Shurmur Hopes to Rejuvenate Eli Apple

It is hard to believe that Eli Apple will turn 23 years old this summer and that he will do so in the midst of what will be his third NFL training camp.

It is even harder to believe that the New York Giants cornerback needs a clean slate at this point in his career, but that is what the organization and head coach Pat Shurmur are promising him.

[Dyer: Rookies Learning ‘Giants Way’ With an Edge]

Apple has a mulligan, a chance to start over again under Shurmur, who has repeatedly commented about how the former first-round pick is getting a fresh look from the coaching staff. It was a difficult 2017 for Apple, who had struggles on and off the field and was at one point suspended by former head coach Ben McAdoo.

A bounce-back year from Apple is not only possible but certainly plausible as he showed solid coverage and good instincts in 2016 as a rookie.

A return to form for Apple would be key for a revamped Giants secondary, a unit that struggled last year giving up plays over the top. The fact that Shurmur is so emphatic in wanting Apple checked-in and fully engaged is certainly the right approach as the team goes through a roster makeover.

The message of a fresh start, Shurmur said, was made clear to Apple.

“I did with all the players and I think that’s important,” Shurmur said Monday as the Giants started Organized Team Activities (OTAs). “What you’re trying to do is inspire these guys to play at their best and I hear things, but I can’t truly say I know exactly what happened because I wasn’t here. But, I do know this, there are guys out here that are very prideful, they’re very professional and they want to do really good things and Eli is one of them.”

Shurmur went so far as to say that in terms of stature and skillset, Apple is in many ways his prototype at cornerback.

Perhaps Apple, after health concerns for his family were a distraction and then an alleged falling out with the last coaching staff, will be free in 2018 to get back to playing football. His individual ability on a wide receiver has been strong, as his ability to read and react in coverage.

Combine that with another year in the NFL spent getting bigger and stronger and Apple could be primed to take a step forward. After all, he already has two years in the league at an age when many cornerbacks are entering their first rookie minicamps.

“I’m sure glad that I truly believe in a clean slate,” Shurmur said. “[Apple has] been nothing but professional, he’s been out here competing, he’s one of the guys that has been here almost every single day and I haven’t seen anything that somebody might have thought I heard. He’s been great.”

Posted on

Larrapin’ Lou Lassos The Islanders

“I’ll Do It My Way.”
(Song By Frank Sinatra, 1969; Lou Lamoriello Theme, Always)

Minutes after his New Jersey Devils were awarded their first Stanley Cup by Commissioner Gary Bettman in 1995, Lou Lamoriello raced past me down the corridor at the Meadowlands Arena.

“What’s the rush?” I asked the general manager who — I figured — should have been celebrating with his troops. “Where are you going?”

Momentarily breaking his stride, Lamoriello turned to me and uttered the words, as he did on the conference call Tuesday afternoon, hailing his appointment as the Islanders President of Hockey Operations.

“I’m heading for the office,” Lou shot back, “I have to start preparing for next season.”

Imagine a man so dedicated that he celebrated a Cup win for about two minutes and then dashed back to work as if this was an ordinary day.

At age, 75, Lamoriello could have taken a lifetime “advisor” job with the Maple Leafs at $800,000 a year. But that’s not Lou because he always wanted a real hockey job where he does what he did in New Jersey.

Doing it his way he said no to the consultant job in Toronto, where nobody would listen to him anymore anyway.

When Islanders co-owner Scott Malkin offered Lou a gig to be boss-of-all bosses with so storied a franchise, it was a no-brainer for the New Englander, who will bring his Providence accent to Brooklyn.

In the conference call, The Maven opened with this: Why did he take the job in the first place?

“I was impressed with the conversation I had with (Islanders co-owner) Scott Malkin and his vision and support of the Islanders,” he said. “I look on it as a challenge to bring the Islanders back to where they were.”

[Fischler: Lou To the Islanders Rescue]

Typically Lou, he couldn’t wait to join the conference call. He was ready to take questions 10 minutes before it actually began. Once again, he proved there’s no fooling around with Lamoriello; he’s all business.

Many in the media wanted to know how he felt about retaining GM Garth Snow — a personal friend of Lou — and coach Doug Weight.

“I didn’t come in with any preconceived notions,” he revealed. “I want to take a step back and see exactly what the people who they have in place have to offer. I want to know what their vision is and will make decisions as we go along.”

It was apparent that — true to his style — the new boss would not reveal anything remotely related to the Islanders specific plans.

That included his feelings about John Tavares who — according to reports — met with Lou privately last week.

“Everyone in the NHL knows about John Tavares. He’s an elite player and a gentleman on and off the ice; a quality individual and a quality player.”

Then, a pause and cautionary advice for the reporters: “When it comes to talking to players; whether it be contracts; whether it be personally; whether it be coaches — anything that has to do with their own individual situation, I will never comment about it. I haven’t in the past and I won’t.”

New Islanders President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello explains why he took the role with the team and talks about his vision for the organization going forward.

