The New York Islanders of the Torrey-Arbour era were formidable. Quality, depth, skill and a massive mean streak, the club had impact players who were complemented by a large group of role players. Although Bill Torrey didn’t invent the trade deadline, he famously used it to put his team over the top in 1980.
It didn’t take a long time for the Islanders to win. Their first draft picks (expansion and amateur) came in 1972 and they won their first Stanley in 1980. Nine seasons. It’ll be six seasons since 2006 summer for the Oilers at the end of this campaign.
Islanders had 12 wins in their first season and 19 the next–that was the season they hired Al Arbour. 33 wins in year three and then 42, 47, 48, 51 and then 39 in the season the Islanders won their first Stanley.
Bill Torrey, Al Arbour and a bunch of hockey men with names like Gerry Ehman and Earl Ingarfield quickly became one of the “have” teams at the draft table during the 1970s. Montreal, Boston, Toronto, Buffalo, Philadelphia and the Islanders had better scouting and there was no central scouting bureau at the time.
- 1972: Billy Harris, Bob Nystrom, Garry Howatt, Lorne Henning, Richard Brodeur
- 1973: Denis Potvin, Dave Lewis, Bob Lorimer, Lorne Henning
- 1974: Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies, Dave Langevin, Stefan Persson
Plus they were always buying a Chico Resch here or trading two old bolts for Bob Bourne. They collected talent and inserted said talent when ready. Some of those kids came right to the NHL, and others–mostly defensemen–came along a few years after they were drafted. The universal draft made eligible 20-year old kids through 1973 and the 1974 draft allowed one underager per team (said player had to be drafted in round one or two, Trottier was the Isles choice).
The key elements to the success of the Islanders came from Oakland, Charles Finley and the broken down Seals. Brad Kurtzberg wrote a book on the Seals called (aptly) Shorthanded, and it includes this item on Torrey’s dealings with the Seals owner:
Bill Torrey and the people he knew built a dynasty on Long Island, but it could just as easily have been put together in Oakland. Does anyone seriously believe Bill Torrey–the man who walked the streets of Montreal for an hour before the 1973 draft with Sam Pollock alongside trying to talk him out of Denis Potvin–would have traded the pick that became Guy Lafleur?
Both the Oilers and Islanders are drafting well, both have outstanding prospects in all areas of their farm system and a few at the NHL level. The key comes in taking those talents and marrying them to veteran players who can help them develop and win by mentoring them.
In a very real way, we don’t have to wonder about Steve Tambellini and Garth Snow, we already have the answer. Islander and Oiler fans are waiting on the ownership to move on to the next phase. In Edmonton, I believe Stu MacGregor has done a fine job–it’s on display in Edmonton with the Oilers, in Calgary and Edmonton at the WJ’s, in Medicine Hat with the Tigers and in OKC.
The Oilers have their lottery talents, it’s the Chico Resch’s and Eddie Westfall’s they need to add, their Gerry Hart’s and Billy Smith’s.
Steve Tambellini believes the Oilers have the pieces in place to make a playoff run. That isn’t the question I’m asking. The question is what does Daryl Katz believe? How long is he willing to watch his lottery kids play for a team that’s driving in the ditch?
Nation Radio’s New Year’s eve show hits Team 1260 at noon today. You can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop them off here in the comments section. You can also check @itsnationradio or @lowetide_ on twitter and I welcome your questions and comments.
- Jonathan Willis will be on the show for the entire first hour. Jon has a mountain of information on the world juniors, advanced stats as they pertain to this year’s edition of the Oilers and the NHL in general.
- Scott Taylor from Jets Nation. There’s a story brewing here and it involves Winnipeg pushing Toronto out of the playoffs. Scott will give us the Jets view and we’ll talk WJ’s.
- Pension Plan Puppets have several smart people who monitor the Leafs and one of them will join me today. We’ll talk about the rocky relationship the fanbase has with their goalies and also discuss the importance of the numbers 18-14-5.
Hope you can tune in. We’ll also be discussing cool ways to bring in the New Year, so pass along your suggestions.