"This was not supposed to be a rebuilding year," Wang said, acknowledging many Islanders fans' frustrations. "We are probably as disappointed, if not more disappointed, than all the fans. But we lost basically our No. 1 guy on the power play, Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo, our [alternate] captain, we lost both of them for a huge amount of time..."
You can get a lot more of what Islanders owner Charles Wang and GM Garth Snow said on Gary Bettman's "The NHL Hour" show last night via the recap with quotes posted at nhl.com. Also, when it's available, the full audio. (Try this link and click on "The NHL Hour." UPDATE: Or do this full audio link.)
It's always surreal to discuss occasions like this because, well, on a broadcast forum you are simply never going to get a man-to-man, pub room conversation that you want from important public figures. PR is a reality, and while few agree on how to handle it best -- heh, that's how PR firms steal one another's clients! -- everyone in a position to have their words or motives interpreted will sooner or later learn that some degree of PR, which I'll call, shorthand, "message control," is necessary. Every figure of prominence eventually figures out that if they don't try to guide the message, someone else will. Every figure weighs costs and benefits and chooses the amount of info they feel comfortable releasing.
By choosing the messaging expert Bettman's radio show, Wang chose the friendliest of settings. But Bettman did push harder than you might expect for the answers many want, and they did take some challenging calls. While you didn't get, "Oh yeah, that guy stunk, you have no idea, we're relieved to be rid of him," and you didn't get, "We have a building deal in Queens waiting for us. I'll tell you more next month," you did get subtle hints of plans and decisions shared and implied without burning bridges.
Once again I got the impression Wang cares passionately not just about this franchise but about keeping it on Long Island if at all possible. The details of how that happened are left to the rumor mill, but you have to think within the next year the game of chicken will have resolution. "The team is not for sale," Wang said, while also acknowledging Queens as an option for the next venue.
If you're stressed about 2015 and are a member of the message board Islanders Mania, you can find some interesting theories and "word on the street" info there from longtime members that might make either comfort you or worry you, depending on your perspective. I'm not going to paste anything of that here, out of prudence and respect for the board members on a login-protected forum, but suffice to say Newsday is expected to have a large, overarching study on the state of the franchise sometime early in the new year -- and who knows? Maybe that piece will have more hints at where the endgame is on the team's locale in 2015. Obviously we know Wang's preference, and from the interview we know other local sites are in his mind, if not his first choice.
As for the on-ice hockey personnel direction of the team, I think there are two camps on this -- some who generally believe in what's going on and buy into the need for patience, and some who think there are ways to improve things more quickly without botching things back to square one. I've discussed my own view on that plenty, and I doubt anything that was said -- nor anything that could have been said -- in the interview will do much to change either camp.
Regardless, it's fun for me that we all come together here to enjoy hockey. So Merry Christmas (Eve) to all of you, whether you celebrate it or not. The Islanders are off Friday and Saturday, then get right back at it Sunday at home to the Canadiens and Monday at the Garden for another Battle of New York.
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And once more: Condolences to the Turgeon family. I can't even imagine.