The calendar tells Lou that there’s not a lot of time to prepare for the annual NHL Draft, which takes place June 22 and 23 in Dallas. How will he proceed with only a month remaining?

“I always lean on the people who are incumbent,” he explained. “I have to use whatever time is there to do whatever I feel is the right decision.

“There’s no time frame for anything. When I have to make a decision, I make it. If I have the time, I’ll use it.”

If Lou had any hard feelings about the Maple Leafs not renewing his GM job, he concealed them well.

Lamoriello: “I have nothing but the highest feeling for the Maple Leafs organization. I worked with professionals from Mike Babcock, Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter.

“We had tremendous communication and I’ll always have a soft spot for the Leafs organization.”

When some of the reporters mentioned that it was good having him back on the Metropolitan New York hockey scene, Lou acknowledged that he will be pleased returning to the Big Apple.

“Being with the Devils as long as I was and enjoying so many nice moments, I learned that there’s nothing like winning. But it’s not like I’m going directly from the Devils to the Islanders.”

It’s been more than three decades since he made his New Jersey debut so I wondered whether his competitive juices still are flowing fast.

“If I didn’t have it,” he squelched, “I wouldn’t be here today. I feel good about what I’m doing; making sure I physically feel good and do the right things.”

[Read Official Press Release]

Those who know Lou best refer to him as an “Anti-Braggart,” never one to blow his own horn.

If braggadocio was his modus operandi, he could cite deals that enabled New Jersey to win Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003; not to mention just missing a fourth Stanley Cup in 2001.

Highlighting his prowess, the following is a list of his most successful acquisitions:

1. NEAL BROTEN, FEBRUARY 27, 1995: Acquired from the Dallas Stars in exchange for center Corey Millen. In 30 games with the Devils, Broten registered 28 points, en route to helping New Jersey hoist its’ first Cup. Meanwhile, Millen accumulated just 18 points in 28 games for the Stars and was then shipped to Calgary midway through the following season.

2. CLAUDE LEMIEUX, NOVEMBER 3, 1999: Lamoriello pulled off his last heist of the 20th Century when he acquired the right winger from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for underperforming center, Brian Rolston. The Avs ended up flipping Rolston to the Bruins later that same season. Meanwhile, Lemieux pulled together 17 goals for the Devs en route to their second Cup.

3. BOBBY HOLIK, AUGUST 28, 1992: The Devils acquisition Holik was critical in two of the Devils’ Cups, in which he had big performances. The 6’3” Czech center finished sixth in Devils history with 472 points and third in goals with 202.

4. ILYA KOVALCHUK, FEBRUARY 4, 2010: With the Russian sniper set to hit the free agent market, and Kovalchuk’s Thrashers likely out of playoff contention, Lamoriello seized the opportunity. He acquired the then-Thrashers captain in an eight-player deal, in which the Devils also got Jon Merrill, for what ended up being a small return for the Thrashers, now Jets, organization. Kovalchuk went on to be one of the Devils best players for several years and played a large part in their 2011-12 Eastern Conference Championship run.

5. MARTIN BRODEUR, JUNE 16, 1990: The Devils traded down from the 11th spot to the 20th spot in the 1990 NHL draft. With the 20th pick, the Devils selected franchise goaltender Martin Brodeur, who was their star during three cup runs. Brodeur should expect to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year — his first year of eligibility.

6. PETER STASTNY, MARCH 6, 1990: Although the Hall of Fame center was 33 when the Devils got him, he marked a change in culture for New Jersey. Before Stastny, the Devils had only one postseason appearance in seven years but with Stastny, the Devils made the playoffs in all four of his seasons.

Speaking of trades, I like the line my younger son, Simon, had when he heard that Lou is officially running the Islanders: “That,” Simon asserted, “is like it was when the L.A. Kings got Wayne Gretzky.”

One of my favorite Lamoriello expressions, delivered a long time ago but never forgotten, was — and is — “Do what’s right and do it now.”

When I asked Lou about his philosophy of work and life, I asked him if it still is, ‘do what’s right and do it now,’ he acknowledged and added, “What you said, Stan, is it.”

Then, a pause and a pungent point: “Stan, I’ve been telling you that for 30 years!”

Posted on

Lou To the Islanders’ Rescue

In the most dramatic move since taking control of the Islanders, owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky have dropped the gloves and started swinging.

The one-two punch resulted in the most stabilizing individual force available in the game — Lou Lamoriello.

For the second time in three years, Lamoriello bounced off the canvas right into another mighty — and well-paying gig.

New Islanders President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello explains why he took the role with the team and talks about his vision for the organization going forward.

His title is President of Hockey Operations but in military terms, it would amount to General Of The Armies.

[Read Official Press Release]

Now that Malkin-Ledecky have given Lou the keys to the kingdom, we can expect a chain reaction of Lamoriello moves just as he executed as New Jersey Devils boss for 28 years and most recently as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Has Lou changed from his three-Cup Devils days and three years with Toronto? He has adjusted to the times and places without forsaking his core values.

