We’re approaching the Islanders’ 50th anniversary season, which will be a time for the franchise to celebrate its past and for The Post to select the 50 greatest players in team history.
If we were to do the 50 most important people in organizational history, all-time general manager Bill Torrey and all-time coach Al Arbor would surely rank 1-2, respectively, but that’s not It’s not much fun to have a pair of suits at the top of the list.
But the anniversary also creates an opportunity for the Islanders to celebrate Ed Westfall, now 81, by stripping their first captain’s number 18 and hoisting the jersey atop UBS Arena – where he would justly join. titles Denis Potvin’s number 5, Clark Gillies. ‘ #9, #19 Bryan Trottier, #22 Mike Bossy, #23 Bob Nystrom, #27 John Tonelli, #31 Billy Smith and #91 Butch Goring.
Westfall would become the first such honored player not to have been part of the Dynasty. As it should be, for in the seven seasons leading up to 1979-80, he played a vital role in laying the foundations for four consecutive Stanley Cup champion teams and in driving the organization and its impossibly young stars towards maturity.
The numbers aren’t remarkable, although they’re a bit better than I could have imagined for the winger in check and the penalty specialist: 105 goals (tied for 29th in franchise history ), 181 assists (23rd), 286 points (27th) in 493 games (34th).
But coming to the island in the 1972 expansion draft of a Bruins team that had just won its second Cup victory in three years, Westfall provided the leadership and professionalism needed to set an example to its young teammates.
It was, in a sense, full circle for Westfall, which was among all those Bruins clubs that battled the Rangers for fifth place in the past few Original Six seasons. He was in Boston when Bobby Orr arrived. He was on the island when Potvin came… and Gillies and Trottier and Bossy and…
Westfall was one of the greatest teammates in NHL history, one of the most popular and outgoing men to ever wear an Islanders uniform. Among those 105 goals was the one at 2:42 of the third period in Game 7 at Pittsburgh in 1975 that gave the Islanders a 1-0 victory and cemented the third-year team’s historic rally of 3- 0 in the series.
And, by the way, it was Westfall forechecking in the right corner that prompted Brad Park to leave the puck behind Jude Drouin to feed JP Parise 0:11 of overtime at the Garden in the deciding third game against the Rangers. . during the preliminary round of 1975 which symbolized the seismic displacement of the Teutonic plates.
Again, it wasn’t the numbers. Westfall, who became the club’s television analyst for 20 years alongside Jiggs McDonald, set the pattern for what it meant to be an islander. For what it meant to be a pro. It served as a bridge to the dynasty.
It wasn’t the numbers.
It was the man.
It was number 18.
It won’t quite have the pomp and circumstance like the first time around, but Slap Shots has learned that a reunion between Rangers and Jimmy Vesey is on the horizon.
The famous 29-year-old signed with the Blueshirts as a Kevin Hayes-type free agent in 2016-17 after rejecting offers from the Predators, who drafted the Harvard product 66th overall in 2012, and the Sabers, who traded for his rights. After stops in Buffalo, Toronto and Vancouver after leaving Manhattan, Vesey is coming off a solid season in New Jersey as a depth forward.
Presumably signing a free agent contract for around the minimum $750,000 that wouldn’t count towards the cap if assigned to AHL Hartford, Vesey – who went 50-40-90 in 240 games for Rangers his first times — will compete for the kind of fourth-row, back-six role that Tyler Motte filled so well last spring, but got rid of.
So the myth that no one wants to play in Calgary took a hit when superb 29-year-old left-winger Jonathan Huberdeau signed an eight-year, $84 million ($10.5 million) contract.
Again, legal corruption has its charm.
The usual suspects continue to report that Nazem Kadri is still looking for a long-term commitment with a sticker price that starts with a ‘9’, and if that’s the result for the second-line center, who turns 32 the week before the season opener, it’s no mystery why he remains unsigned.
Request for Julien Gauthier:
Is there any other player you can think of whose late career blast marks with that of Mike Knuble, the power winger who spent a few years with Rangers during the Dark Ages from 1997 to 2004 before being sent to Boston for Rob DiMaio?
During the first six years of his career with the Red Wings, Blueshirts and Bruins, from age 24 to 29, Knuble scored 50 goals and 103 points in 353 games while averaging 12:04 of ice time. His goals per game are 0.14.
For his next eight seasons, however, from 30-38 with Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, Knuble scored 218 goals and 419 points in 615 games while averaging 18:31 on the ice. His goals per goal increased to 0.52.
Apologies for overlooking Steve Weeks as a goalkeeper who played for both Rangers and Islanders. Not only that, but as one of seven goaltenders to wear both uniforms, Weeks is the only one to post a winning record for both teams, going 9-4-2 with the Islanders in 1991. -92 after being 42-33-14. for blue shirts from 1981 to 1984.
He would be second in our standings behind Glenn Healy. Steve Valiquette would thus be propelled to seventh place in the general classification, but perhaps he could improve his position by analyzing the figures between periods on MSG.
Finally, I try to imagine “Matteau! Mate! Matthew! in the cadence of the beloved Vin Scully.
Enjoy the rest of the summer.