Interview with the Enemy

By Danny Radical

In the world of Isles Twitter, there is a war. The war has two sides that can be deconstructed. On one side sits Islanders Realists. These people look at the Islanders with a sense of dismay. We love you- why do you do this to us? Why can't you be better? Think about the boyfriend/girlfriend you had when you were 22, and it's probably eerily similar feelings.

On the other side of the war is #IslesKoolAid. Kool Aid looks at the Islanders with the equivalent sports beer goggles of a Cleveland Browns or New York Knicks fan. "This will be the year!" they say as they anoint the Rookie of the Year in October and the Stanley Cup in November, only to see the the Islanders as they come crashing back to earth.


Where it all began.

Even though these two sides rarely see eye to eye, there is an absolute commonality in their fight- a love for the New York Islanders. Each supports the team in their own way. Across the realm of Isles Twitter, I have come across @PalffyTavares. I consider @PalffyTavares (AKA Rob) Kool Aid. And on most days, he considers me the worst person on the earth.


I don't blame him. I've called him out in blogs. Isles Realists have created memes for him. I've tweeted how his blindness defies human explanation. And he's told me to die, delete Twitter, how my children should be ashamed of me, and the above mentioned top 5 worst people on Earth. Take that, Kim Jong Un.


Bailey NOT an all-star? BLASPHEMY!

There's this thing about archenemies though- down deep somewhere, there is a recognition of a similar kind in the other person, which leads to a begrudging respect buried down somewhere deep in the ugliness. Magic and Larry. Grant and Davis. God and Satan- both of those guys were Islanders, even!


Pour out their god!

So upon the suggestion of @IslesRealist I reached out to the artist formerly known as Rob and asked if he would consider being interviewed. This was not my first reaching out to him- I asked him to appear on SportsOnTheGo1 numerous times, and was repeatedly rejected. However, when asked if he'd submit answers to a series of questions, he readily agreed and was super prompt and concise with his thoughts.

The following is our exchange (questions mine, answers his, completely unedited):

1) Who is the most crucial, key player on the Islanders? Why?

Tavares and it’s not even close. Barzal has been great. Lee is a 40 goal scorer on the right line. Bailey is having a great year. But Tavares is the heart and soul. You sometimes take him for granted- a quiet superstar... not flashy... but he’s the man. He’s the guy. Probably one of the best leaders as well.

2) Are you ok with losing Tavares as a potential free agent because of the emergence of Barzal?

Why not have both? It’s doable. You have Barzal for another couple years on an entry level deal. Perhaps a bridge deal in the near future sets the Isles up nicely with a potent 1-2 punch for years to come. Of course that 1-2 punch is not complete without the necessary (and expected) signing of Tavares.

3) How would you assess Garth Snow's roster building skillset?

Has Garth been good? No. It’s been 12 years. 1 win 4 appearances. Clearly that’s not good enough. He has took a flyer on some players (Moulson, PA, Viz) who have worked out. He has drafted Barzal and Beau who both look to be contributors. My problem with him is where has the “next step” move been. I always say and I stand by this... we are NOT in a rebuild. Garth Snow rebuilt the isles. They were in last place and 5 years later were skating in the playoffs. He rebuilt them. The problem is that he never (even attempted) to take next step. 14-15 the Islanders had a chance to have a special year. He pissed it away by believing Tyler Kennedy was the answer. In 15-16 his rebuilt team, after a series where Tavares and Greiss stole the show, peaked after a 2nd round loss. I believe that was the time to perhaps make a GM switch.


4) Where do you see the team in 5 years?

Tough to answer because there are so many variables. The team will be playing on Long Island, which is a big deal and very important part of this story. I believe Tavares signs and Barzal (who will be 24 at that time) becomes a star. I don’t think we will see a 08-09 season anytime soon. We have a core and guys in the pipe line coming up. Being the optimist I am, I’ll say Isles are a top 5 team in East and would had playoff appearances prior to that season.

5) Do you think Doug Weight is the right coach for this team? Why or why not?

You are what your record says you are. Weight was 24-12-4 and team bad inspiring play. I wanted him as coach. Media loved him, players loved him. Thought it was real deal. After this years start I thought more of the same. The last 30 games have been eye opening. Has it been all him? No. But adjustments have not been made. It’s one thing not to have the horses-( they might not) but it’s another to not TRY to adjust. He simply may not have the answers. I will say though, and I believed this with Cappy- for me the blame should rest on one or the other. You either blame Snow for not constructing a competitive roster- or you blame coach for not getting enough out of a talented team.

