Islanders Wrap-Up to a Memorable Year

By Bill Bennett

Here we are a year later, the Islanders finished the
2001-02 season with ninety six points. If they had won
game seven they would have had the highest total of
any playoff team remaining in the Eastern Conference

The SoundTigers in their first season won the AHL’s
regular season point championship, and swept their way
into the Eastern Conference Championships.

Only four AHL expansion teams have ever won the Calder
Cup. Bridgeport opens Friday against Hamilton.
It’s been a great year, fitting of a franchise with a
rich history celebrating it’s 30th anniversary. The
Islanders missed winning the Atlantic Division by a
single point on the final weekend.

A season with the fourth highest improvement in NHL
History, a forty four point increase, an eighth
overall finish in the league.

And the future is getting very bright.

Anyone who has followed the outstanding reports on the
SoundTigers see the Islander prospects having standout
playoffs for Bridgeport.

The Playoffs:

It was a very bitter playoff series with the Leafs,
one of the most physical in years. To see both teams
hold home ice is rare in today’s NHL playoffs over a
seven game series. It played very much like a Stanley
Cup Final and when it was over the Isles had every
reason to leave with heads held high and as winners,
regardless of the end result.

The Coliseum:

It was Special, Fun and the building rocked as the
Nassau Coliseum became Fort Never-Lose again as the
Isles went 3-0 in games three, four and six. They
outworked, outhit and outscored the Leafs. They ran
Cujo off the ice in game three with an avalanche of
goals as Yashin put up the points and shed his Ottawa
image as the Isles leading playoff scorer with seven
points in seven games.

Where the series was lost:

The series was lost in the first two games in

You do not bring your best game and drive to the net,
your not going to do much scoring and when you put
yourself in a 2-0 series hole, it’s asking a lot to
climb out of.

The Isles did climb out and more but this is where you
need to win a game. In the end it played a big part in
the final result.

The Islanders had a 1-0 lead going into the third
period of game one, and for the first time all season
the Islanders lost.

What was critical is the Isles did not put any
pressure on and try to open up that lead and looked
like they were sitting back as they did in a late
season game at Boston.

In game two Curtis Joseph made some outstanding first
saves, but without rebounds and screens in front it
did not happen and the Islanders lost 1-0 with the
goalies in the net. On the other end of the ice Chris
Osgood was getting banged into several times and this
played a key factor as the series wore on as the Leafs
drove to the net for chances. Osgood played a much
better series than he got credit for.

Michael Peca and Kenny Jonsson played close to seven
periods in Toronto during this series, at which time
the Isles were outscored 5-1 with the goalies in the
net. They did not create many second chances or
rebound chances and gave Curtis Joseph a much easier
time than he had on Long Island. The Isles did score
five goals at ACC after Peca and Jonsson were injured.

The Officiating:

In a word, the work was unprofessional on several

Whether you agree or disagree with calls, rules are
rules and they are expected to be applied. To see an
official not have a clue as what to call on Gary
Roberts for his center ice run that gave Kenny Jonsson
a concussion and broke his helmet cannot be excused.

On the ice as Jonsson lay out cold, the official could
not figure out whether to call two minutes, five
minutes or what the rules called for which was a game
misconduct on a head injury.

Conventional thinking on penalty shots has always been
a player moving in coming straight down the middle,
being pulled down with a clear path to the net. But it
seems that a mandate was made to call more shots as
three were taken in round one. Fans can make a good
point on both sides of the Bates penalty shot call.

Again there seems to be no plan that the fans can
follow. The players, coaches and executives are
confused because every game is called different.

About Game Five and Corson:

It’s impossible to get into the minds of these
players, I will not attempt to. All that can be said
as someone who taped the games and saw the hits is the

Gary Roberts started his run at center ice and drove
Jonsson’s head into the glass with a force that broke
a helmet that was specially designed for a player with
concussion problems. He pushed Jonsson’s head to the
boards and ice after the hit. Jonsson was quoted as
saying that hit would have given any player a
concussion in the days that followed, and his only
recent mild-concussion was a shot to the jaw that had
him miss a couple of games with no lasting effects.

Before that it’s been over two full years since a
concussion, despite being in the trenches every game.

Micheal Peca did predict what Tucker was attempting to
do beforehand. What you may not have read anywhere
about the hit was that Peca was playing defense at the
time because the Isles power play was going with an
extra forward on the point because of Jonsson’s

It was likely the first time all season Peca even
played defense. Tucker said Peca jumped and that is
why the his hip-check got the knee, anyone who taped
the game and saw the play, clearly see Peca’s skates
never left the ice.