Exhibit A is Matt Martin who, as an Islander, wore his hair like Samson. Under Lou, Martin’s mane in Toronto was less leonine and more like a Marine drill sergeant. Based on his past performance, Lamoriello will waste no more than three seconds righting The Good Ship Islander.

These challenges will be on Lou’s to-do list:

GOALTENDING:

The Thomas GreissJaroslav Halak combo likely will be reduced to Greiss. Procuring a No. 1 goalie will be a priority.

DEFENSE:

Johnny Boychuk is aging and Nick Leddy was a minus last season. At least one — preferably two — reliable back-liners must be added. Defense remains a major issue.

OFFENSE:

It’s all about John Tavares; whether he stays or emigrates. A meeting with Lou may have persuaded him to remain an Islander. If Tavares leaves, Lou will have to seek a reliable center.

Here’s what co-owner, Scott Malkin had to say:

“We are grateful to Larry Tanenbaum and the Toronto Maple Leafs for their courtesy in allowing this move. We are committed to giving Lou every resource and the full support of the entire organization as we pursue our program to compete at the highest level.”

And here’s Lamoriello’s reaction:

“I am excited to join such a storied franchise and look forward to working with Scott Malkin and the entire New York Islanders organization.”

Posted on

Lamoriello Named Isles President of Hockey Operations

**Courtesy New York Islanders**

The New York Islanders announced today the hiring of Lou Lamoriello as President of Hockey Operations. He will have full authority over all hockey matters with the organization.

“We are grateful to Larry Tanenbaum and the Toronto Maple Leafs for their courtesy in allowing this move,” Managing Partner of the Islanders, Scott Malkin said. “We are committed to giving Lou every resource and the full support of the entire organization as we pursue our program to compete at the highest level.”

“I am excited to join such a storied franchise and look forward to working with Scott Malkin and the entire New York Islanders organization,” Lamoriello said.

Lamoriello comes to the Islanders with a wealth of experience. Most recently, he was the General Manager of the Maple Leafs the past three years, qualifying for the playoffs the past two seasons.

Lamoriello originally joined the Devils as President and General Manager in 1987. Throughout his tenure in New Jersey, the Devils went to the Stanley Cup Playoffs 21 times, posted 13, 100-point seasons, won nine division titles, went to the Stanley Cup Final five times and won the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003. The Devils also earned 13 consecutive post-season berths from 1997-2010. Over the course of his tenure in New Jersey, the Devils posted a regular season record of 1,093-759-179-109 and a playoff record of 136-116. In 1996, New Jersey’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany Devils won the Calder Cup, marking the first time an NHL organization and their AHL franchise has won both championships in the same season.

Lamoriello also served as the Head Coach for 50 regular season games in 2005-06 (32-14-4) and the final three regular season games in 2006-07. The Devils qualified for the playoffs and reached the Eastern Conference Final in both seasons.

In 2009, Lamoriello received the highest honor there is in the sport of hockey as he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

During his time in New Jersey, Lamoriello was named as vice-chairman and CEO of the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets in addition to his responsibilities with the Devils after the hockey team was purchased by YankeeNets. Following back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, Lamoriello relinquished his posts with the Nets when YankeeNets sold the Nets to an independent owner in 2004.

Internationally, Lamoriello served as the General Manager for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey in 1996. On a team that included current Islanders Head Coach, Doug Weight, Team USA won the inaugural tournament championship, defeating Team Canada in a best-of-three final. He also served as General Manager for Team USA at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The Johnston, RI native was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012 and, in 1992, received the Lester Patrick Trophy in recognition of his service to hockey in the United States.

Prior to his time in the NHL Lamoriello spent two decades at Providence College, including 15 seasons as Head Coach. During his time behind the bench, the Friars finished with a 248-179-13 record, qualified for 12 consecutive post-season tournament berths and had more players drafted into the NHL after entering college, than any other college team during Lamoriello’s last five years. He also served as the College’s Athletic Director, overseeing Providence’s prominence in all their sports. Lamoriello was one of five founders of Hockey East Association and served as commissioner of the league from 1983-87. Since 1989, the winner of the Hockey East tournament is awarded the Lamoriello Trophy. Lamoriello was inducted into the Providence College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982. As an athlete, he captained both the hockey and baseball teams at Providence. He later played baseball, coached and managed teams in the Cape Cod Baseball League and the Quebec Provincial League.

Lamoriello’s numerous accolades include inductions into the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame in 2009, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2004, the LaSalle Academy Hall of Fame in 2004, the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey in 2002 and was named the recipient of Unico National’s Vincent T. Lombardi Trophy in 2000 for professional sports achievement. He has also served on the board of directors of the Yogi Berra Museum since 2006 and has been a member of the board of Yankee Global Enterprises since 2004.

