Isles' Off-Season Inertia Spells Trouble for '02-'03

After one year of modest success following several abysmal seasons, the New York Islanders have raised ticket prices by a whopping $35 per seat. How, then, can they justify their utter inactivity in the free agent market this off-season?As a long-time season ticket holder, I don’t mind paying this astronomical increase — provided new ownership keeps its promise of plowing the money back into the team. Regrettably, and as with all too many miserly ownership groups on Long Island, that appears not to be the case.

Wang and Kumar rationalize the inertia by citing a $20 million operating loss last season. That doesn’t cut it. Think of how many more empty seats there would have been — and how much more they would have lost — had they not sprung for Peca, Yashin and Osgood. And in any event, Wang and Kumar publicly said they expected severe losses when they bought the team.

Tightening the purse strings after one encouraging season is terribly shortsighted. Kang and Kumar head one of the wealthiest corporations on earth. Their cries of poverty ring hollow. If they want to charge Ranger prices, they should implement a Ranger budget and payroll. That’s what they promised to do, and Computer Associates is no less successful than Cablevision.

The free-agent inactivity sends the current players the wrong message — that ownership cares more about filling seats than winning. A little success last year brought packed houses and three home playoff games. Standing pat suggests the owners are content with that fair showing. But the players will sense their satisfaction and performance will suffer — just as it did when the Mets failed to better themselves after making the 2000 World Series. This is especially true because the other teams in the East — particularly the Rangers and Washington — have improved so dramatically.

The irony is that the inertia is ultimately self-defeating. The Isles are two good players — a physical defenseman and a scoring forward — away from being real Cup contenders. Kasparitis and Amonte fit the bill perfectly. The Isles were an overwhelming popular success with a decent squad last year; think of the revival they’d experience with a deep playoff run. Wang and Kumar would get their new arena, their luxury boxes, their NBA franchise, their rights to develop the area around Nassau Coliseum and anything else they want. But by sitting idle while their competitors advance — with the inevitable result on the ice — the Isles will lose all the fans and credibility they gained last year. Contrary to Wang’s and Kumar’s promises, the bad old days are back on Long Island — just as the good ones were getting started.

51 Responses to Isles' Off-Season Inertia Spells Trouble for '02-'03

  1. Gillies9 says:

    Milbury and Wang were right not to spend foolishly but wrong not to spend wisely.

    Foolishly? Kaspar, bone crusher and fan fave though he is, was drastically overpriced for what he does. Unpleasant but smart to pass him up.

    Wisely? Amonte was well within budget, and would have filled that gaping hole at wing that was painfully obviously all last year.

    This being the time of year to fill those holes, consider what the Islanders have done to address their weaknesses and vacancies.

    *3rd line wing: With Lindgren and Miller gone, there’s a space here, presumably to be filled by Asham or Chabada. I don’t know much of either of them, so what they can do remains to be seen.

    *2nd line center: Peca’s slot needs to be filled until Christmas, and the team has all but said that this is why Wiemer was acquired. He’s gritty, but to expect him to reproduce Peca’s role as pivot, 25+ goal scorer and Selke winner is to ask too much. A drop-off here is unavoidable.

    *1st line winger: Underachiever Czerkawski was traded (indeed, given) away, and the plan now seems to be to put Weinhandl or Hunter in his place. They both seem talented, but to hope for more than Czerkawski’s 22 goals from a rookie season is very optimistic.

    *Physical defenseman: A need highlighted most torturously against Toronto, and one that has not been met. Timmander is not the answer.

    Keep in mind that the Isles won’t surprise anyone this season and some players such as Bates might not have career years again. Also, considering the history of the top 3 defensemen, one or more will go down with injury at some point and there is *nobody* – no defensemen drafted above the 4th round – on the farm. This year’s draft did nothing to remedy that.

    The Czerkawski trade is the most troubling event this summer. A grinder and a pick seem like a very cheap price for a player with a 30 goal average over 3 years. If Czerkawski has a renaissance in offense-friendly Montreal, then the Isles will come out with not much besides bad press for this trade. On the other hand, if this move was partially motivated by salary dumping, then where has that money gone? RFA raises? Is the budget that tight that cutting players is needed to afford scheduled expenses?

    The original subject of this post was the ticket price rise. Given that next year’s product looks to be worse than last year’s and that prices were never cut (as I recall) during The Dark Years, the increase is surprising if not insulting.

    I’m a 20 year fan, I respect fiscal responsibility, and I loved last season, but the price increase and this summer in general are both disappointing.

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