Jerry Jones sitting on $3 billion dollars really wants to see his doofy league president take a hiatus? Well, he does, and 30 owners shouted him down. Everyone not named Jerry Jones.

But what if some owners in the club would suddenly not be in the club. What would a league likely do in the face of flailing owners? They’d expand the playoff format.  Owners would pressure each other to make the NFL regular season one or two games less to add 6 more teams to the playoffs so nobody has to sell. Truth be told, I’d rather see 14 regular season NFL games and more playoffs just for the excitement, so that makes my suggestion even more enticing.

Wait til the 5th Wild card round…

And baseball would probably make 4 divisions per league and 4 wildcards, and the wild card with the worst record plays against the team closest to them in record- think 8 versus 9- to see who is the last to make a play in. Suddenly you’ve expanded baseballs playoffs from 10 to 18. So if you’re one of the 14 or 32 that can’t qualify for the vastly expanded post season? SELL.

The next issue I can think of- what if there is a strike or lockout? That season does not count, because it’s not a true season. However, no league CBA can be under 6 years.

I’m sure you’re saying “Well, what if the new buyers want to move a team?” Sure, that’s an option and may even be the impetus for a purchase. So here’s a solution. A Divorce tax. Any man that’s been divorced knows how the court turns that marriage based on love for both into a viscous ass raping based on finances created in fantasy land where the man is impoverished. A housewife has an annual value of WHAT? Amazing nonsense. But it can set a precedent.

SADDLEDOME, CALGARY DOWNTOWN SKYLINE, EARLY TO MID 1980s (HERALD FILE PHOTO FROM PHOTO DESK, NO CREDIT, NO DATE GIVEN)

Say the Calgary Flames hold true to their threat of moving out of the old Saddle Dome. Sure. How many years were you here? OK, so you claimed how many tax breaks over those 35 years? OK you have to pay half of that back in a lump sum and the rest in annual payments.

Also, there’s an Alimony tax, the tax on a team’s future earnings. Which is another bullshit thing courts do – tax a man’s pension decades after a marriage breaks up. How come they don’t make the person receiving such suck dick for it, like he was accustomed to in the marriage? So your new team is making money in Houston? Great, we get a piece for the next ten years. We need to get back on our feet and save for a new team. And we don’t even have to such off the old team.

Lastly there should be a relocation fee to season ticket holders. “Hey loyal fans, sorry we fucked you. Here’s three years of seat fees, on us to say thanks for the years of your support.” Can you imagine an owner treating their fans with such dignity and class? Me either.

Won’t owners just shift ownership to a family member or a shell company? Not if you make rules against families in consecutive generations passing teams back and forth, and do enough due diligence on a shell company to make sure it’s not run by an absentee or a bad owner.

Maybe this opens up American sports to foreign investment. Didn’t Nintendo own the Seattle Mariners? And they were good?

Some people will say that this plays favorites for large markets at the expense of small markets. But the “small market” 2015 Kansas City Royals won a World Series. The Tampa Bay Lightning have recently both won and lost playing for a Stanley Cup. Green Bay may be the smallest professional market and yet the Packers are multiple time champions. The Cleveland Cavaliers brought a title to Cleveland for the first time in…before man walked on the moon. So are the rest of the “small market” guys shitty owners? Do they deserve to lose a team?

The answers are maybe and maybe. If you look at sports team champions, there’s usually patterns of teams that are well run and return to post season in their era of good coaching and management. I would never sleep on the San Antonio Spurs as long as Greg Popovich is head coach, but they aren’t winning a title in the next two years. But when Pop retires?

Look at the Yankees in the year change between Joe Girardi and Arron Boone. Girardi took a team that was expected to be an 80 win team to a few innings away from a World Series. Boone took a team expected to be in a World Series and had them get smoked by the eventual champion Boston Red Sox. When a great coach leaves, there’s almost always a step back. Did the Mets do better without Davey Johnson? The Cardinals without Tony LaRussa?

Good news Jets fans. When Belichick goes, there will be intolerable pain in Boston.

And that small market argument is invalid. Large market teams can eat a dick, too. The Knicks have been awful for a decade plus. The Flyers stink. The Nationals lose a lot. There are plenty of big market teams that will get impacted by this. And here comes the best part.

When they do, there will be lower prices and new owners with a motivation to win. Not old owners with a motivation for fat TV contracts to larden up their portfolio and eventually create a class system upon the sale of the team. So folks, root for some core changes, and think bigger picture. Imagine how much more fun would be if your team was playing for a championship every game of the season? Until then, you’ll get the same crap you’re presently being fed.

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