In honor of the Isles 40th anniversary year, I've put together a list of the Top 40 moments in club history. I'll go through them throughout the season, bit by bit.
#40 -- Summer 2001 -- Isles hire Laviolette, trade for Peca and Yashin, claim Osgood. After a series of down years and no playoff berths since 1994, the Isles made a series of move that reinvigorated the franchise. On May 24th, the Isles hired Peter Laviolette as their head coach. One month later, the Isles traded Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt and the 2nd overall pick (Jason Spezza) to Ottawa for Alexei Yashin. The following day, the Isles traded Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt to Buffalo in exchange for Michael Peca. Then, on September 28th the Islanders found their number one goaltender when they claimed Chris Osgood from Detroit. The newcomers, led by three Osgood shutouts, helped the Isles to an 11-1-1-1 and an eventual fifth place in the conference and their first playoff berth in eight years. The acquisition also allowed Rick DiPietro a valuable year of minor league experience.
The claim of Osgood and the hiring of Laviolette turned out to be slam dunks. The Peca trade worked pretty well too, at least until the Darcy Tucker injury the following spring. Meanwhile, Connolly and Pyatt went on to have somewhat pedestrian NHL careers. If there was one part the Isles could undo it would have been the Yashin trade. While Alexei had some good moments for the Islanders, particularly early, Chara of course went on to be a star and Spezza has turned out to be the 2nd biggest goal scorer from that draft (a distant 2nd, behind Ilya Kovalchuk, who was taken first). However, at the time, the additions of the three players and a coach brought the Isles closer to winning a playoff series than they had been, and have been, since 1993. That's good enough for #40 on the Isles 40 in 40 list.
The List to Date:
#40 -- Summer 2001 -- Isles hire Laviolette, trade for Peca and Yashin, claim Osgood.
March 16, 2010 -- Tavares' 5-point game.
February 13, 2011 -- Grab-Trick.
March 31, 1990 -- Uwe, Uwe.
Like any of these lists, my #2 may be your #20...
Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since 1982. Visit my blog: NYISkinny.com and follow me on Twitter @ehornick
I remember that 11-1-1-1 start. The sole loss was a one-goal decision against Osgood's old running mates in Detroit. Someone asked if the Isles could play the entire season like this, and both Peca and Laviolette basically said "we intend to be in every game." They sounded like they meant it.
Anyway, I got down to New York that fall, and saw them play that 11-1-1-1 record against the Rangers at Nassau. Wild atmosphere. Hometown Toronto never got this loud. I think the Isles opened the scoring, but the Rags whipped them 6-2 in an increasingly chippy game that included an early version of Theo Fleury's chicken dance.
The Rags weren't a playoff team that season, but the Isles were, nursing that early-season glory into a 96-point campaign, culminating in an unforgettably combustible first-round match against my hometown Leafs. I've never forgiven that rat Tucker for the Peca low-bridge; nor brother-in-law Corson's desperate kick against Cairns. And peals of "Steve Webb! Steve Webb! Steve Webb!" occasionally run through my mind as well. These were good times. Imperfect times, because the Isles weren't long for the playoffs that year, and Yashin never felt like a great signing, but to have a trophy winner in captain Peca, and a solid defensive core behind him, was the morale booster this team, and it's long-suffering fans, surely needed. The home games in that first round Leafs matchup were spine-tingling affairs. Peca's lone goal of the series, bursting from the penalty box to lift one over Cujo's suspect mitt. Bates' penalty shot goal. The brawling and braying in games four and six. A camera shot of my all-time favourite - Bossy - a returning hero, basking in the glow of the dizzyingly loud arena, high-fiving someone just off-camera.
Oh yeah. Islander hockey was alive and well in 2001-2002. My favourite season in the post-Arbour era.
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