Behold the glory that is ESPN! Every year ESPN the Magazine rates all 122 North American sports franchises across 8 categories mostly dealing with ownership. They then combine those categories via this method to create their Ultimate Team Rankings. For what it's worth, the rankings do come out in June, so it's not a surprise that hockey wouldn't get a fair shake. But ESPN has an archive including 2003-2011 of all these rankings. Of course when you look at these lists with hindsight and all at once, they come out a bit strange to say the least.
For example, in 2008 the Islanders were ranked 5th in Coaching which they describe as "Strength of on-field leadership." They were the highest NHL team in that category with the Lemaire-led Wild in 10th and Randy Carlyle of the Ducks who had just won the Cup at 15th. Ted Nolan, who went a decade between NHL jobs and had only just finished his second season (4th season in the NHL overall), was ranked better then Phil Jackson, Bobby Cox and Tony Dungy. These aren't exactly johnny come lately's to the coaching scene.
Of course that's the highest the Islanders did in any single category over the time of these rankings. I thought we'd take a look at the rises and falls of the Isles in each category over the years.
Unfortunately due to the lockout there are no results for 2005/2006. It is interesting to note that this whole period has been under Wang and only two years were of those were under the Milbury regime.
Bang For The Buck:
Wins during the past three years (regular season plus postseason) per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules.
2004: 72 (Notably the Rangers are 119 only ahead of the Lions)
2007: 68 (First in NYC Market)
2008: 68 (First in NYC Market)
2009: 75 (Still First in NYC Market)
2011: 118 (out of 122)
No surprise on this years ranking given the increase in ticket prices and the poor seasons they were having leading up to it. I think the high cost of going to most other games in the market helped keep the Islanders artificially high for the NYC area.
Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches and management.
2003: 36 (Second in NYC behind Yankees)
2009: 94 (The Knicks were 120)
2010: 71 (Knicks were 120)
2011: 92 (Knicks rise, Mets fall to 118)
I don't know, the Islanders always seem to have their players out and about. Even after last year when they visited the hospital and some nurse yelled at Doug Weight for being a loser.
Honesty and loyalty to core players and local community.
2003: 42 (Dolan teams at 83 and 99)
2004: 78 (Dolan teams at 86 and 102)
2007: 87 (Dolan teams at 81 and 102)
2008: 58 (Dolan teams at 83 and 118)
2009: 118 (Dolan teams at 83 and 109)
2010: 112 (Dolan teams at 97 and 108)
2011: 116 (Dolan teams at 74 and 91) and rated 119 of 122 in commitment to community/not moving.
I realize people have issues with Wang and don't like him, but anything that rates Dolan as a better owner has to be insane. The NBA had to intervene with the Knicks in order to get them to get rid of Isiah and force him to hire Donny Walsh who fixed the mess. Wang's made his mistakes, but neither have been nearly as bad as Dolan's run as owner of Rangers and Knicks.
Price of tickets, parking and concessions.
2003: 74 (#1 in NYC)
2008: 76 (#2 in NYC behind Nets)
Not much to say here really, as the Islanders tended to be one of the more expensive games to go to. Until you consider the market and that for the most part they were much cheaper then the Jets, Giants, Knicks and Rangers. Only the Nets and Devils did consistently better. Knicks and Rangers were near or at the bottom of the list every year.
Quality of arena and game-day promotions as well as friendliness of environment.
2003: 99 (also another reason this makes no sense: The Giants are at 98 but Jets are at 113?)
Shocking, the Coliseum is considered one of the worst arenas in North America. The funny thing being it's only a bad arena when the team is losing.
Effort on the field and likability off it.
Another category that comes down to "Your more likeable when your winning"
Strength of on-field leadership.
2008: 5 (First in NYC, First in NHL)
It's tough to place one category as more ridiculous then the next, but this has to take the cake. No offense to Ted Nolan, but how he ends up near the top with almost no history is beyond me.
Championships already won or expected in the lifetime of current fans.
Personally I consider 80-83 to be in the lifetime of most current fans. This came up on that other NY related survey which rated the Rangers somehow better in championships. For the 2011 rankings the Bruins were barely ahead of the Islanders at 76, while the Senators (who are Cupless) are at 66. It's like all media decides to get together and ignore the Islanders dynasty.
Just like the prom queen or the class president, this ends up being a popularity contest more then anything else. Somehow the teams ranked in the bottom quarter can do nothing right. For example the only two teams with individual ratings in the top 20 for teams this year at 92 or below are the Wild for their arena (19) and Hawks for Bang for the Buck (13). Meanwhile, there is no consistency between ratings and teams. How do the Cowboys have a Title Track Record ranking of 36 while the Islanders are 50 spots lower this year?
It's fun to look at and nice to rant about, but no one can take this seriously. In the end though it's always going to be the popular teams on top of things like these. For example both the Redskins and Bengals are at the bottom of the overall ranking. The Bengals stadium ranking is at 110 and the Redskins are just behind at 112. Yet from everything I've heard both stadiums are beautiful and brand new.
Look, if the Rangers were winning or challenging for the Cup every year, no one would complain about the Special Toppings on their Hot Dogs.