Posted on

Rookie Shines But Liberty Drops Season Opener in Chicago

Courtesy of New York Liberty

CHICAGO, IL – The New York Liberty played a tightly contested match with host Chicago Sky Sunday. Down the stretch, a pair of momentous sequences for the Sky in response to a Liberty scoring drought put the game in Chicago’s favor, 80-76. Tina Charles provided a team-high 19 points on 40-percent shooting for the Liberty.

After making her head coaching debut for New York, Katie Smith said, “we’ve got to hit shots. They hit shots, and we didn’t. That was honestly the biggest thing. We’ve got to make them more uncomfortable, but they shot at 46-percent, almost 47-percent and we shot at like 37-percent. So again, we’ve got to take good shots and then make them.”

Both clubs battled closely, with New York’s (0-1) largest lead capped at five and Chicago’s (2-0) advantage at eight points. Moreover, the two teams swapped leads eight times and played to seven ties including the game’s final deadlocked score, 62-up, at 7:31 of the fourth quarter.

The game’s leading scorer, Chicago’s Allie Quigley, credited the tie converting two tries at the stripe prior to a three-point make by Diamond DeShields less than a minute later. Amanda Zahui B. surged the Liberty on a putback lay-in and a triple to leave all but one point of their deficit, 68-67. Quigley ended with 22 points.

After the contest, Charles commented, “I’m not the only one that brings energy to the team. I think everyone did. Especially off the bench. I think Amanda did a great job establishing herself [in the paint].”

Zahui B.’s 15 points off the bench marked the highest point total for the center through last season. Her production was two points shy of her career-high 17 points registered against Minnesota on June 29, 2016. She also contributed seven boards.

Rookie Kia Nurse recorded 17 points in her first professional outing to go along with three assists, two rebounds and two steals, while committing just one turnover in 28:43 minutes as a reserve. Her point total was the most by a Canadian WNBA player in their debut since Stacey Dales scored 23 points for Washington in 2002. Nurse also tied Dales for most three-pointers in her first game.

“I think I was excited to play, to finally get one under my belt,” Nurse said postgame. “But, I think I’ve been trying to, within practice, to work on the confidence, make sure my teammates can be confident in me, and earn a sense of trust there. So, they helped me out through the whole entire thing making sure I was ready to go.”

Charles went 8-of-20 from the floor, 1-of-4 from distance and 2-of-3 at the line en route to her team-high 19 points. She also grabbed four rebounds and two steals.

“The next game we play is Minnesota,” Charles said. “I know each of those individuals on that team. They’ve got Tanisha Wright who’s a great defender. It’s going to be a harder game. We’ve got to be more aggressive. We’ve got to take ownership of our mistakes and what we do. That’s just the way we have to go out and play moving forward.”

Minnesota visits the Westchester County Center, Friday, May 25. The Liberty and Lynx square off at 7:30 p.m. (ET).

Posted on

Knicks Gaming Loses For First Time in NBA 2K League Play

By: Lucky Ngamwajasat

In a back-and-forth tussle, the Knicks Gaming team suffered its first loss of the NBA 2K League, falling to Blazer5 Gaming, 74-70, Saturday night.

The Knicks Gaming team made their entrance in front of a very partisan hometown crowd and were looking to improve their record to 2-0 after their league-opening win over Warriors Gaming last week.

Led by a strong first quarter from G O O F Y 757, Knicks Gaming seized an early 20-14 at the end of the first quarter. G O O F Y dominated the paint early and was looking to establish himself down low.

But Blazer5 Gaming would come right back in the second stanza, as OneWildWalnut led the charge from the boys from the Pacific Northwest.

The teams would head into the halftime break tied at 34 apiece. Knicks Gaming rode the production from G O O F Y, who had 15 points at the halftime interval and shot 7-for-14 from the field.

The momentum would swing back towards Knicks Gaming in the third quarter, thanks to timely three-point buckets from NateKahl. Knicks Gaming would end up going into the fourth quarter with a two-point lead.

But in the end, Blazer5Gaming would have too much for the Knicks Gaming squad in crunch time. They would pull away down the stretch, as the intensity and tension peaked late in the fourth quarter.

G O O F Y led all scorers with 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, shooting 13-for-23 from the field. iamadamthefirst chipped in with 14 points and 7 assists.

Knicks Gaming will try to get back over the .500 mark next week Saturday, as the team takes on Magic Gaming. You can watch all the action of NBA 2K League live on Twitch.

Knicks Gaming Record: 1-1

Stat of the Night: Despite the loss, Knicks Gaming was extremely proficient with the three-ball, shooting 8-for-16 from beyond the arc. NateKahl led Knicks Gaming with three triples.

[Get More Knicks Gaming Coverage]

Posted on

Smith Bringing Different Dynamic to Liberty This Year

What if the Mets hadn’t acquired Noah Syndergaard from the Toronto Blue Jays. Would he have emerged as one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball?

What if the Oklahoma City Thunder hadn’t traded Victor Oladipo to the Indiana Pacers? Would we be talking about a player who is a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award?

