Sunday, February 24, 2008

Building a New Core

Mark Herrman stole a little of the thunder of this post with his article on next Sunday's Core of the Four celebration in today's edition of Newsday, but since I've been planning to do this for several days now, it's as good a time as any to carry through with it. And now, with the re-signing of Trent Hunter, there's a new wrinkle to add.

What's the most remarkable aspect of the Core of the Four event? Setting aside the depth of talent on the list of players the Islanders will be honoring, it's the sheer length of the list. The following 17 players played on all four Stanley Cup Championship teams from 1980-1983 (I'm not sure why the Herrman piece states the number as 16, unless one of the honorees is known not to be attending):

Mike Bossy

Bob Bourne
Clark Gillies
Butch Goring
Lorne Henning
Anders Kallur
Gord Lane
Dave Langevin
Wayne Merrick
Ken Morrow
Bob Nystrom
Stefan Persson
Denis Potvin
Billy Smith
Duane Sutter
John Tonelli
Bryan Trottier

The ceremonies will also honor General Manager Bill Torrey, Head Coach Al Arbour, Trainer Ron Waske, and Equipment Manager Jim Pickard.

By today's standards, the idea that 17 players could remain with one team for 4+ years is simply astounding. Go back to the Islanders roster from just two season ago and you will find only 11 names that have made appearances on this season's roster. That includes six players who played in fewer than 30 games in '05-'06. Of course, the fact that those 17 players kept winning probably played no small part in keeping them together.

Yes, the times have changed and the rules have changed. Disregarding CBAs and NHLPA strategies, I still sometimes find myself longing for the days when we could root for a team of players rather than, as Jerry Seinfeld put it, laundry. Those days may be gone for good unless we witness a revolution in sports management. It just so happens that the Islanders have a revolutionary thinker as an owner.

One of the tenets that Charles Wang brought over to the NHL from his corporate career at Computer Associates is that when you find good people, you keep them around. That is why Rick DiPietro has a 15-year contract, and why Trent Hunter was just given a five-year deal. Fans will be able to debate who merits consideration as "good people" based on talent and character. Ultimately, Mr. Wang and Garth Snow will make those decisions. Hopefully, in doing so, they build a new core that is capable of winning championships.

Wouldn't it be great if every summer, instead of looking for five new key components for the lineup, the organization needed only to add one key player or a few complementary pieces? That's what having a solid core will do for you. Tuesday's trade deadline could bring about the exit of any of at least a half dozen players. I'm not saying don't trade anyone now. The new core is hardly complete. But it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if the roster four years from now has about a dozen names on it that are in the organization right now.


7th Woman said...

Which names do you suggest?

Islanders Outsider said...

In addition to DiPietro and Hunter, you could have Campoli, Gervais, Martinek, Meyer, Bergenheim, Tambellini, Nielsen, Okposo, Comeau, and Comrie. I'm not saying that it has to be those twelve. But there's a pool of players who have either proven themselves worthy of consideration or demonstrated enough to potential to project them as worthy. I left out guys like Witt and Park because of age, but even they're not totally out of the question (I did leave in Martinek). And Dubie would be a young 33.

Obviously, not all of these guys will be around in four years. A few of them could be gone on Tuesday. There's also more talent in the system (Walter, Colliton, Regier, etc.) The point is that there's an opportunity for stability, and for the fans to develop a relationship with a large group of players rather than with the latest class of one-year free agent contracts.

Players, coaches, and analysts always talk about the special chemistry that develops between players who have played together for a long time--a chemistry that can't be manufactured or artificially replicated. The Core of the Four is a great reminder of the potency of such chemistry.

Jim McGlynn said...

Hey Ken, you make a good argument, and judging by your comment to Dee, you cleary put a lot of thought into it. Not sure if Nolan buys into Tambs as a long term Isle though.

We'll see you Friday!

Islanders Outsider said...

I think it's 50/50 whether Tambs is still an Islander at this time tomorrow because of what you said about Nolan buying into him. And his trade value will never be higher (unless he becomes a 30-goal scorer in the NHL).

Jim, I don't know about you, but I'm seriously bummed about missing out on all the action tomorrow! I'll barely be able to follow what's going on, let alone participate in it.

Jim McGlynn said...

Hey outsider. I'm bummed as well, but I have committments from work that I can't escape. The good news is, I will be able to get out a little earlier tomorrow, and therefore be able to read about all the action. (for example, the Miro trade after he waives his NTC)!