John Rolfe of SI Response (Updated 7/28)

New York Islander Fan Central | 7/26/2008 07:00:00 AM | |
John Rolfe of SI responded to my e-mail, I thought I would share his response with my blog readers and give you my follow up e-mail to him.

Agree or disagree I respect Mr Rolfe for responding and thank him for his effort.
John Rolfe SI:
Thanks for the note.

My perspective, and what I tend to write about in my columns, is
different than the other hockey writers here. As for the Isles' 2008-09
prospects, plenty of that will be forthcoming from Allan Muir, Michael
Farber and others, who are much better with the Xs and Os and inside
scuttlebutt than I am.

I mostly write from a fan's feelings, experiences and perspective -- and
though it seems like I only bash the Islanders, they are still my
favorite hockey team. I grew up within walking distance of the Nassau
Coliseum and practically lived there through the dynasty years and into
the 90s. Getting married, having a family and moving off the island has
limited my attendance for obvious reasons, but I've continued to follow
them, often with great astonishment and dismay. After witnessing the
greatness of a team I've loved more than any other in any sport, I can't
quite believe the turmoil and struggle that has consumed the franchise
for so long. I was extremely hopeful and excited when the Isles hired
Neil Smith and Ted Nolan in 2006, and shocked when Smith left a month
later to be replaced by Garth Snow, who had served no front office
apprenticeship like Steve Yzerman is doing in Detroit. I think Charles
Wang has his heart in the right place, and wants to win, but I wonder
about his knowledge of hockey and if he too easily falls prey to guys
who talk a good game.

While I admired Snow for going for broke with the Ryan Smyth deal, I
think it's fair to say the jury is still out on his effectiveness as a
GM, though his taking the building-with-kids route is the sensible path
since top free agents aren't exactly falling all over themselves to come
to the Island. How good this latest crop of kids will be is anybody's
guess. Who foresaw Henrik Zetterberg becoming a Conn Smythe-winner after
he was drafted by the Red Wings in the seventh round in '99? As I've
said in my columns, anything can happen...but what's been happening with
the Islanders for the last 20 years has been rather amazing. It's not
just run-of-the-mill struggle. It's been crazy at times, and the Nolan
dismissal felt like the latest chapter. He may have had his
disagreements with Snow and DiPietro, but he was the kind of coach who
can get the most out of teams that have to give their utmost each night
in order to have a chance to win. To that end, I'd like to see the Isles
bring in John Tortorella, although he may be a little too high strung
for their young crew.

Hey, I know how annoying it is to see your favorite team criticized. It
pains me to write this stuff, but I find the story compelling given what
I witnessed in the early 80s. The Islander Follies gallery, by the way,
was the idea of a fellow Isles fan in our photo department who has known
only the struggle and the handful of modest successes like the recent
playoff appearances. I've heard from quite a few Isles fans who remain
extremely hopeful about this team, and I certainly hope their faith is
justified in coming seasons. They deserve a winner after all they've
been through. Unfortunately, it seems to be more the rule than the
exception in pro sports that teams put their fans through the ringer for
long stretches, and I think that's mainly due to astute management being
a rare commodity. The Isles' struggles have just been a little more
bizarre than most, at times anyway.

I really appreciate your taking the time to write in.
Best wishes, John Rolfe
My followup e-mail goes as follows:

Mr Rolfe, Thank you for responding.

First off you should know New York Islander Fan Central is a blog that covers our team through long experience going back before this team won it's first Stanley Cup in 1980, as far back as games in 1975 when they played on Wor channel nine in New York.

No blog works harder in the search for facts and truth whether positive or negative, but only asks that what is reported is fair.

The only thing that is coming from Mr Muir or Mr Farber is more of what you just did or Scott Burnside/Adam Proteau. These people could not go ten deep on the Isles current roster without it in front of them which is the problem. We never get the x or o from these writers just more of what you just did.