*Since I asked this question around 3 pm on 2/13/2018, I wonder if his opinion changed as around 11pm on the same day Dough Weight blamed the Islanders loss versus Columbus on the fans.

6) Who is the best player in the entire NHL? What makes you feel that way?

Hard to say because there are so many young players who are top in league. Hard to argue against Crosby. Anyone close in talent does not have 3 rings. The winning has to be considered in answering this question. As far as pure skill? Give me McDavid.

7) Should the new owners have focused more on land acquisition or more on talent acquisition?

New owners should be applauded for their efforts on the new arena. Without arena, talking about on ice would not matter because there would be no team. Ledecky has been a great spokesperson, a great super fan. But now it’s time to address team. If his order was arena first then team- that’s fine. But it’s definitely past the point of where we need to do a serious evaluation about the future regarding management.


8) Which matters more- potential or results?

The Islanders have been built on potential. It’s sold to fans across the board. I will say this- it’s a lot more fun to WATCH Barzal then to read about Bellows. Results is how we judge sports.

9) Are there any rituals you go through to prepare for a game? For example, a consistent meal, arranging your home a special way on gameday, not washing a jersey you wore at a win?

No rituals. but an odd thing...If Isles are down late last minute I tend to mute the TV to avoid hearing the Isles lose. Always have.

10) What do you see as the major issue between Islanders Realists and Islanders Kool Aid? Do you think there is a way to reconcile the two?

Major difference I believe it is simply age. I started fandom in 95-96. All I know is losing. 01-02 felt like a Cup to me. 14-15? Forget it. A dream. I have always understood issues and problems of the team. I think Isles Realists don't understand that about Kool Aid. If my choice was 1996 and 51 points or this bubble team situation? I am always choosing this. At least we have a shot. It's not a loser mentality, it's the reality. If Isles were to win a cup I bet I would feel a lot different about a bubble season.

11) What was your all time favorite Islander experience? Was it a game? An interaction with a player? A memory from youth?

First game...a bad Islanders team in 94 maybe 95. Matthew Schneider scored an OT winner against Buffalo. 5-4 Isles. I was hooked. Aside from that Game 3 vs. Pitt Moulson scores a minute in. Place rocking. It was a blur.

12) Last question- you get hired for the non-existent new President of Hockey Operations with the New York Islanders next week. You look at the situation they are presently in with a large number of impending free agents, very tight cap space, and on the verge of missing the playoffs. What would you see your job as, and how would you go about doing it?

I clean house. Start fresh. I fear that a person would come in and do that means letting Tavares go and starting completely fresh. If I was the guy I would try to keep the core. Remember this team was pretty good in 14-15 and 15-16. We have pieces. I would add not "rebuild" players. But I would clean house coaching and management for sure.


It was interesting for me to peer into the mind of the Kool Aid. I think @PalffyTavares hits on an important distinction- the main dividing line between Kool Aid and Realists is age. Realists have seen this team win. Realists...are also 35 and older. Which is sad, because there are now TWO generations of Islander fans who may have an idea about this teams history, but they have no personal history with winning, so they have no expectations of such.

Even Mets fans have seen a return to the World Series since 1986. Since 1993, the Islanders have produced one postseason with more than 3 wins, but not more than 5. You can even make a case for the Jets to have more postseason success than the Islanders since 1990. That's horrible.

So what did I take from this? I'm still curious as to why a fan who never saw his or her team win, and actually watched them leave their home, still roots for the team. To be honest, I wonder the same thing about myself. I wonder why I support a team whose owners since the 90's have consistently wanted to own the team for the land it sits on, present company included, instead of building a winning team.


THAT happened.

The only thing I can think of is music. Think about when you fall in love with music. How old are you? 5? 10? 15? And those songs that you love become a fantastic memory. Hearing them brings you back to a great time in your life. And so it goes with the Islanders. You fall in love with an exciting win, you get a crush on a young player, they come to your school and read with you, you watch a game with your Mom or Dad, you walked the concourse with a pretzel and feel like even though you're a little person you're a part of something bigger.

This experience led me to view Kool Aid in a different light. Not the ones who defend Garth Snow- some people are beyond hope. But the Kool Aid that dreams, the Kool Aid that just wants a bright day instead of the years and years of losing they've ever seen, the Kool Aid that says #SnowMustGo ...they're not so bad. Maybe there's room for an armistice. Ideally just before Snow gets fired.