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New York Islanders

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders hockey club was conceived as the NHL decided to put a hockey team in the newly built Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Islanders opened their innagural season in October, 1972 with a 3-2 loss to the visiting Altanta Flames. Victory that first season were quite a rare treat for Islander fans. They fininshed with only 12 wins to go along with 60 losses, and finished 72 points behind their bitter rivals, the New York Rangers. Their last place finish did have some upside - they received the first overall pick in the 1973 entry draft. The Islanders would draft Ottawa 67's defenseman Denis Potvin, a player who would soon shine as an Islander.

Also joining the Islanders organization that year as coach was Al Arbour. The 1973-74 season was somewhat of a learning exercise for the young team and new coach - the Islanders finished with a 19-41-18 record. The turnaround was apparent in the 1974-75 season, as an Islander team lead by Denis Potvin, Clark Gilles, and Billy Smith finished with 33 wins and their first ever birth in the NHL playoffs. Their first round opponents were the 'dreaded' New York Rangers, heavy favorites to win that series. But the Islanders had other plans and accomplished a major upset by defeating the Rangers in the best of three series. Their next round opponent were the Pittsburg Penguins, another prohibitive favorite. The Islanders lost the first three games, but came around to tie up the series at three games a piece. Game seven was scoreless until late in the third period when Eddie Westfall scored what would be the winning goal. The Islanders had found their way into the history books becoming only the second team since 1942 to come back from a 0-3 deficit. They faced off against the Flyers in the next round and were once again down three games. In a case of deja vu, the Islanders came back and tied up that series at three games each, but could not pull off another upset and lost to the Philadelphia team.

The Islanders continued to build out their team by adding young talent. Bryan Trottier joined them in the 1975-76 season and the next year Mike Bossy was drafted by the team. The Islanders were quickly becoming an NHL power to contend with, but lost to the underdog Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1978 playoffs. The 1978-79 year saw the Islanders post a league best 51-15-14 record, but lose to the Rangers in a six game series. The progression of the team would finally bear fruits in the playoffs as the Islanders made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 1980. They faced off against the Philadelphia Flyers, defeating them in a six game series with Bobby Nystrom scoring the game winning goal. The next three years saw the Islanders cememt their legendary hockey dynasty as they defeated the Minnesota North Stars, Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Oilers in 1981, 1982, and 1983 respectively, to win four straight Stanley Cups. Their quest for the 'five-peat' was crushed by the up and coming Edmonton Oilers, who defeated the Isles in five to win their first Stanley Cup in 1984.

With high expectations, the Islanders retooled through the mid-1980s and continued to add young talent to their roster. The likes of Pat Lafontaine, Pat Flatley, and Kelly Hrudey would be Islander mainstays for years to come. But what was missing was the championship spark the team had in the early 1980s. They continued to play a competitive brand of hockey through the late 1980s as most of the original stars began to leave or retire. The 1990s would prove to be an antithesis of their glory days. The Islanders made the NHL playoffs in 1992-93 season and had their most successful run in close to a decade. They defeated the Washington Capitals in the first round of playoffs and would go on to upset the defending champs, the Pittsburg Penguins in the second round. The Isles though could not make it past the Montreal Canadiens, losing in a five game series. The next year would see the Isles back in post season action, but they lost to the Rangers in the first round. The end of that season also marked the end of a historical era for the Islanders as Al Arbour retired as coach and moved to the position of Vice-President of Hockey Operations.

The Islanders managed to pry Mike Milbury from the Bruins and he took over as coach in 1995. The next few years saw the New York Islanders absent from the NHL playoffs, as they spun their wheels through botched trades and draft picks. The end of the decade saw continued changes on and off the ice as Mike Milbury stepped down as coach, with Bill Stewart, Butch Goring, and Peter Laviolette getting shots at coaching the team. The ownership situation also went through changes as Computer Associates founders, Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar purchased the team in 2000. The Islanders were back in the playoffs in 2002, where the young team lost in a hard fought and physical seven game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 2003 playoffs were somewhat of a letdown as a lethargic Islanders team lost to the Ottawa Senators in the first round in a five game series. The loss culminated in the firing of Peter Laviolette and the subsequent hiring of Steve Stirling as the eleventh coach in New Yorks Islanders history. The Islanders sneaked into the 2004 playoffs as the 8th ranked team in the Eastern Conference.

Their first round matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning proved to be too much and New York was defeated 4-1. Off the ice, co-owner Charles Wang unveiled an ambitious $200 million plan to renovate the Nassau Coliseum and construct a 60-story hotel and condominium tower on 70 acres next to the coliseum. The NY Islanders came out of the lockout year ready to make moves. They traded Michael Peca to the Edmonton Oilers for Mike York and signed free agents Miroslav Satan, Alexei Zhitnik, Brad Lukowich, and Brent Sopel. But things continue to slide downhill on Long Island with coach Steve Stirling fired early in 2006 and Mike Milbury announcing that he too would step down at the end of the year. The summer proved to be full of moves in the front office with Bryan Trottier and Pat Lafontaine moving into hockey roles, to be joined by new GM Neil Smith and coach Ted Nolan.

New York Islanders Overview:
Team name: New York Islanders
Founded: 1972
Arena: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Stanley Cups won: 4 (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983)

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