It’s not hard to find seven players who loved being a New York Islander since the club was once a dynasty and won four consecutive Stanley Cups in the 1980s. The team had several superstars and Hall of Fame players with many of them spending their entire NHL careers with the franchise. In fact several of them are regarded as being among the best in NHL history. Current captain John Tavares likes the organization so much he’s stated that he wants to remain and Islander for life.
However, not everybody had a great time on the island though. And while we list these players as having “hated” being an Islander, fans shouldn’t take that too literally. It doesn’t mean all these players didn’t necessarily like their teammates, the coaching staff, general manager, the fans, the city or arena etc. Some of these players simply didn’t produce with the Islanders and suffered the worst seasons of their careers there for one reason or another. They then went on to bigger and better things.
A couple of these players are still with the team with Tavares loving it and fellow centre Mikhail Grabovski assumedly hating his time there due to his series of injuries. While we can’t speak for these players, these are seven who presumably loved being and Islander and eight others who likely hated it at the time.
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15 Hated: Evgeni Nabokov
We don’t want to put words in anybody’s mouth, but would assume goaltender Evgeni Nabokov wasn’t too thrilled with the Islanders even though he spent full seasons there with a minimum 40 wins per year. The 2000-01 rookie of the year planned on signing with Detroit as a free agent after leaving the KHL in late December, 2010. He signed with the Wings a month later, but had to clear waivers first. Much to his chagrin, the Islanders claimed and then suspended him when he refused to report. However, they worked out an agreement so he could play in the World Championships. But after three fine seasons on the island, New York signed both Chad Johnson and Jaroslav Halak as the club’s new goalies and Nabokov was left out in the cold as a free agent.
14 Loved: John Tavares
Some fans may be scratching their heads when it comes to current Islanders’ captain John Tavares. This is because the possible future Hall of Fame centre has continually stated his desire to stay with the franchise even though he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2017-18 season. A lot of people have pegged him in for a change of scenery with Toronto being the most logical destination since he was born in nearby Mississauga. The Islanders drafted Tavares first overall in 2009 and the 26-year-old is apparently quite happy there. Tavares will soon reach the 500-point plateau and has said he’d like to play his entire career with the Islanders to repay the franchise and its fans. But of course, since hockey is a business, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will.
13 Hated: Mikhail Grabovski
The main reason centre Mikhail Grabovski has hated his time with the Islanders is simply due to his bad luck there. The 33-year-old former Maple Leaf, Canadien, and Capital signed with the Islanders as a free agent in July of 2014 to a healthy four-year deal worth $20 million. However, not much else has been healthy about Grabovski’s stint with the team. He’s been injury prone since joining the club and missed 31 games his first season in New York and 24 the next campaign. In fact he hasn’t played since March of 2016 and has missed the entire season 2016-17 so far due to a trio of concussions. When he has been healthy, Grabovski of Potsdam, Germany has scored just 18 goals and 44 points in his 109 games.
12 Loved: Bryan Trottier
It would be hard not to love playing for the Islanders after winning four straight Stanley Cups and holding franchise records for games played at 1,123, assists with 853 and points at 1,353. Trottier was regarded as one of the best players in the world after being drafted 22nd by New York in 1974. The Hall of Fame centre set a then-record mark of 95 points as a rookie and won the Calder Trophy. He also won an Art Ross, Hart, and Conn Smythe Trophy on the island and had his number 19 retired by the club. Trottier was loved by the fans even though he played three seasons with Pittsburgh and had a stint as head coach with the hated Rangers. Trottier was named second-best player in team history by Islanders’ fans in a poll.
11 Hated: Felix Potvin
Goaltender Felix Potvin was riding high in Toronto and led his team to a couple of deep playoff runs until the Leafs signed free agent Curtis Joseph from Edmonton in 1998. The writing was then on the wall for The Cat once Cujo arrived. Potvin played just five games with Toronto in 1998-99 before being traded to the Islanders along with a sixth-round draft pick for Bryan Berard and a sixth rounder. Potvin played just 11 games with the Islanders the rest of the season with two wins, a 3.66 goals-against average and an 89.3 save percentage. He won just five of 22 contests the next campaign before being traded to Vancouver in midseason. Potvin would go on to play for Los Angeles and Boston, but his time with the Islanders was a career low point.
10 Loved: Mike Bossy
According to Islanders’ fans in a recent poll, Hall of Fame right-winger Mike Bossy was the franchise’s greatest player. Unfortunately, his career was cut short though due to a back injury. Bossy was a pure goalscorer and still ranks first overall in NHL history for goals-per-game and third for points-per game. Bossy loved his time on the island as he’s the only player in history to score Stanley Cup game-winning goals in two straight seasons and the only one to score four game-winning goals during a single series. Bossy and centre Bryan Trottier were one of the best duos ever and won four cups together. Bossy, who spent his entire career with the Islanders and then worked in the front office in 2006, holds numerous league and franchise records and also win a Calder, Conn Smythe, and three Lady Byng Trophies.
9 Hated: Raffi Torres
Controversial winger Raffi Torres was basically a human yo-yo during his stint with the Islanders as he was up and down with the club eight times during his two seasons there. The Islanders drafted Torres fifth overall in 2000, but he started the next season in the AHL. Torres would appear in just 31 games with the team and recorded only six assists. He was a key player with the Islanders’ farm team in Bridgeport though and displayed a fine scoring touch around the net. However, the Islanders showed their impatience with the rugged winger and shipped him out to Edmonton at the trade deadline in the spring of 2003. Torres went on to become a decent scorer with a pair of 20-goal seasons before he started crossing the line and sat out five suspensions.