The same dynamics can occur for an entire franchise. Sometimes change is good.

The New York Liberty achieved some great success under former coach Bill Laimbeer. He posted a 91-78 record from 2013-17, including the best record in the Eastern Conference the last three seasons.

But the team lost in the second round of the playoffs the last two seasons. As last season came down the stretch, it wasn’t uncommon to hear players talk about the challenges playing for a coach such as Laimbeer, who is caustic and as subtle as a heavy metal guitar riff.

Laimbeer bolted the Liberty after the season to take the head coaching position with the now Las Vegas Aces.

Enter Katie Smith, one of Laimbeer’s assistants and one of the greatest players in WNBA history.

New Liberty coach Katie Smith sets her expectations for the 2018 season after taking over the reins of the team from Bill Laimbeer.

When the Liberty tip off their season Sunday at the Chicago Sky, Smith will make her head coaching debut. Despite playing for Laimbeer and learning the fine points of coaching from the former Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boy, Smith will bring a more even-keeled persona to the first chair.

[Watch the Liberty All Season Long on MSG Networks and MSG GO. Download the App for Free]

“I always thought of myself as someone who leads by example and not a great talker,’’ Smith said with a laugh. “I believe showing up every day and being consistent. There’s no better way to prepare than doing the work every day in practice.’’

Smith has several advantages going into her rookie coaching season:

1. In Tina Charles, the Queens’ Bee, the Liberty has one of the elite players in the league. Charles made a conscious decision last season to become more of a leader and she was the leading voice in the locker room.

Tina Charles and other players give their thoughts on what Liberty fans can expect from the team this season.

2. Smith has a veteran staff led by Herb Williams, Barbara Farris and Teresa Weatherspoon, the point guard whisperer. Last season, Weatherspoon helped Manhattan’s Epiphanny Prince return to elite form after suffering a torn ACL in 2015. She’ll work with Brittany Boyd, who tore her Achilles tendon in the second game of last season.

3. There is no shortage of experience on this team. Six of the top players have at least five seasons of WNBA experience. Smith doesn’t have to spoon feed this group.

“I’m going to be anxious Sunday night, no question.’’ Smith acknowledged. “I hope I keep all the plays in my head because my job is to put the players in the best position to succeed. But I have a great staff, I have one of the great leaders in the league in Tina Charles and we all have the same purpose.

“Hopefully once the ball goes up I’m not thinking as much as reacting to what I see. You rely on your intuition, just as you did as a player. You watch the game and make your decisions.’’

Smith was known as a relentless, tenacious player. She was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame at this year’s Final Four. She was a seven-time WNBA All-Star, a two-time WNBA champion and a three-time Olympic gold medalist.

But the way she played, a drill sergeant with a basketball, will be how she expects the Liberty to compete this season.

“You talk about Katie and that fierce competitor that she is, I think we’re going to mirror that,’’ said first-year Liberty player Marissa Coleman, a WNBA veteran who gives the team another frontcourt option. “That’s the one thing we’re going to do.

“We have a ton of talent on this team but if we compete night in and night out we’ll have a very successful season.’’

The question that Liberty fans want to know is this: What constitutes a successful season? The Liberty went 22-12 last season. Most franchises would take that in a heartbeat. Not the Liberty.

The franchise is yearning for its first-ever WNBA title. Laimbeer got them to the playoffs only to have the season end with home playoff losses.

“We always want to win a championship every year,’’ said guard Bria Hartley of Long Island.

“The last couple of years didn’t end the way we wanted it to so we want to make sure this season ends really well.’’

[Watch the Liberty All Season Long on MSG Networks and MSG GO. Download the App for Free]

Posted on

How the Islanders Captured Their Fourth Cup

I was there on May 17, 1983 when the Islanders won their fourth straight Stanley Cup at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Now, 35 years later — and looking backward — I still cannot believe it happened.

Beating the mighty Edmonton Oilers, 4-2, in that melodramatic match, the Isles became the only American team in history to win four consecutive championships.

What’s more — and no less amazing — they had put together an unreal string of 16 playoff series victories in a row.

No other team could make that statement; nor will any in the future. That, The Maven guarantees.

Perhaps even more arresting is the fact that they actually swept the revered firm of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri & Company.

That Oilers team was so good that I vividly recall feeling uneasy even after Al Arbour‘s skaters took a 3-0 lead in the series.

I attended the Marriott Hotel press luncheon a day before Game 4 and was stunned at the cockiness of Oilers leader Glen Sather who addressed the gathering.

“We may be down but far from out,” he warned the throng. Believe me, Slats was frighteningly confident.

In retrospect, Sather made it seem as if Edmonton had a three-game lead and not the Isles.

As for the Cup-clincher itself, the Islanders smacked the Visitors around in the first period, taking what seemed to be a commanding 3-0 lead.

Bryan Trottier, John Tonelli and Mike Bossy potted the goals. And that’s when The Maven created the expression, The Dreaded Three-Goal Lead.

