It feels like something that was beaten like a dead horse, but how many times did you hear that some mystery group including former Islander Pat LaFontaine was going to buy the team? Of course as the story goes, the new owner would come in and start throwing money at the team and FINALLY make them competitive. It's not just Islanders fans though, plenty of sports team fanbases wish their teams would spend more.
Sometimes it works out, a new owner comes in and brings in a breath of fresh air. It's the change the organization needs. Other times though, money isn't the solution for everything and neither is big flashy signings. There are plenty of warning signs in the past of this, but let's take a look at three teams who have recently flamed out after major organization changes.
Only in hockey can you take a yearly cup contender like the Sabres and actually make them worse. For years the Sabres were a team that would build up a ton of talent, then lose it to free agency, only to add more in short order. All that changed when Terry Pegula bought the team. He proudly proclaimed that the reason for the teams existence was to win the Cup.
The most outrageous contract belongs to Ville Leino, who is making $4.5 million a year. In 79 games over two seasons with the team he has 10 goals and 21 assists. It also looks as though franchise goalie Ryan Miller might be on his way out, especially as Buffalo fans booed him.
In two full seasons of ownership, the organization has completely changed. Lindy Ruff, the longest termed coach at the time, was pushed out the door. Darcy Reiger, one of the longer termed GMs in the league, seems to be holding on by his fingernails. Their franchise player is most likely gone. The team might have to start rebuilding next year instead of looking at a playoff spot.
This is why I argue sometimes the Devil you know is better then the Devil you don't. Really, all Pegula had to do was keep the talent that kept slipping through the Sabres fingers. Instead the team made splashy moves that in the end didn't really work out.
Like Glen Sather, who was considered a genius in his time with Edmonton, it seems like giving the Sabres org an open wallet made them money drunk. Now they have to recover from the effects. At least lucky for them they are going to be able to shed some of the bad contracts this off-season.
The poor Panthers. They've been hurting since Dale Tallon took over. Considering that Tallon was fired for botching contracts and causing the Hawks to overpay for all their upcoming RFAs, I'm shocked he was given another job. I mean it's not really hard to have a championship team when you draft in the top 10 for 4 years and get Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane out of it.
One of Tallon's early moves was waiving Michael Grabner following camp. Grabner was the crown jewel in the Keith Ballard trade. Grabner would go on to score 34 goals with the Islanders, while the Panthers as a team scored 336 goals. But this wasn't a warning sign for the Panthers, who decided the best way to make money was to spend money.
Ironically this plan didn't work out too well the first time Tallon did it with the Blackhawks. But the Panthers proceeded to sign 10 Free Agents during the 2011 off-season. Very much like Tallon did early on in Chicago, he overpaid a bunch of UFAs. Unlike in Chicago, the Panthers had the good fortune of Alex Ovechkin having a bad season. So the Panthers made the playoffs, winning the Southeast Division and everyone was happy.
Until this season, which saw the bottom drop out on the team, and the Panthers finishing dead last in the league. At the deadline the Panthers were reportedly willing to trade ANYONE on their roster. While Hockey's Future currently rates them as having the second best prospect pool in the league, it also notes that most of them are young and a few years away.
Islander fans know all about how long it can take to get from point A to point B in a rebuild. Seemingly now Tallon has completed the circle. He got a team that was young and promising but a few years away, and turned them into a team that is young and promising and a few years away. Oh, and a team that is paying Brian Campell $7.1 million until 2015-16.
I've combined these two, because they deserve each other. Each team made it to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost in back to back seasons.Each team thought they had a long term solution, and did their best to lock up players from those teams for the long term. The Flames at least made the playoffs for 4 more seasons, the Oilers never made it back after the run to the finals.
Both teams showed a complete unwillingness to rebuild or realize that they were sliding into irrelevancy. They chased bad money with more bad money (and Olli Jokinen) as they tried to stay on the bubble. The Flames might have been able to get more for Jerome Ignilia had they traded him before this season. The Oilers meanwhile probably wish they didn't double down on making the playoffs by signing Nikolai Khabibulin to a 4 year, $3.5 Million dollar deal.
There seems to be an unwillingness to admit when a team has to rebuild in Canada. In the long run it only means more bad seasons before you get there. Even stocking up on 1st overall picks doesn't mean your going to make the playoffs, just ask the Oilers.
For The Islanders
There's a certain value to loyalty in a sport. Sticking with the rebuild through some down years has in the long run made this a better team. There were times the Islanders could have overpaid, like with Christian Ehrhoff or Ilya Kovalchuk. But instead the team has taken the long way on the path to the playoffs. There is finally a light at the end of the rebuild tunnel.
It's always fun to imagine and wish for what you might want the team to be. But in the long run we're all Monday morning QBs, without complete knowledge of what's going on behind the scenes. It's great to imagine a new owner would come flying in and give the team a blank check. But through NHL history it happens time and again that the team is worse off in the long run.
Of course no one can go on forever bleeding money either. When you look at the early 00s payrolls and see how much was being spent just to maintain the 8th playoff seed/playoff bubble, it's not worth it. The Islanders are better for Garth Snow seeing the writing on the wall, and for Wang's willingness to go through with the rebuild. It's got to be tough to take the heat of the NYC media, as they seem to believe all metro area teams make infinite money.