New York Islanders
Founded in 1972, Long Island’s hockey team boasts four Stanley Cup championships as an early 1980s dynasty. Captained by Denis Potvin and guided by legendary coach Al Arbour, the Islanders were the last team to complete a “four-peat,” claiming the Cup from 1979 to 1983. Seven players from that legendary run (Potvin, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Bob Nystrom, John Tonelli, Billy Smith and Butch Goring) saw their uniform numbers retired by the franchise. Potvin and Bossy became the first Islanders inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
The Islanders called the Nassau Coliseum home for 43 years before relocating to the Barclays Center for three seasons, where they played exclusively before splitting their home games between the two arenas in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Barclays Center generated controversy as a hockey arena, with complaints over seats with obstructed views, poor sight lines and the subpar ice quality marking the team’s time in Brooklyn. New York will play all of its home games in the Coliseum in 2020-21 before its new arena opens in Belmont Park in 2021.
Trottier holds the franchise record for points with 1,353, while Bossy is the goals leader with 573 tallies. Smith, the dynasty’s netminder, won 304 games in 17 seasons, one of 36 goalies in NHL history with 300 victories.
The Edmonton Oilers ended New York’s championship run in five games in the 1984 Cup Finals, and the Islanders are still seeking a return to the championship series. The 1993 “Miracle” run, when the Islanders upset twice-defending champion Pittsburgh in the Prince of Wales Conference Division Finals, was foiled by the eventual Cup champion Montreal Canadiens in the Wales Conference Finals. Twelve years passed before the team’s next playoff series win.
Superstar center John Tavares gave Isles fans hope from 2009-2018, notching 621 points in the blue and orange and powering the team to a playoff series win in 2016, but he spurned New York by signing with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs in July 2018.
The Islanders have fared well without their former franchise player, winning a playoff series each season since Tavares left. After Stanley Cup-winning coach Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals failed to agree on a contract extension after Washington’s 2018 championship run, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello was quick to hire Trotz to replace Doug Weight as head coach.
Trotz won his second Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach after the Isles collected 103 points in the 2018-19 regular season, just a point shy of the Metropolitan Division title. The club followed Trotz’s successful first season with 80 points in the shortened 2019-20 season, defeating Trotz’s former Capitals squad in five games in the first round of the 2020 playoffs.
The Islanders, backed by goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss, tied for fifth in the league in fewest goals against and placed eighth in save percentage in the regular season, Varlamov’s first year as an Islander. Mathew Barzal, the talented 23-year-old who assumed the responsibility of replacing Tavares as the first-line center, recorded a team-leading 60 regular season points including 41 assists. Brock Nelson and captain Anders Lee led the scoring with 26 goals and 20 goals, respectively. Left winger Anthony Beauvillier, another 23-year-old, scored 18 goals in the regular season and broke through with seven goals in the first 11 games of the 2020 postseason. Defenseman Ryan Pulock logged the most ice time of any skater, with 1,524 minutes played.
The Isles are 15th in NHL history in team wins with 1,621 and 12th with 144 playoff victories. The team’s fans include “Karate Kid” star Ralph Macchio, who said on his Bobblehead Night that his “whole childhood was at Nassau Coliseum.”
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