Sports fans everywhere are at the mercy of their team's owners. Through good times and bad -- and most fans will experience both with terrifying swiftness -- a fan's chances depend greatly on what the team's owner has been up to lately. Among the common phases: Rich sports fan finds new toy. Rich sports fan runs out of cash for that toy. Land developer sees new scheme. Old man dies, and his heir or estate doesn't care for sports. Bankruptcy. Non-sports financial ruin. Media empire scheme.
Islanders (7-11-5, 15th/E) @ Dallas Stars (15-9-1, 4th/W)
[not where Tatu took his shirt off after goals] Center
8:30 p.m. EST | MSG+2 (twice the plus!) | Audio: NHL - WRHU
Those aren't Hicks, those are bruises: Defending Big D
It traces back to Norm "Greed" Green ripping them from Minnesota -- where politicians wouldn't build him a new arena -- and flipping them to Tom Hicks for profit in a new southern market. Hicks himself purchased them as part of his own arena development scheme, and he spent on them like a dream owner, bringing them a Stanley Cup in 1999.
Of course Hicks also famously spent a fortune on A-Rod (Pitching? Who needs pitching?), which was a hint of his eventual downfall. You can say his sports heart was in the right place. Soccer fans know he dabbled in that sport, coaxing fellow NHL owner George Gillett into a disastrous partnership that nearly saw one of England's most famous clubs dropped from the top flight. That was part of a 1-2-3 collapse that put both his Texasand Dallas Stars into bankruptcy.
My favorite quote from his sports empire collapse: "Sports has never been my primary business." You don't say.
Or get this: Charles Wang, much maligned and with a rap sheet of mistakes on his hockey owner resume, is actually one of the best owners the Islanders have ever had. While others saw them purely as a land or media deal (and some literally had no money), Wang at least spent on them to make them competitive when he arrived and has not cut and run despite roadblock after roadblock to even get so much as a new arena, much less a big development deal.
The Stars, after spending a relatively brief spell through the sports fan's version of the desert, appear to be on their way back. A new owner is on the horizon. I'm sure he means well and will do well at first. Until life, death or finances get in the way. Then the cycle starts anew.
Stars Now: Injured, Missing Their Backstop
The Stars are physically aggressive and defensively tight around new coach Glen Gulutzan, chipping their way to 31 points (tied for 5th most in the league, 9th-best points percentage) through 25 games. That hot first quarter was partly dependent on the outstanding goaltending of Kari Lehtonen though, who remains injured. Also out are captain Brendan Morrow, lead puck-mover Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley.
They're 4-5-1 in their last 10, coming back down to earth and carrying injuries to make it worse -- but for 4-1-1 in their last six, rising above this spate of injuries.
They are getting some unlikely scoring from Eric Nystrom (9 goals in 20 games!) -- who wouldn't even be there if the Rangers hadn't waived Sean Avery, temporary putting the Stars in cap floor trouble. Nystrom's line with Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak can sneak up on people, but that production will surely taper off. Likewise, the Stars probably aren't as good as their current pace indicates, but they have the proverbial "identity" and no one questions whether they come to play each night.
In short, back-to-back road games is no excuse tonight. This should be tough but winnable. If the Islanders want to be serious about this mini-run of good vibes, they need to see this game as an opportunity to finish go 3-0-1 on this road spell, which has seen their only two road victories of the season. (On that note, it's funny what passes for a "road trip" in the congested Atlantic. The Isles played in Newark, went upstate to Buffalo, flew home, practiced, then flew out for this Chicago-Dallas weekend. It's a "four-game road trip" on the schedule, but in NHL terms it's merely a quick two-game weekend getaway.)
The Stars, incidentally, are about to head out on a road trip of their own.
Lineup Decisions Pending
With the travel overnight, expect late lineup updates on Twitter from Newsday's Arthur Staple and the Islanders' official account. Al Montoya has been on fire -- even while giving up four goals last night -- but it's a back-to-back on the road, so this may be time for Rick DiPietro to try to stake a claim to de facto #2 with Evgeni Nabokov still out.
Andrew MacDonald was out last night, but Dylan Reese filled in admirably as all three defensive pairs were jumbled. Reese is still on emergency status, but if he takes this opportunity ... well, don't we all need more #6/7 defensemen to kick around after losses?
The Stars are a more physical team, so you might consider this as a chance for Micheal Haley to re-enter. Not sure who you take out in his stead, though, and one thing about back-to-backs is you'd rather not have to shorten your line rotation on the second night.
More links and coverage from last night are in the earlier thread. Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this thread.