Sunday, April 17, 2016

New York Islanders (1985-86, NHL)

1985-86 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
     The Islanders were in their 15th year of existence by now. The first half of the 1980s was very kind to the Isles, as the team won 20 straight playoff series, make five straight Stanley Cup Finals appearances and win four straight Cups (1980-83). It's unlikely that the NHL will ever see a stretch of dominance like this again.
     By 1985-86, while the Islanders were still a contender, the core of the dynasty was aging. The previous season saw the Islanders slip to third place and lose to Philadelphia in the division finals. 1985-86 proved to be more of the same. Al Arbour's club went 39-29-12 that season. Their 90 points were 20 behind first-place Philadelphia, and 12 ahead of the fourth place Rangers.
     The Isles scored 327 goals in 1985-86, eighth-most in the high-flying NHL. As usual, they were led by sniper Mike Bossy. Bossy was a model of consistency in his NHL career, having scored at least 50 goals in each season at this point. 1985-86 was no different, as "Boss" popped in 61 goals to go with 123 points in his last full season. Fellow veteran Bryan Trottier and young star Pat LaFontaine were the other players with at least 30 goals on the year. Four other Islanders, including defenseman Denis Potvin, had at least 20.
     New York was even better on defense, allowing just 284 goals, fifth-lowest in the NHL. Billy Smith and Kelly Hrudey split the work in net that year. Hrudey went 19-15-8 in 45 games, with a 3.21 GAA and 1 shutout. Smith went 20-14-4 in 41 games, earning a 3.72 GAA and 1 shutout. Both saw action in the playoffs.
     For the eleventh straight year, the Islanders made the Stanley Cup playoffs. However, their stay would be short-lived. Waiting for them were the Washington Capitals, who went 50-23-7 and just missed winning the division. The Isles were swept aside by the Caps in three straight, managing just 4 goals in the process. Montreal, with rookie goaltender Patrick Roy, would win a surprise Stanley Cup in five games over Calgary.
     This program came with the 1976-77 Isles program. I don't have any from the dynasty years, but I have one from before the dynasty, and one from after. Very nice program, with 62 pages of glossy color pictures. Highlights of the previous season are included. The top players each have their own full-page bios and there is a team photo as well. Articles include "At Home on Long Island" and "Team Comeback". There are also photos from the team's first annual "Come Along With the Islanders" cruise on the Cunard Lines. Advertisements include Clairol Hairsetters, Beck's Beer and Long Island Savings Bank.

Aftermath: The Islanders would begin to slowly dismantle their core after this season. John Tonelli would be dealt during the season to Calgary and enjoy one last finals run with the Flames. Coach Al Arbour retired (for the first time) after the playoffs concluded. Bob Nystrom, one of the holdovers from the inaugural season, would play in just 14 games in 1985-86 and would be released. Mike Bossy would be hampered by nagging back problems and would be forced to retire after 1986-87. Billy Smith would retire after 1988-89. Trottier would stay with the team through 1990, then sign with Pittsburgh in time for their two-straight Cups. With owner John Pickett investing less and less into the organization, the Islanders would slide to last place by 1988-89 and stay there for most of the 1990s.
   
Sources:
National Hockey League Statistics: 1985-86 (from hockeydb.com)

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