Brooklyn Boro

Change provides ‘opportunity’ for Isles

Post-Tavares era begins in earnest with training camp set to open

September 6, 2018 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Veteran forward Casey Cizikas and the rest of the Brooklyn-based Islanders are looking forward to training camp in advance of the upcoming 2018-19 season. AP Photo by Kathy Willens
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John Tavares was the face of the New York Islanders from the moment he was selected first overall in the 2009 NHL Draft.

And now he’s gone.

Garth Snow had been the Brooklyn-based franchise’s chief decision-maker for a dozen years.

And now he’s gone.

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Doug Weight served a one and a half-year stint as the Islanders’ head coach, missing the playoffs at the end of both seasons.

And now he’s gone.

The Islanders moved into the Barclays Center in 2015 on what was then called an “iron-clad” 25-year lease agreement.

Come the 2021-22 season, they’ll be gone.

A truly turbulent offseason, one which saw Tavares sign as a free agent with his hometown Maple Leafs, Hall of Fame executive Lou Lamoriello unseat Snow, and Stanley Cup-winning head coach Barry Trotz replace Weight at the helm, is nearly over as the Isles prepare to enter training camp for the upcoming season.

But for all the change that has come their way during this sweltering summer in Downtown Brooklyn, the Isles are looking forward to one routine that never changes: the business of preparing for an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, a return to the playoffs.

“I’m just trying to come in here and prove myself all over again,” noted veteran Isles forward Casey Cizikas on the team’s website this week following an informal skate at the team’s Northwell Health Ice Center on Long Island.

“I feel like a rookie coming into his first training camp,” he added. “So, I’m just going to work extremely hard and do what I’ve done that’s gotten me to this point in my career and I’m just going to keep trying to get better.”

As will the rest of the Isles, albeit without Tavares, who passed up a chance to ink a long-term deal with the only NHL franchise he has ever skated for this past July, instead opting to lace up his skates in Toronto for the next seven years.

Cizikas, who was taken in the fourth round the same year Tavares burst on the scene as a future two-time Hart Trophy finalist and perennial All-Star, hinted that fellow forwards like reigning Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey are looking forward to picking up the slack for their departed team captain.

“You never want to see a guy like that leave, but it gives a lot more opportunity for other guys,” said Cizikas, who had seven goals and 10 assists in 64 games last season.

“There’s a lot of minutes to be made up there and you just have to do whatever you can to push for it.”

Trotz, coming off a breathtaking run to the Stanley Cup title with the Washington Capitals, will be responsible for creating that “push” as Lamoriello has already mandated that the Isles must return to the dominant form that saw them win four consecutive Cups in the 1980s.

Playing for his third head coach in the past three seasons — former head man Jack Capuano was ousted in favor of Weight midway through the 2016-17 campaign — Cizikas believes Trotz’s voice will carry some gravitas with an Isles team that has advanced past the first round of the playoffs just once since 1993.

“Success has followed him wherever he’s been and last year was a perfect example of that,” Cizikas said of Trotz, who has compiled a .564 winning percentage, 11 playoff appearances and last year’s Cup during his nearly 20-year coaching career.

“It’s definitely going to be fun and we’re going to be listening to everything he has to say and everything he wants us to do,” Cizikas added. “Going into the season it’ll be exciting.”

Another change the Isles will have to adapt to this year will be the splitting of home venues between the Barclays Center and the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum, now known as NYCB Live.

The team will play approximately half of its home games at the Coliseum over the next three years while their state-of-the-art new arena is being built in Elmont, N.Y., adjacent to the legendary Belmont Race Track.

Beginning with the Sept. 16 exhibition opener against Philadelphia in Uniondale, N.Y., the Isles will have to get used to having two home rinks, one a shrine to their historic greatness and the other a place they apparently can’t wait to get out of.

But by now, dealing with organizational upheaval and seemingly constant change has become the norm for these Isles.

They are doubtlessly hoping the biggest change comes next spring with their first trip back to the playoffs since 2016.

Isle Have Another: On Thursday, the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency approved tax breaks for the Isles’ planned renovations at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, according to the Associated Press … The Islanders will also play two preseason games on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues this month, hosting the Flyers on Sept. 18 and the New Jersey Devils on Sept. 20. New York will also open the 2018-19 season at Barclays Center on Oct. 6 against Nashville.


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