And I was right.

Sure enough, the rampaging Oilers put fear in the hearts of the Nassau crowd.

Kurri slammed one past Bill Smith at just 35 seconds of the second period and Messier made it only a one-goal Islanders lead with 26 seconds left in the middle frame.

For me, the third period was excruciatingly exciting as Edmonton pressed over and over and over again for the tying goal. But Smitty stood fast like the Great Wall of China until the final minutes.

Finally, Not-So-Old-Reliable defenseman Ken Morrow relieved the tension with an open-netter with 69 seconds left in the third period.

Former Islanders defenseman Ken Morrow joins Howie Rose and Butch Goring in the booth to reminisce about New York's four straight Stanley Cup championships from 1980-1983.

When the red goal light flashed, it seemed as if the entire Coliseum exhaled all at once.

A few days later, my wife Shirley and I attended the Islanders’ victory dinner hosted by owner John Pickett. It was then that the oft-asked question was raised:

Just how great was this Islanders dynastic team?

Considering that it wound up winning an unprecedented 19 straight Cup series, one could conclude that it was the greatest of all-time.

What’s more is that the facts underline that claim. Consider the following:

They featured one of the all-time snipers in Bossy, the best two-way hitting center ever in Trottier, the best clutch goaltender in Smith, and more significant role players than any team in any era. Bob Bourne was the NHL’s fastest forward; Clark Gillies the most productive fighting left wing (when provoked); and Butch Goring, a fleet center who doubled as a penalty-killer checker-of-stars.

Whether Arbour was the best, second-best, or third-best coach of all time is a moot question. Suffice to say that Arbour was ideal for his team. He had played on Punch Imlach’s multi-championship Toronto Maple Leafs as well as the Chicago Blackhawks Cup-winners in 1961. He studied under masters and learned well.

“I remember something Arbour said to us the season after we’d won our first Cup,” recalled former Islanders defenseman Jean Potvin. “We’d played badly in a couple of games and lost them both, and Al was really upset with us.

“‘You should have won those games,’ he told us at practice one morning, and one of the guys said, “Geez, Al, you can’t expect us to win every game.’ And Al just got this hard look on his face and said, ‘WHY NOT?'”

Members of the Islanders' organization reflect on the life of Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour and how he personally affected their lives.

In many ways, the Islanders of the early 1980s resembled the super-Canadiens who won five straight Stanley Cups between 1956-1960. There were no weak links in the lineup.

“They could play you any way you wanted to play them,” recalled the late Herb Brooks, who coached the rival Rangers at the time. “They had skill players like Bossy, Trottier and Potvin, tough guys like Garry Howatt and Nystrom. They could finesse with anyone or grind with the best of them.”

They were a better team than the Oilers of the late 1980s because of the equitable balance between offense, defense, and goaltending.

Edmonton boasted good netminding and a scary offense, but playing defense was not in the Oilers’ vocabulary; not for defensemen and not for checking forwards. It was a deficiency that was only partially remedied after high-scoring defenseman Coffey was traded to Pittsburgh.

By contrast, the Islanders’ defense was stout to the core. Denis Potvin was the best two-way defenseman of the post-Doug Harvey era and his sidekick, Stefan Persson, emerged as the most underrated solid backliner in the league.

Dave (Bammer) Langevin supplied the lusty bodychecks, while Gord Lane, Tomas Johnson, and Morrow all filled in nobly.

Management, headed by President-General Manager Bill Torrey and coach Arbour, was insightful, steady, and consistently superior, beginning in the late 1970s when the Islanders dynasty was developed.

[Stan Fischler Reflects on the Life of Bill Torrey]

The Islanders had become a power in 1978 and stronger in 1979, but in both years, were unable to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

Torrey realized there was a missing link. He required an experienced, digging center to supplement the vigorous Trottier. Another requirement was a stay-at-home defenseman who could complement the oft-rushing Potvin.

Both pieces fit neatly into the puzzle before the trade deadline in March 1980. Torrey dealt right wing Billy Harris and defenseman Dave Lewis to Los Angeles for Goring. It was the perfect fit. With Goring’s arrival, the Islanders went on a winning tear that carried into the 1980 playoffs.

Canadian hockey player Butch Goring of the New York Islanders skates on the ice, the early 1980s. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Previously, they had been accused of being too tight in crunch situations, but they responded in series wins over Los Angeles, Boston, and Buffalo before reaching the finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.

For the first time, the Cup was within their grasp and the Islanders came through with a 4-2 series win over Philadelphia. Nystrom, who scored the sudden-death winner, could prove to be as effective a clutch performer as Maurice Richard had been with the Canadiens.

In 1981, the Islanders marched past the Maple Leafs, Oilers and Rangers before disposing of Minnesota in a five-game final. They got a major scare in 1982 when Pittsburgh led by two goals in the decisive fifth game of the semifinals, but the Islanders displayed their patented comeback qualities and took the series in overtime on Tonelli’s goal.

