Newsday.com's Ask Alan
Newsday's Islanders beat reporter Alan Hahn recently took time out of
his schedule to answer a sampling of your questions.
Q: Alan, What do you think about the Mike Milbury's choice of Peter
Laviolette? Thanks, Craig Valenz, NJ
A: I think we all had to take a step back for a minute after the
initial disappointment had passed about Ted Nolan not being hired.
Peter Laviolette would likely be a good hire in any other situation
but this one, just because of the build up and the team's terrible
recent history. I think this actually could go down as one of Mike's
better moves and if you ask anyone in New England, they'll tell you
the Bruins might have made a regrettable mistake letting him go.
Q: Does anyone honestly believe that this is Milbury's last shot? Do
you? Does Milbury? Milbury claimed that there are no untouchables on
this team. Well, I disagree. Milbury is obviously the only
untouchable one on the team. One last question, when Mike's reign of
terror is finally over, can I take a crack at being GM? I only ask
this because you obviously do not need to be qualified to run or own
the team. - Eric Skjeveland, Hicksville
A: I think Mike figured his last shot came last season but somehow he
was given another year. It's crazy, for sure, but that's Charles
Wang's decision. He'll have to live with it this summer, which I
think is the most important off-season in team history. I don't think
you can place enough emphasis on this summer for this franchise. It
is crucial -- crucial -- that they make some noise on the trade and
free-agent market. If they don't and it's business as usual, then
Milbury has to know it's finally over. As far as you being GM,
Eric . . . couldn't hurt to send in a resume.
Q: Alan, What players do you think the Isles have talked about
bringing to the Island via the unrestricted free agent market? I
realize that Roenick has been mentioned for a while, but is Turgeon a
serious option? Life long Islander fan, Adam Shapiro
A: I think Pierre Turgeon is certainly someone the Islanders will try
hard to court. He won't cost as much as Jeremy Roenick and because of
his history on the Island (and his affinity for the area), they might
have a better chance at landing him. It would be a great move if they
could get him and allow for some money to spend elsewhere, such as in
Q: Alan, Who do you think the Isles are leaning toward in the draft?
I've read recently that Spezza's stock is dropping and Atlanta was
very impressed with Kovalchuk. If Atlanta doesn't pick him, they'll
probably trade the pick to a team that will pick him. Knowing Mike's
tendencies, I'm concerned that with Spezza's stock dropping, he'll
use it as an opportunity to pick Tchistov or Weiss. Do you expect
Laviolette to have any say in the pick? -- Brett
A: I think they like Ilya Kovalchuk the most, but I, too, expect
Atlanta to deal the pick and someone else will take him. The
Islanders might also deal their pick and I think they'd rather go
that route for immediate impact (Michael Peca? Alexei Yashin?) rather
than add another 18-year-old millionaire to the organization. I think
Laviolette will have some input in the draft, but it'll be Milbury's
call. As far as Jason Spezza goes, don't believe everything you read
in newspapers other than Newsday. The kid is still highly regarded,
especially by Milbury.
Q: Alan, With the NHL draft around the corner, what are the chances
Mike Milbury does the unthinkable and not draft either Spezza or
Kovalchuk? I have read everywhere that these are the two best
prospects available, so the Islanders should end up with one of these
guys, right? Thanks for your input, Jim Wichert
A: As I mentioned above, Jim, I think Milbury will look to deal the
pick. Kovalchuk, I think will go No. 1. If the Islanders don't trade
the pick and Spezza at No. 2, it almost is a sure sign -- like last
season with Rick DiPietro and Roberto Loungo -- that Tim Connolly has
been or is about to be traded for a Group II top-liner another team
can't afford to re-sign (Peca or Yashin). If that kind of a deal
can't be made, then consider Stanislav Tchistov or Stephen Weiss as
serious contenders for the pick, as well.
