It’s official, the Islanders have won the NHL Entry-draft Lottery for the 09-10 season.
I find it silly that people are even discussing about who New York should draft this coming June.
Junior-Sensation Sniper-Centerman John Tavares of the London Knights or the 6’6″, 227 lbs Defenseman Victor Hedman of MoDo Sweden? The best North American prospect vs the best European prospect, the super-talented goal-scorer vs the giantly-built physical defenseman, they ask.
Well, the people who are suggesting that the Islanders should repeat what they have done during the 1973 entry draft, by picking up a defenseman with their 1st overall pick, are obviously not fans or employees of the struggling hockey club. (They are most likely Lightning fans!!! Just imagine Tavares and Stamkos on the same team!!!)
The argument is that Stanley Cup champions are built around defensemen, and the fact that the Islanders-Dynasty Era of the early 80’s was a direct result of defensiveman Denis Potvin’s strong performance.
It’s a valid argument, I suppose, if the primary objective of the organization is to win a cup eventually, maybe in a few years, when the team is able to gather more talents up-front and in-net.
However, this is not what the Islanders need right now. Their main problem is attendance, or better yet, profit.
The Islanders have been in the bottom 10 teams in terms of attendance for the last seven consecutive years. With an average of 13,500 paid attendance and even fewer people actually attending these games, the team is facing great challenges in terms of revenue. Although, the number of attendance maybe directly related to the seat capacity of the ancient Nassau Veterans Memorial Colisuem, which is where the Islanders play hosts. The NVMC was built 37 years ago, and is now the third oldest amongst all NHL arenas; it is also the smallest stadium amongst all NHL venues.
With these facts in mind and upon the request of the Nassau County, Islanders owner Charles Wang proposed a plan to build a 60-story multifunctional tower mimicking a lighthouse, which they coinced the term “Lighthouse Project”. The “Lighthouse” will have stadiums, housing, athletic facilities, hotel, restaurants…etc, and will be the future home of the Islanders. However, the Nassau County wasn’t able to come to any kind of agreement with Wang & Co, and the entire project dragged-on for almost 3 years. Wang, frustrated, was planning on relocating the New York team to Kansas just this February.
If both the Nassau County and Wang & Co aren’t able to come to an agreement in finding a new home for the Islanders, the team might be the first team to be relocated in the last 12 years. (Hartford to Carolina, 1997)
If you remember, the Pittsburgh Penguins had similar problems during the post-lockout season in 2005, when the organization faced huge monetary loss after years of under-attendance. The Penguins’ home arena is the Mellon Arena, and is the oldest active stadium in the entire NHL. With a maximum capacity of 16,940, the Penguins organization weren’t making any profit from the limited attendance, and reduced advertising incomes.
The organization were forced to consider relocation, but all problems went away the magical moment the Penguins got the first overall draft-pick for the 05-06 entry draft. Agreements were immediately made to keep the team in Pittsburgh for at least the next 30 years, simply because everyone knows that the first overall pick for the upcoming draft was a Canadian kid called Sidney.
History seems to be repeating this year, as the team in most need of a franchise player, someone who can bring the fans back into the stadium, has been awarded the first overall pick. This time, it’s a Canadian kid called John.
People have been comparing John Tavares and Sidney Crosby with Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky. Some disagree, and argue that Tavares is, at best, equal to the potential of a Jason Spezza. But in terms of significance to their hockey club, and their ability to save a franchise, I think few can disagree that at this very moment, John Tavares is Islander’s Sidney Crosby.