Old time Hockey ? Not quite.

The Corson kick to Eric Carins hip and his comments
were a total disgrace and merited a long suspension,
not a one-game slap on the wrist that seemed like a
makeup call the league office made to take pressure
off itself.

What did happen is that Shayne Corson moved forward
toward Cairns after losing a fight and standing
straight up kicked a player on his hip down on both
knees, who was being held down by the officials.

Anyone who did see the fight and has the tape can see
what Carins was grabbing, Corson’s jersey, which was
over his head. The two heads never came close to

Is there anything that can be said to defend Corson’s
actions ?


No penalty or suspension changes the ramifications of
the injuries to Peca or Jonsson and the Isles ability
to be competitive. At that moment the Isles chance at
coming out of the Eastern Conference ended, even if
they got past Toronto.

For writers to compare the way the Leafs were injured
or out before the series began to the way key select
Islanders were injured on ice and call it some kind of
war of attrition is not accurate.

In the end the Islanders exit the 2002 playoffs as

What’s ahead:

Clearly to become an Islander it is now going to have
to be earned and whatever prospects are added to the
current roster will be able to progress with the
quality veterans that were not here in past years to
help them.

Trent Hunter got on the map for the Islanders in a big
way, it’s now up to who can win the jobs in training
camp for the few spots available.

Kip Miller is an unrestricted free agent, and led the
Isles with four goals and a big part of the teams
playoff powerplay.

The lack of defensive depth thru the system became
very clear once Kenny Jonsson was injured and another
key factor by the end of the series that led to the

Dick Tarnstrom, who was the fou
rth defender, never
came back from the Olympic Break the same player and
was injured and demoted to the third pairing and
eventually the bench. Evgeny Korolev (23) was not on
the SoundTigers clear day roster and spent too much
time in the stands with the Isles and the lack of
confidence showed often when his chances came as he
played a consistent game six and made an early
critical error in game seven and was back on the

Branislav Mezei is just not ready to make the impact
his potential suggests at this age. Ray Giroux, Ken
Sutton were not considered for games six and seven.

In the end it came down to Ray Schultz, who was
brought up to be tough, but also found himself playing
quality minutes in a game seven. For the team to go
all the way down to Schultz is not a good sign about
their defensive prospects at the end of the year,
despite the solid series by Van Impe, who came in at
the trade deadline for a fifth rd pick.

Decisions need to be made this summer regarding
Mattias Weinhandl playing at the World Championships
and Kristofer Ottoson, a highly rated prospect in the
Swedish Leagues who is in his mid-twenties.

Late rd pick Tomi Pettinen came over to join the
SoundTigers defense for the AHL playoffs, he is not
under contract but rumor has him signing to play in
North America next season.

Next year’s Team:

This teams payroll is going up a lot just with
contract increases for Yashin, Peca. Aucoin can go to
arbitration and make a case for a very high salary
with his minutes and solid play, Parrish can do the

If the same team comes back the payroll will come
close to forty million. The Coliseum is not built for
this kind of payroll, regardless of sellouts.

Van Impe, Cairns and some other players need to be
signed to new contracts. Weinhandl and Ottoson may be
coming to North America, and Ottoson at age twenty six
is not going to want to play in Bridgeport.

Michael Peca will likely not be a part of this team
until well after Christmas, it may well take the
entire season and following summer to become the
player he was because there are no shortcuts with this
kind of injury. Following the progress of Radek
Martinek or Radek Dvorak should give folks a good
roadmap as to what Peca will have to do to get back.

Peca’s absence leaves a big hole that may have to be
replaced outside the organization. The team also wants
to find Yashin a winger who can put the puck in the
net because Czerkawski was not that player and Parrish
is best suited to playing in front of the goal as a
second line winger. Yashin needs someone who can get
him the puck on the move and score to open up the ice.

One move that may help is a trade of Czerkawski and
Scatchard (who did not have great seasons or playoffs)
to Edmonton for a player they will have a problem
resigning in Anson Carter. Carter helps take some of
Peca’s minutes at center and can play wing with Yashin
at a cheaper price.

Darius Kasparaitis’s agent wants four million dollars
and that is where the open bidding will go, the Isles
cannot afford that if they are really interested in
one of the three prime right wings that will be
unrestricted. (Guerin, Amonte, Selanne)