Q: Doesn't it seem like if you are from anywhere near the
Massachusetts area then you will be hired by Mike Milbury? Do you
think Ted Nolan would have been a better choice? -- Juan Espada
A: As I mentioned above, I would have gone with Nolan and tried to
work it so that Laviolette was the associate coach. And, yes, it is
wicked-crazy the Massachusetts connection in the organization. I also
hear the Nassau Coliseum concession stands next season will be
replacing hot dogs and pretzels with clam chowder and lobster rolls.
Q: On a scale of one to ten, 10 being most likely to be an Islanders,
please rate these players: Yashin, Jagr, Turgeon, Roenick, Sakic,
Kasparaitis, Weight, Peca, Hackett -- NHLMAN7
A: Yashin-9. Jagr-5. Turgeon-8. Roenick-5. Sakic-0. Kasparaitis-10.
Weight-1. Peca-9. Hackett-8.
Q: Your opinion please. Is Milbury's lack of patience with young
talent and his inability to nurture that talent the main reason for
the demise of the Islanders during his tenure as GM.? This was
Torrey's and Arbour's path to success so why not follow it? -- Jack
Keese, Cold Spring Harbor, a former 25 year season ticket holder.
A: Milbury had a lot going against him ownership-wise for a few
years, but keep in mind you are comparing two Hall of Famers to a man
who traded J.P. Dumont to Chicago for grossly overvalued Dmitri
Nabokov and created a huge hole in goal because all-star Tommy Salo
needed a hug every now and then. Shall we move on?
Q: Alan, 1. How do you see the team after this summer's draft and
related personnel moves? 2. Are fans justified for being so vocal
about Milbury's continued ability to make such decisions (i.e. are
fans giving him too much of a bad rap)? Thanks, BD
A: I am not sure what the team will look like after the summer.
Anything can happen. At least it'll be interesting. I think they need
to get a veteran No. 1 center (Turgeon), first and foremost. Then
find a veteran goalie (Hackett) to bridge the time between now and
when Rick DiPietro is ready to take the ball and run with it. Some
grit on D (Kasparaitis) would help, too and a bona fide leader (Peca)
is necessary. But those names together and Milbury has himself a
huge, huge off-season and Islanders fans will have legitimate reason
to hope. As for the second part, you can't blame anyone for being
critical of a man who hasn't produced a single winning season in six
years. Yes, he has had a lot going against him during most of that
time. That's what makes this summer so important to him and to the
Q: I recently read Jeff Hackett was mentioned as replacement in goal.
But Hackett makes 3 million a year and is 33 years old. What other
goaltenders do you think the Islanders are looking at? How about a
trade with Buffalo for Martin Biron, who sits every year on the bench
and wastes away? - Robert
A: It is doubtful the Sabres would deal Biron with Dominik Hasek
playing on one-year contracts and flirting with retirement talk,
unless the Islanders can swing a blockbuster that includes Peca. But
keep in mind that would also mean the Isles giving up a host of young
talent. Hackett is a good move, especially if the Islanders can get
the Canadiens to eat some of his $3 million salary. But a cheaper
wild card I'd take a look at is Jamie Storr in L.A., who has become
expendable after Felix Potvin's solid run there. Also, I've heard
that J.S. Aubin could be made very available by the Penguins this
Q: Mr Hahn, The Islanders always get ripped for making unconventional
moves. This time they pass on Ted Nolan, who no other team would hire
and it's considered a big mistake. It seems the media needed Ted
Nolan to come to Long Island more than the Islanders did. -- Bill
Queens, NY A: Fair point, Bill. Ted Nolan would have been a great PR
hire and great for us to write stories about. But many people around
the league, Milbury included, felt the guy deserved to be back in the
league. No one likes to see a guy get unjustly blacklisted like Nolan
has. So it's hard not to root for the guy. I like Laviolette and he's
a good story in his own right, especially if he succeeds. So, we
media demons still got what we wanted. Nyah-nyah.
Q: Do you know if Butch Goring is going to accept a position with the
Islanders organization or if he is still interested in coaching
A: Don't expect Goring to be back with the Islanders, though he will
be under contract for another season if he doesn't work anywhere
else. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if he emerged behind the
bench at Madison Square Garden with his buddy, Ron Low. It would be
weird to see Butchie wearing Ranger colors, eh?
