Islanders Need Yashin, Peca to Step Up
By Alan Hahn
December 1, 2003
Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca were brought in together more than two
years ago to provide a stable foundation for what had been a
foundering Islanders franchise. They were to be the team's marquee
stars and the leaders.
In their first season, in 2001-02, they accomplished that.
Since then, however, they have been equally inconsistent on the ice
and off. Yashin was missing in action as a scorer for a long stretch
of last season. This season, Peca just hasn't been himself as a voice
to the media or a dynamic two-way center.
During this recent stretch of futility in which the Islanders have
lost five straight and eight of their past 10 games, neither has
stepped up when the team needed them most. Yashin is goal-less in 11
games, Peca in 10. It has led to a public questioning of their
ability to be the leaders who owner Charles Wang and general manager
Mike Milbury hoped they would be when they gave them the keys to the
franchise - Yashin got a 10-year, $90-million contract and Peca a
five-year, $25-million contract - in the summer of 2001.
Neither have shown the wherewithal to challenge teammates to be
better and to get over whatever off-ice distractions started the
Islanders' collapse this season. It is similar to the problems the
team dealt with at the end of last season when it suffered through a
six-game slide from Oct. 26-Nov. 7.
"It's hard for guys to challenge," coach Steve Stirling said. "You've
got to have a special person who stands up and challenges guys with
the right delivery. Because the wrong delivery can make it worse.
It's all about the delivery, not so much the message. I think they're
working at it."
Stirling was asked if the team had that special person he was talking
"Any good locker room, it's not just the C's and the A's," he
said. "It's all about taking turns, sharing that leadership. Whether
you're a rookie, a 10-year pro or a five-year pro."
Kenny Jonsson, the longest tenured Islander and briefly the team's
captain before Peca arrived, provided the best example of leadership
after Wednesday's loss to Carolina in which Jonsson had a bad game.
He quietly walked up to a group of writers and made himself available
for questions. He then proceeded to accept the blame for the loss and
publicly demand more out of himself.
"We all got to step up, me included," he said. "I consider myself one
of the better players and I have to be one of the better players to
win these games. If I'm not showing up, I'm not doing my job."
Radio: ESPN (1050)
Isles not easily fixed
By PETER BOTTE
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Which was the more embarrassing time to be an Islander or one of
Was it the "Gory Days" of the late '90s, or is it now, when the focus
has shifted from players who had no business being in the NHL to
players who act as if they don't want to be in the big leagues?
Jason Blake accused unnamed teammates of not caring following
Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Flyers, the Islanders' fifth in a row.
The Isles have 60 games remaining beginning tomorrow against
Washington, the start of a brutal December that includes seven games
against the Devils, Flyers and Rangers.
There are several paths the Isles (9-11-2-0) can explore to salvage
their disintegrating season, some of them overdue and others that
would've been unthinkable as recently as last season.
Here are some possibilities:
# Fire Mike Milbury?: Even Mike must know that the time to go was
long ago. But odds remain slim that owner Charles Wang will
mercifully end the second-longest tenure of any GM in New York,
behind only Devils' three-time Cup winner Lou Lamoriello.
Of all the trades and decisions Milbury has been ridiculed for over
nine seasons, perhaps his biggest gaffe was allowing the clique-
filled roster that got coach Peter Laviolette fired last spring to
remain virtually intact coming into this season.
Did anyone really think those problems wouldn't emerge again at the
first sign of duress?
# Trade Michael Peca?: Has any star player's stock fallen faster than
the disappearing captain, who's had little effect on the ice and
amazingly less in the fractured clubhouse? Peca is a shell of the
player he was before the Darcy Tucker hit in the 2002 playoffs, with
two goals in 47 games (one an empty-netter), postseason included.
More puzzling is the dressing room, where Peca is missed the most.
Coach Steve Stirling acknowledged Saturday there isn't a single voice
There have been rumblings that Toronto has interest in a deal and St.
Louis is among those to have checked in on Peca's availability last
summer. Still, he's owed over $10 million the next two seasons. With
the CBA battle looming, he might not be worth as much in return as
# Trade Alexei Yashin?: If not Peca, Milbury could look to rid a
contract that will take up a significant chunk of whatever salary cap
space that is likely to come if or when the CBA war is ended.
Yashin conveniently gets blamed for everything that goes wrong, in
the form of locker-room whispers and national-media cheap shots.
Still, he has no goals in 11 games and his line's been invisible
after carrying the team to a 7-3-2 start.
There aren't many teams - the Rangers and Detroit come to mind - with
the resources to absorb the remaining seven years (and $64.8 million)
on Yashin's deal. He's likely here for the duration, but will the
Isles ever find a way to make it work?
# Clean house?: In scapegoating Laviolette, Milbury called on the
tried-but-true theory that it's easier to fire the coach than trade
20 players. But this group has proven itself to be so fragile and
sensitive to criticism that the waiving of Jason Wiemer, an overpaid
second-tier forward, has threatened to scuttle the season.
Us-against-the-world "Members Only" T-shirts mocking Milbury's
depiction of one clique as "the good ol' boys" and the media's outing
of their internal problems have resulted in five straight defeats by
an 18-4 score. Some rallying cry.