The following is part of a periodic history feature, dealing with artifacts and other found items from New York Islanders history. Sometimes it will be fun, often it will be self-abusing if not at the very least therapeutic. You are hereby trigger warned.
The Islanders followed up the mini-renaissance 1993 spring with an off year, a year where Pierre Turgeon recovered from his devastating playoff assault injury by scoring 94 points in 69 games (but y’know...still “never the same” and “soft,” apparently), but where their goaltending was subject to whatever the opposite of Peak Ron Hextall is.
The 1993-94 season ended with stuff that is stricken from the historical record, so I’m not sure what happened. Probably the lockout.
Anyway, a lockout would delay the 1994-95 season (which ultimately became a shortened, 48-game 1995-95 season), and all that did was postpone the accelerated descent of the Islanders into an abyss well-documented around these parts.
This Wayback Wednesday highlights The Hockey News 1995 Yearbook, which is always published way before the season but in this case was published WAY before the season, since the season wouldn’t start until January.
It was the headline on the Islanders page that made me guffaw (and cry):
“Henning in for long season on Long Island”
Henning, of course, was a Dynasty-era Islander (you might recall his second assist on this goal of minor importance) who was a longtime assistant to Al Arbour after his playing days were over. So when Arbour retired for the second time, Henning was the recommended successor.
You might also remember, or at least know, that Don Maloney was the first-time GM at the time. The same Maloney who recently admitted he “cringes” at some of the decisions he made back then.
One of those moves was tossing Henning aside after the season and bringing in...M-m-m-ike...M-m-m-ilbury.
Anyway, highlights of the Islanders’ writeup include:
1 - “There are, however, growing doubts about scoring ace Pierre Turgeon’s ability to lead the team. There were even rumors he might be traded in the offseason.”
(This came after a paragraph about how Ron Sutter and Troy Loney were brought in for “an injection of leadership.” Troy Loney! Late-career Ron Sutter!)
Maloney did eventually trade Turgeon. To Montreal. None of it worked out well and everyone was eventually fired.
2 - “Goaltending. The Islanders allowed 33 fewer goals last season, but confidence in Ron Hextall is waning. His season went from mediocre to good in December to horrible down the stretch.”
(Yes, we remember. By the way, this is a few paragraphs after the intro noted, “Ron Hextall was not the savior the Islanders anticipated.” Ye gods.)
3 - “The Islanders are firmly convinced defenseman Scott Lachance can develop into the prototypical two-way defenseman they projected him to be when they picked him fourth overall in 1991.”
(Ouch. In other news, Jaromir Jagr is profiled in this issue.)
4 - “Maloney made his greatest move in two years as Islander GM on draft day when he traded up to select Brett Lindros ninth overall, one ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs who coveted—”
—alright STOP. STOP right there. Therapy session over.
Bonus, Unrelated Coverage
Also from that issue, in the Smurfs writeup:
“Messier vowed immediately after winning the [REDACTED] he would do everything in his power to make sure [REDACTED] remains in Manhattan. Can he back that promise?”
And in the Flyers writeup:
“Pivotal factor: Lindros’ health. In two seasons, No. 88 has missed a total of 42 games because of injury. That’s half a season.”
Prescient concern, that. Turns out it’s not as easy to bully NHL players as it is juniors.
Oh, and this about the Senators:
“Radek Bonk is the third potential star center Ottawa has drafted in the last three years.”
Damn. And the best one of the lot would later become an essential but much-derided Islander.