8 Loved: Denis Potvin
The captain of the Islanders’ four Stanley Cup winning teams was Hall of Fame defenceman Denis Potvin, who was drafted first overall by the team in 1973. Potvin spent his entire 14-year career on the island and won the James Norris Trophy three times as the league’s best defenceman as well as the Calder as rookie of the year. Islanders’ fans recognized his greatness by voting him the third-best player in franchise history. He owns numerous franchise records and had his sweater retired by the organization. Potvin was known as a great leader even though his outspoken ways often rubbed his teammates the wrong way in the early seasons. New York Rangers’ fans will also remember Potvin forever as the chant of “Potvin Sucks” echoed throughout Madison Square Garden every time he took the ice.
7 Hated: Kirk Muller
Centre Kirk Muller was an 11-year NHL veteran and all-star by the time he joined the Islanders after playing with New Jersey and Montreal. He was drafted second overall by the Devils in 1984 and quickly became a fan favourite. Muller was traded to Montreal in 1991 and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1992-93. That didn’t stop the Habs from trading him to the Islanders during the 1994-95 campaign though. Muller thought about not reporting to the island, but eventually showed up and played a dozen games the rest of the season. He played 15 more the next year before the Islanders banned him from the club due to his alleged uninterested and poor attitude. Muller refused to show up when the club recalled him and he was soon traded to Toronto.
6 Loved: Clark Gillies
Big winger Clark Gillies was another player who won four Stanley Cups with the Islanders, is a Hall of Famer, and had his number retired by the club. The former power forward was drafted fourth overall by the team in 1974 and played left wing on the Trio Grande line with Bryan Trottier at centre and Mike Bossy on the right flank. Gillies was team captain for two season, but wasn’t comfortable in the role and relinquished the C to Denis Potvin. However, he was still known as one of the squad’s leaders and its toughest player. He also six 30-plus goal seasons in a seven-year span. Gillies’ time with the Islanders came to an end in 1986 though when Buffalo took him in the 1986 waiver draft. He retired after two seasons with the Sabres.
5 Hated: Martin Biron
Goaltender Martin Biron seemed to have a bright future ahead of him after being drafted 16ht overall by Buffalo in 1995. He enjoyed a solid, but perhaps unspectacular career with his worst season coming with the Islanders. Biron had spent eight years with the Sabres and then three in Philadelphia before he signed as a free agent with the Islanders in the summer of 2009. New York already had Dwayne Roloson and the injury-prone Rick DiPietro between the pipes and Biron managed to appear in just 29 games. He won only nine of them and posted a career-worst 3.27 goals-against average and 89.6 save percentage as the team missed the playoffs. Biron had enough and signed with the hated New York Rangers as a free agent shortly after the season ended.
4 Loved: Bob Nystrom
Yes, the Islanders made a habit of retiring the numbers of their greatest players and Bob Nystrom’s #23 was no exception. You’ve probably guessed by now “Thor” won four Stanley Cups with the team and spent his entire 14-year career there. The Swedish-born right winger was taken 33rd by New York in the 1972 draft and was known as a tough two-way player. He racked up 513 points in 900 regular-season games with another 83 in 157 postseason contests and worked for the franchise for numerous years after retiring. Nystrom scored the Stanley Cup-winner in overtime in 1979/80, the first of the team’s four straight triumphs. He was known for his dedication, leadership, and hustle and the Islanders named an annual team award after Nystrom in 1991 for the player who best exemplifies those same qualities.
3 Hated: Tommy Salo
Former Islanders’ general manager Mike Milbury may go down in history as one of the worst ever due to his series of bad trades and signings. Milbury was no fan of goalie Tommy Salo after the team drafted him 118th out of Sweden in 1993. Salo became the team’s starting goalie in 1996-97 and had three losing seasons with pretty good stats otherwise. Salo and Milbury ended up in salary arbitration and legend has it the goaltender was reduced to tears after the GM ripped into him and said he wasn’t an NHL-caliber goalie. Salo remained with the team for a short while, but Milbury traded for Felix Potvin in January of 1999 and Salo was traded to Edmonton two months later. Salo went on to have a fine career and play in a couple of All-Star Games.
2 Loved: Bob Bourne
Forward Bob Bourne was one of the underrated players on the Islanders’ four Stanley-Cup winning teams. He wasn’t a superstar like Trottier, Bossy and Potvin, but was a solid and consistent player and scorer. Bourne was drafted by the Kansas City Scouts in 1974 and traded to the Islanders a few months later. He spent 11 seasons on the island before joining Los Angeles for his final two campaigns. He hit the 30-goal mark three times and had three other seasons of at least 20. Bourne also the team in scoring in the 1982-83 postseason. He won the Bill Masterton Trophy in his final NHL campaign and was well known for his humanitarian work with disabled children. Bourne was inducted into the Islanders' Hall of Fame in 2006 as its ninth member.
1 Hated: Nino Niederreiter
Twenty-four-old Swiss winger Nino Niederreiter was drafted fifth overall by the Islanders in 2010 after playing junior hockey with Portland. He became the youngest player in franchise history when the 2010-11 season opened as well as the youngest ever to score for the Islanders. However, before playing in his 10th game and using up a year of entry level contract, Niederreiter was sent back to Portland. He played on the island as a fourth-liner the next season with just one goal and point in 55 games. There was an NHL lockout the next campaign and he was sent to the AHL. Niederreiter wasn’t invited to training camp when the lockout ended though and asked to be traded. He was sent to Minnesota in 2013 and is about to record his third-straight 20-goal campaign there.
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