Q: Hi Alan, What player do you think the Islanders should trade for,
if any? (Jagr, Yashin, Peca, Weight, Fedorov, Alfreddson, either
Bure, etc.) Would you part with the No. 2 overall pick as part of a
package? Thank you, Kevin from North Brunswick, NJ
A: Should or could? I mean, they should trade for any of the above.
But I don't see many teams willing to give up players like Fedorov,
Alfredsson and Bure. Yashin and Peca are the best chances. Jagr is a
wild, wild, wild card possibility. But highly doubtful. And the pick
most likely will be part of any deal that includes one of the
aforementioned top players.
Q: Hi, Alan. My question is do you think Mike Milbury hired a "no-
name" coach (Laviolette) so that he (Laviolette) wouldn't be a threat
to Milbury's position? Nolan, B. Murray and Constantine would all
have been potential replacements for Milbury. Milbury has been able
to keep his job because he won't hire anyone who may one day replace
him. Thanks, Fred, Coram.
A: No. Not in the very, very least do I believe that was in Milbury's
thinking. From what I was told, Murray was always Milbury's sure-
thing pick. In case either Nolan or Laviolette didn't work out,
Murray was his No. 2. That's says enough to me that Milbury wasn't
concerned about hiring his replacement. And Nolan or Constantine
would not have been potential replacements. Murray is the only one
with front office experience.
Q: Do you know what the Islanders plans are for Justin Maplethorpe?
Is that the right way to spell his name? Are they going to sign him?
Do they think he has a chance to be a NHL player, he wasn't even
rated as a top Islander prospect by the Hockey News.
A: It's Mapletoft and they have to have signed him by Friday (June 1)
of lose him back in the draft. From what Brent Sutter, his coach at
Red Deer in the WHL said, Justin has the potential to be a solid
depth forward in the league, maybe a third or fourth liner. He's
young (20), so it's way too early to write him off. He did earn MVP
of the WHL, so that should say a little something.
Q: Alan, I live in Barcelona, so I haven't had the chance to watch
many Islanders games this year (only two, both losses). But in those
games, the players didn't seem to know or care what they where doing
on the ice. Maybe Goring was to blame for some part, but not all of
it. Don't you think it's time the players got more criticism for
their sloppish play? I just hate it when a team struggles and, after
a coach gets fired, the players put on their sad faces and say 'gee,
maybe we should have done a bit more.' Youth and all, they are still
professionals athletes, are they not? -- Alex Oller Solano
A: Absolutely, Alex. And we wrote it that way this season. The
players this past season collectively embarrassed themselves, the
team and their fans. They cost their coach his job and some of them
might have cost themselves their jobs with the team. It was a
terrible collective effort. Some of the players I don't think
understood what it meant to be a professional athlete. It's more than
just playing games and signing autographs and having everyone pat you
on the back. It's a job. It's a responsibility and it's a privilege.
Some need to realize exactly that being in this league and earning
the money they do isn't a God-given right, but a privilege. It's an
honor that they dishonored by making excuses and not being
accountable. That's what Milbury means when he says the team needs a
culture change. There are a lot of good guys on that team, but
collectively, there is a terrible attitude that reeks of self-
importance. OK, I'll step off the soap box now.
Q: Alan, When you go to any hockey event with beat writers from other
teams, are you as embarrassed to say you write about the Isles as I
am when I tell people that I root for them? - Daniel Oliver
A: That's actually a good question, Daniel. As a beat writer, you do
get teased a little in a joking manner. But for the most part, it is
sympathy. Everyone knows how tough it is to cover a last-place team,
especially late in the season. Especially one that hasn't won in
years and seems to have no hope at all. Just like rooting for a team,
obviously it's more fun to cover a winner. It's more work too, but
that part wouldn't bother me in the least if it meant a playoff game
at Nassau Coliseum.
Thanks for all the questions.