Don't hold your breath on the NHL stepping in to help halt the downward spiral of the New York Islanders franchise.
In his Friday blog for ESPN Insider, E.J. Hradek sat down Deputy Commish Bill Daly for a little Q&A. During the interview, Hradek asked how the league felt about suggestions that the NHL should intercede in the Islanders affairs, as suggested by NY Post writer Larry Brooks in a Dec. 5 column. Here's Daly's response:
"I don't think this is a situation that even comes close to warranting the league stepping in," Daly said. "You know, Charles Wang bought this franchise more than 10 years ago. He's expended numerous amounts of his own personal resources building the franchise and trying to build a winner on Long Island in very difficult business conditions because of the arena he plays in. He continues through the process of trying to secure a future for that franchise and having a new arena."
Sounds like the league still supports Wang in full, with Daly even pushing the Lighthouse Project angle with his allusion to "difficult business conditions." When Gary Bettman attended the Columbus Day game between the Rangers and Isles, he too seemed to be lobbying the Long Island politicians with his comments to the media. To that end, Daly's comments seem to be status quo from the NHL, despite sagging attendance numbers and a dismal showing in the standings.
I spoke with Hradek a little more about the possibility of NHL intervention about five minutes ago. Drawing on his past discussions with league personnel over the years, and particularly the recent example in Phoenix, he noted that it would essentially take a financial catastrophe for the league to intervene with the Islanders. Players missing paychecks, missed lease payments -- if the Isles bottom out in that way, the NHL could get involved. Right now though, the Islanders are not in a financial fix. They may not be spending big money, and Wang may be giving the impression he doesn't even care about this club, but they're still abiding by the league's rules.
In the Insider interview, Daly goes on to say he feels the Islanders' situation gets exacerbated because of the team's struggles this season and that they're in a different phase of their rebuild project, investing in the draft and waiting for prospects to develop. He closes by saying he believes Wang is "trying to secure the long-term future viability of that franchise on Long island." Sure, but do Islanders fans have to suffer until that happens?
On one hand I agree with Daly. Wang has certainly invested plenty of money in players in the past -- he just happened to invest in the wrong players. But the empty seats, the disrepair of the Coliseum and a salary cap situation in which the Islanders only meet the league minimum because they're still paying those same wrong players -- players who aren't even playing anymore -- certainly paints a poor picture of the franchise. It would be nice for Wang to do a little more for the Isles faithful. In the words of Carl Spackler, "How about a little something, you know, for the effort?"