They then edged the Rangers in six games and wiped out Quebec in four as they did Vancouver in the finals. But their most impressive run took place a year later. They topped Washington (four games), the Rangers (six games), and the Bruins (six games) before taking on the powerful Oilers, led by Gretzky.

The combination of Smith’s superlative goaltending and timely scoring was too much for Edmonton. The Islanders swept the series in four straight.

In many ways, the Islanders’ “Drive for Five” in 1984 was even more heroic. Fighting their way through three brutally difficult preliminary rounds, Arbour’s sextet was riddled with injury by the time it took on the Oilers in the finals.

The team split the first two games at Nassau Coliseum and then moved on to Edmonton for a resumption of the series. At this juncture, a quirk in playoff scheduling turned the series in the Oilers’ favor.

Instead of playing the new two games in Edmonton and then returning east, the teams were required to play three games at Northlands Coliseum. The move clearly favored the Oilers in many ways and they exploited the Islanders’ injuries to wrest the Cup away from the New Yorkers in five games.

Not only was the Islanders’ run of 19 consecutive playoff series victories remarkable, it demonstrated a staying power, combined with high-quality performance, that has been unmatched at any time in history.

Additionally, the Islanders oozed the kind of class that few other teams could boast except for the Canadiens of the Blake-Richard era. There were none of the wise-guy braggadocios that was part of the Oilers’ persona and no running from reporters in defeat, a trait that characterized so many other teams.

This all culminated with that glorious triumph 35 years ago.

[Read More From the Maven]

Posted on

MSG Networks Announces 2018 Liberty Telecast Schedule

New York, NY (May 17, 2018) – MSG Networks (NYSE: MSGN) and the WNBA’s New York Liberty announced today the official telecast schedule for the upcoming 2018 season.

MSG Networks (MSG or MSG+) will televise 32 of the team’s 34 regular season games, providing Liberty fans with extensive coverage of the team throughout the season.

This Sunday (May 20) at 7:00pm, MSG+ will telecast the season opener, as the Liberty battles the Chicago Sky at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. MSG+ will then televise the Liberty’s home opener against the Minnesota Lynx next Friday (May 25) at 7:30pm at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.

All Liberty games televised on MSG Networks will also be live streamed on MSG GO, MSG Networks’ live streaming and video on demand platform for smartphones, tablets and computers. MSG GO enables fans, whether at home or on-the-go, to watch all of MSG Networks’ live Liberty game telecasts. MSG GO is available to subscribers of participating television providers who receive MSG Networks as part of their television subscription.

MSG Networks’ Liberty broadcast team for home games will feature play-by-play announcer Ed Cohen, along with analyst Julianne Viani.

The Liberty will tip off its 22nd WNBA season in pursuit of the WNBA Championship after posting the best record in the Eastern Conference last year for the third consecutive season. Leading the way again is five-time All-Star and five-time First Team All-WNBA selection Tina Charles, set to begin a fifth season with her hometown Liberty. Since joining the Liberty in 2014, Charles has been one of the more dominant and accomplished players in the league, winning the league scoring title in 2016 and finishing second in league MVP voting the last two seasons.

In addition to Charles, the Liberty welcome back an impressive roster that includes two-time WNBA All-Star Epiphanny Prince and 3-point specialist Sugar Rodgers. After averaging 10.5 points per game and finishing sixth in the league in made three-pointers this past season, Rodgers was selected to her first-ever All-Star Game and awarded the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year. The team returns their veteran core of Kia Vaughn, Bria Hartley, Shavonte Zellous and Kiah Stokes, while also bringing in promising young rookie Kia Nurse.

The Liberty will be under the direction of new Head Coach Katie Smith this year, who spent the last four seasons on the staff as an assistant. Smith, who has been named to the 2018 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class, will be joined on the sidelines by Assistant Coach Herb Williams, Assistant Coach Barbara Farris and Director of Player & Franchise Development Teresa Weatherspoon.

Below is the complete regular season television schedule for the New York Liberty on MSG Networks. 32 of the 34 games will air on MSG Networks, with an additional two games airing nationally on ESPN2.

Posted on

No Shortcuts as Knicks Ponder Their Draft Options

Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery was an exercise in frustration.

The cards were unveiled and the Knicks, projected to get the No. 9 pick in the June draft, remained at No. 9.

So, what now?

If the Knicks search for a new coach is any indication, expect president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry to take a thorough, meticulous approach to identifying the player that will best help the franchise going forward.

[Hahn: Perry’s Focus for Knicks: Talent Acquisition]

Knicks GM Scott Perry reacts to staying put with the 9th pick after the NBA Draft Lottery and discusses the process of figuring out who the team will draft in the first round.

Remember, Mills and Perry interviewed 11 candidates in less than three weeks before choosing David Fizdale.

[Robbins: Pressure of New York Won’t Faze Fizdale]

The heavy lifting starts Thursday when the NBA Draft Combine begins in Chicago. The Knicks can meet with a maximum of 20 players at the combine. Additional players can work out and undergo interviews at the team’s training facility.