I have seen this article from you once a year, usually when something goes wrong and always you admit to loving the club and being a fan. I have to ask what's so bad about a club that has made it to the playoffs in four of the last six years? Compare this to Florida, Phoenix, Chicago, Toronto, the Rangers who have done nothing that the Isles did not do when they returned to the playoffs and a ton of clubs like Nashville or Columbus/Atlanta/St Louis, Los Angeles that have won virtually nothing.

Tampa just fired a cup winning coach for a broadcaster, kept it's gm in moth balls for a draft and free agency before sending him packing and thretended Dan Boyle out of town off a new long-term contract where he ripped the franchise. Did they sign so many players no one noticed?

Meanwhile everyone signed here or resigned with virtually no problem at some very good contracts including Hunter for five years and Witt for three years at below market value.

Dean Lombardi went to Los Angeles and just fired his first choice as coach the same year Snow and Nolan were hired. Lou Lamoriello fires coaches in first place in March, Colorado just fired Joel Quenneville to bring back Tony Granato. Brett Hull has as much experience as Garth Snow going in.

I don't know if Mr Wang falls prey to guys who talk a good game, if he did he would be far from alone. You really think Charles Wang wanted all this negative press, to pay Nolan 600k to stay home and pay a new coach on top of it? Even worse Nolan for what Wang did for him according to Chris Botta had problems with his veterans, with his prospects and did everything to act like a selfish man, some of those newsday reports by Greg Logan had a lot of mistakes and by the time other media outlets interpreted the story things just became even worse with more skewed fiction from fact.

Garth Snow according to Mr Botta is operating on the same one year contract Nolan was and had not been given an extension either, who gives any coach longer term than it's gm?

Of course the jury is still out on Snow but he's locked up the youth and has given them a spot on this roster. The plan Mike Milbury did not see through. Like Florida it could fail miserably but unlike Milbury's plan there is more than Mattias Weinhandl behind the current plan with a lot of first and second rounders who have been waiting since 2003.

The last twenty years have little to do with the last six. A period where this club had the fourth best turnaround in NHL history in 2002 and made the playoffs three other times, you cannot gloss over that and even note the Rangers have turned a corner but not the Isles or it's not a consistent standard.

I never have ANY problem with my favorite team being criticized but for me it has to be for the correct reasons or it comes off as unfair or from a viewpoint that lacks knowledge or just wants to pile on. The Rangers for eight years lost with double the Isles payroll with a ton of dissention and problems and did not take this kind of beating in the media, same for a lot of other franchises in this league that have struggled far worse than the Isles.

Just one other thing. The Isles since summer 2006 have never done better in free agency in the clubs history. Not in the eighties, nineties or in the years they had Yashin, Peca. Something folks in the media have not noted at all.

I really appreciate your taking the time to write back. I hope you consider some of what I have written here, it's time for a new angle, one that reflects 2008-09.

New York Islander Fan Central
Updated 7/28:

Mr Rolfe again responded with the following:

And thanks for your thoughtful response. You make a lot of great points. I can't speak for the other writers although I can say the Islanders saga has attracted a certain consistently negative media attention because of its duration and occasionally bizarre turns which make it a more widely compelling dryspell story -- and it is New York where foul-ups, bleeps and blunders quickly get the spotlight (see: the Yankees, Mets and especially Knicks). From time to time, our writers have looked at other franchises -- Jim Kelley frequently takes the Maple Leafs to task for their incompetence and Al Muir has gotten after the Blackhawks and Bruins, although not to the extent of putting a photo gallery together.

As for me, having experienced a dynasty as well as a team that went deeper than the first round of the playoffs with some regularity, I feel a certain frustration at the Islanders' ability to get untracked and stay untracked. That same feeling is shared by my younger Isles fan colleague in our photo department. Each change of ownership brought hope of better things that never materialized. After the great turnaround under Laviolette, the momentum was quickly lost, as it was with Nolan. Yeah, it's kneejerk thinking and the here-we-go-again story is getting old. I agree it's time to focus on the future and I'll be sure to have Al Muir who whoever does our team previews give an evenhanded assessment of the team's on-ice talent and prospects.

I appreciate your comments and our dialogue.
Best wishes,