The National Hockey League placed the New York Islanders on waivers Saturday, the culmination of a very trying year in which the once promising team has struggled on the ice and looked lost over the first half of the season.
If no other league claims the Islanders by noon Sunday, the entire roster will report to the American Hockey League. The team carries a cap hit of $71,682,930 and a 25-year contract with Barclays Center which could prevent anyone from taking a chance on them.
“We still think the Islanders are a quality hockey team,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who delivered the news to the team via conference call. “A few of their players have been hit with the injury bug a little bit. But they do have All Stars and we’re looking for them to get back to that level of play.
“The first step in that process should be playing for some other league.”
The Islanders have a record of 14-15-6 and are last in the Metropolitan Division. After a run to the second round of the playoffs last season, they were expected to be among the division’s better clubs. Instead, their performance has been erratic, with prolonged slumps, consistently blown leads, perplexing lineup decisions, a stubborn, standoffish attitude and a general inability to gain any momentum in the standings.
Daly thinks a spell in a lower league will be good for the 45-year old franchise.
"Coming to the rink and being the hardest workers, having great attitudes. That's something that doesn't matter who you are and what position your team is in or what role your organization has, that's what we expect out of every one of our member clubs," Daly said.
"We expect nothing less from the Islanders in that regard. Just, do it while playing in the minors."
Most recently, the Islanders have been distracted by issues with their goaltending. With three goalies on the roster - Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube - there wasn’t enough playing time to go around and made for an impossible balancing act. Combined with mediocre offensive numbers (a collective 97 goals for, good for 16th in the NHL) and some of the league’s worst underlying stats (a 45% score-adjusted corsi for), the situation became just too much for the Board of Governors to take any longer.
“We’re looking for ways to help the team any way that we can, that may be to get a boost of confidence, build some momentum and ultimately win hockey games," Daly said. “If they end up being minor league games, so be it.”
Should the Islanders refuse to report to the AHL, they run the risk of being suspended by the NHL and being completely forgotten by hockey fans forever. A team spokesman that wouldn’t be anything new for the franchise.
Obviously, this is totally fake. But maybe some time away from the Islanders would be beneficial for everyone’s mental health.