“I tell ya, I don’t get no respect at all.”
– Rodney Dangerfield
The New York Islanders currently sit in the tenth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a record of 13-14-3, and the team has shown signs of maturation this season despite some porous play, but this article won’t focus that much on the Isles’ accomplishments and shortcomings during the 2012-2013 NHL season.
Instead, this article will try to examine some of the ways that the Islanders have been given doormat treatment for the last few seasons. There is certainly a fine line between whining and complaining when it comes to one discussing the treatment that their NHL team gets on the ice (and I hope that I won’t cross the aforementioned line in this article), but some of these issues should at least be considered.
Where It All Became Obvious
Some Islanders fans may say that the lack of respect was made well apparent before the infamous Pittsburgh-New York melee, but I believe that the events following the aforementioned brawl revealed quite a lot about what the league thought about the New York Islanders and following ingrained rules.
The New York Islanders, Trevor Gillies, and Matt Martin were punished accordingly as the Islanders were fined $100,000 dollars and Gillies and Martin were each given multi-game suspensions. Martin, Gillies, and Eric Godard (leaving the bench) were all given additional fines and wound up forfeiting some of their respective salaries, but there was one thing that was missing when the dust settled and the fines and suspensions were handed out.
According to rule 70.10, additional sanctions should have been taken against the Pittsburgh Penguins as the rule clearly states:
Fines and Suspensions – The first player to leave the players’ or penalty bench illegally during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation from either or both teams shall be suspended automatically without pay for the next ten (10) regular League and/or Play-off games of his team.
The first part of this rule was absolutely followed as Godard was given a ten-game suspension for leaving the bench to come to Brent Johnson’s aid, but what followed still boggles the mind somewhat as we continue to traverse rule 70.10.
Any team that has a player penalized for being the first or second player to leave the players’ or penalty bench illegally during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation, shall be fined ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for the first instance. This fine shall be increased by five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each subsequent occurrence over the next following three-year period.
If memory serves correctly, the Pittsburgh Penguins were not monetarily penalized for Godard’s actions during the altercation, but that isn’t the only exclusion that is a bit perplexing. If one explores rule 70.10 a little bit further, then they’ll realize that one of the final paragraphs of the rule states that a coach (in this case it’d be Dan Bylsma) that has a player leave the players’ bench during an altercation will be suspended pending a league review and could be fined up to $10,000.
Not only did the NHL decide not enforce this rule against Bylsma, there was no fine levied against the coach either. While I certainly am not trying to cry over spilled milk when looking back at this scenario, the message that the NHL sent with their ruling seemed highly hypocritical – especially when the New York Islanders were penalized $100,000 for not being able to control their players. Furthermore, if the Islanders and Penguins were setting a bad precedent for the NHL through their actions on the ice, then why did the league’s disciplinarians decide not to exercise the most elementary rules involved in violating a set conduct policy?
My qualm is not with making things fair and having an eye for an eye exchange, but if one team is fined for not keeping their players under control, then how could another be left unpunished when it falls victim to the same circumstances in the same game?
Dion Phaneuf Loves Him Some John Tavares
On the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look back at some history between a specific Maple Leaf and a particular Islander. Dion Phaneuf’s love affair with John Tavares stretches back to 2011 when the defenseman introduced New York’s star center to the land of blindside hits.
Here’s a quick refresher for those that need their memories jogged:
It is hard to find a way to justify this hit, but in all fairness Tavares was cutting across the middle of the ice and probably wasn’t aware of Phaneuf being involved in the play. One can argue that Phaneuf delivered a bit of a high hit on this play or that the defenseman blindsided John Tavares, but what is more perplexing here is that there was no stoppage in play, no call by the referee, and certainly no review by NHL disciplinarians after the events had unfolded.
If the events from 2011 didn’t get Islanders fans riled up, then Phaneuf certainly drew the attention right back on himself this season with another beauty of a hit on Tavares.
Here’s the play that drew the ire of Isles fans this season:
The most recent Phaneuf hit on Tavares was much more blatant than those of years past, but nothing seems to change. Once again, no whistles were blown by the referees and the hit was never reviewed by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. After viewing the two above hits on Tavares, one has to question whether it will take Tavares (or any one of New York’s other players) getting seriously injured before some form of discipline is handed out, whether it be on or off the ice.
Instead of reverting to the “If this was Player X, then this team would be rewarded Y” argument, I pose a hypothetical question. If the NHL is trying to better the safety of its players and protect them from potentially devastating brain injuries, then does it take a serious injury to a player in order to identify an offender?
Along the way there have also been some calls that referees have conveniently missed when it comes to the Isles’ play on the ice.
Several plays from the last couple of years come to mind immediately.
A mystery delay of game (due to a puck over the boards) that New York received last season against the San Jose Sharks in overtime resulted in the opposition scoring a game-winning goal against the Islanders. In similar fashion, the New York Rangers were given a questionable powerplay opportunity in overtime against the Islanders several weeks ago that also culminated in the game-winning goal being scored on the man-advantage. While the referees certainly were not responsible for the Islanders’ defensive play and the way that they defended on the penalty kill against the Rangers, one must also consider the fact that the Islanders were not given a powerplay for the whole game – something that was highly questionable as both sides were playing relatively clean hockey, but with one team clearly benefiting in terms of powerplay time.
Every team is subject to questionable calls and it is the job of an NHL team and its players to rebound after bad calls are made. Despite the fact that the New York Islanders have experienced their fair share of bad calls over the last few years, it doesn’t seem as though the Isles’ luck will change any time soon as the latest round of calls against New York have been the ultimate head-scratchers.
Here’s the latest play in question:
The last time I checked, the words stop and kick had different meanings in the English dictionary, but I may be in need of a refresher because according to the above play the words are interchangeable.
If this wasn’t enough to get Islanders fans ticked off, then the referees certainly endeared themselves to the crowd several minutes later when they missed Ottawa gaining entry into New York’s offensive zone by knocking in the puck via a high stick – a play that ultimately led to the Senators scoring the game-winning goal. Even though miscues by the referees during the last several minutes of Tuesday night’s contest played a role in the outcome of the game, in the end, the Islanders were responsible for their fate as they once again could not hold a lead going into the third period.
The onus will ultimately be on the Islanders to make a playoff push, and relying on the referees to see every little detail in a game is not a hockey player’s job, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some clear-cut plays be judged correctly.
The NHL’s Dangerfields?
All in all, the New York Islanders have earned their fair share of respect over the last few years, whether it be from other teams, fans, officials, or other parties. For a team that may seem to some as being in a constant rebuild process, the Islanders have come a long way to garnering some respect by playing and working hard.
Bringing up events that are already in the record books won’t put points back on the Eastern Conference Playoff standings, but it might serve to show that the New York Islanders haven’t exactly had the utmost support from the league and its officials over the last few years. The only way that the Islanders can rectify such a situation is through a continuous and dedicated work ethic on the ice, and with the leadership of John Tavares and Mark Streit, New York will continue to do just that as the season progresses.
Whether or not the Islanders are the NHL’s Dangerfields is up to the individual to decide, but there has certainly been some evidence to entertain such a thought in one’s mind. Has there not?