Which is typical. The destinies of these once-great franchises seem to run in parallel universes, with overlapping raw materials: They have a loud but cramped Coliseum, we have a loud but cramped Coliseum. We need a building, and our owner has run into civic resistance with his proposed new venue as part of a transformative real estate development; they need a building, and their owner has run into civic resistance with his...you get the idea.
This might shock you, but founding C&B writer Jonathan Willis selected Janne Niinimaa as his favorite. Go read that, and remind yourself that the metal-loving Janne we acquired for the Ghost of Isbister and the Future of Torres had already given his best years and several pounds of flesh in service to the post-dynasty Oilers.
And tell me, tell us all: Who was your favorite Islander since the dynasty ended? (And I recognize that for many of our readers, there are no Islanders but the post-dynasty Islanders.) The only rule: Pick a guy who didn't win a Cup with the team. So the '84 Pats -- Flatley and LaFontaine -- qualify, but most of their teammates that year do not. I'll give you mine after the jump. If anyone has a really long or beautifully composed answer, you're also welcome to write it as a "My favorite post-dynasty Islander" FanPost.
If the Islanders ownership and financial straits -- the effects of which still linger today -- hadn't taken an ominous turn in the late '80s, my answer to this would be Pat LaFontaine, full stop.
But we all know that's not how it went down, and the summer of 1991 brought it to a head, with the distressed sale of Brent Sutter and hold-out LaFontaine happening in October of that year. I admit it: I cried. I cursed the ownership. I cursed LaFontaine. (Later, I understood and took it back.) I cursed life.
But you know what was great about those days, versus when a star is on his way out today? Back then, stars were swapped in value-for-value trades. In fact, you know who else was in play on the trade market that year? Adam Oates, Steve Yzerman, Craig Janney ... and Pierre Turgeon. Circa 1991, that is a lot of damn fine centers on the market. (Regular readers know I've followed the Isles and Blues all my life, and with both LaFontaine and Oates in contract squabbles on my favorite teams, you better believe I fantasized about them being swapped for each other and keeping these little problems "in the family" -- or the "family" as I saw it in the little hockey house in my head.)
So while LaFontaine was sent upstate, because this was 1991 and not 2009 the Islanders didn't get "The Heatley* for Clunkers Package." They got Pierre freaking Turgeon. Uwe Krupp and Benoit Hogue sure helped, too.
*I hereby pledge never again to use LaFontaine in the same sentence as the spoiled Heatley.
But the point of this is, just when all looked depressed and lost to me as an Islanders fan, just when all of the fading remnants of the glory years were retired, waived or otherwise vanquished, here came Pierre Turgeon to save the day. He looked glorious filling up the back of that beautiful Isles sweater with his big 77. He was an insightful passer, but he had a great nose for finishing, too. He could set up office behind the net, he could break in from the wing, he could orchestrate the prettiest of 2-on-1's. Turgeon didn't make me forget LaFontaine -- having Patty rack up points with the Sabres ensured that -- but he made sure I got over it.
Turgeon "only" played 255 of his 1294 regular season games as an Islander -- 15 more in the playoffs -- but it felt like so much more. And while the singular and shameful cowardice of hockey's greatest sore loser Dale Hunter would change our history forever, it could never take away the excitement experienced watching Turgeon lead the team to Al Arbour's last hurrah in 1993. Turgeon racked up 4 goals, 4 assists in that opening-round series with the Capitals, including the goal that iced the series and sent Hunter -- it was Hunter's turnover that created it after all -- into a tantrum that revealed his true "character."
And honestly, it was that aspect of Turgeon I liked just as I liked it about Mike Bossy: They were essential offensive contributors who could only hurt their team by being in the penalty box. So they took hours and hours of abuse from lesser players without retaliating. Tell me all you want about your fighters and your gutsy intimidators and your dirty hacking Messiers, but to me the gutsiest act in hockey is to do what they did -- fight through the checks, hacks and crosschecks on their way to the goal, without resorting to the (inevitably penalized) personal satisfaction of whacking the other guy back. If Turgeon and Bossy hadn't possessed that unconventional form of toughness, they'd have just been two more talented players who never made it.
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I thought about picking other less obvious players as my post-dynasty favorites. Kaspar enters that picture. The man later known as Chicken Parm. I had a place for Hrudey. Guys this decade have flirted with my heart, but either the turmoil has hardened that heart, or kept it guarded -- or maybe I've just gotten too old to attach such affinity for players anymore. (Gallery shouts: "Oh is that so? So what's the Frans Nielsen love affair about then?")
But as far as my life as an Islanders fan goes, Turgeon played the most important role: He kept my fire alive just when I thought it might go out. In short, I probably wouldn't be doing this site without him.