The educated guess here is that the Knicks reach that 20-player max or come close to it. There are too many prospects that could be available and too many scenarios that could impact the selection.

Mills and Perry have both talked about not taking any shortcuts. There’s every reason to believe they will be looking at character, maturity and basketball IQ in addition to skill.

“To me, that’s as important as evaluating talent,” Perry told reporters in Chicago about the interview process. “We’ve been watching these guys play so we have a little better handle on their physical skill.

“But it’s going to be really important to find out who these guys are as people, what kind of character they really embody and project how they would fit with us.”

The Celtics are worth mentioning here. Rookie Jason Tatum and first-year swingman Jaylen Brown have shown remarkable maturity as the Celtics have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Mills and Perry have talked about building sustained success which means substance over style. No wonder Perry has hesitated to commit to any player or position.

“I think you have an idea, a loose idea, of where guys may or may not fall in the draft,” Perry said. “Obviously you want to talk to as many guys as you project in your range. But also, historically, I’ve liked to try to broaden that range because going into the draft you never know what could occur.’’

GREENBURG, NY – JULY 17: New York Knicks team President, Steve Mills and Jeff Hornacek of the New York Knicks introduce General Manager Scott Perry at a press conference at the at Knicks Practice Center July 17, 2017, in Greenburg, New York. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)

In order to get as clear a picture of every prospect, Mills, Perry, assistant GM Gerald Madkins, Fizdale and some scouts will all be in Chicago. The more eyes and ears the Knicks can get on each prospect the better.

The question of need certainly will be addressed. The Knicks could use an athletic small forward to complement Kristaps Porzingis. There are several intriguing prospects that should be available when the Knicks pick 9th.

Point guard also is a key position. The Knicks used their first-round pick last year on Frank Ntilikina, who showed flashes of brilliance. He was the second youngest player in the NBA and there’s every reason to believe he will take a big step forward with an offseason of weight training and Summer League.

Whether or not he emerges as the starting point remains to be seen. He might be a better fit at combo guard.

Oklahoma’s Trae Young and Alabama’s Collin Sexton — very different point guards — could be available, but Perry sounds like a man who will remain patient.

CHICAGO, IL – MAY 15: NBA Draft Prospects, Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Jaren Jackson Jr. pose for a photo with American civil rights activist, Jesse Jackson talk before the NBA Draft Lottery on May 15, 2018 at The Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

“It would only make sense if you feel that guard is far and away better than what you have on the roster,” Perry said. “And we haven’t been able to make that determination yet.”

So let’s leave point guard aside for the moment. In addition to Ntilikina, the Knicks have Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Burke, and Ron Baker. The competition this summer should be fierce at that spot.

With that in mind, let’s consider the options at small forward.

Mikal Bridges, 6-foot-7, Jr. Villanova

NEWARK, NJ – DECEMBER 10: Mikal Bridges #25 of the Villanova Wildcats in action against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half of a college basketball game at Prudential Center on December 10, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Bridges probably helped his draft stock more than any non-freshman player. He started his career as a long-limbed defender and developed a solid all-around game including the ability to knock down 3’s. Bridges has the maturity and basketball IQ that would appeal to any GM. He also has two national championship rings.

Miles Bridges, 6-foot-6, So. Michigan State

CHAMPAIGN, IL – JANUARY 22: Miles Bridges #22 of the Michigan State Spartans shoots a free throw during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at State Farm Center on January 22, 2018, in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

You don’t come out of Tom Izzo’s program with being a physically and mentally tough player. At 6-foot-6, Bridges is a little undersized on the perimeter but get him near the rim and hide the women and children. Has the strength and athleticism to emerge as a star if he develops his outside game.

Kevin Knox, 6-foot-9, Fr. Kentucky

ST LOUIS, MO – MARCH 09: Kevin Knox #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball against the Georgia Bulldogs during the quarterfinals round of the 2018 SEC Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 9, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

No college coach has mastered the development of the one-and-done player better than John Calipari at Kentucky. The vision of Knox playing alongside KP should make any Knicks fan tingle at the possibilities. He can score from the 3 or 4 spots, catch-and-shoot, off the dribble and go to the basket. Have a feeling his stock will rise.

Michael Porter Jr., 6-foot-10, Fr., Missouri

Speaking of rising and falling stock, no player was more highly regarded going into college than Porter Jr. Think Ben Simmons. But Porter Jr. missed almost all of the season with a back injury that required surgery. Think red flag. If healthy, he’s a breathtaking talent. If healthy.

Those are the four most likely small forwards that will be available when the Knicks pick. But remember so much can happen between now and June 21. Which is why the Knicks have to scrub every prospect, regardless of position or projection.

“There may be trade opportunities to move up or down, whatever the case may be,’’ Perry said. “So I think it’s important for us as an organization to know as much about all these guys as we can regardless of where they’re projected.”

[Read More From Lenn Robbins]

Posted on