Like most other teams, much of the New York Islanders offseason was devoted to heavy speculation — only it wasn't over player contracts or major trades, but rather where the team would be playing after the Nassau Coliseum lease expires in 2015.
Back during the 2010-11 NHL All-Star Game, CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" and the NHLPA conducted a survey of more than 300 NHL players. One of the questions was, "What team would you least like to play on?"
The answer? With 27 percent of the vote, the Islanders.
The same Islanders have had the worst home attendance in four of the past six seasons, including the lowest of any team in the past six years during the 2010-11 campaign. The Isles averaged just 11,059 during games at the Coliseum last season — more than 1,000 less than the next closest team.
As for their actual on-ice play last season? While it improved — and is expected to continue to improve this season — the Isles finished dead last in the ever-competitive Atlantic Division for the fourth consecutive season. The team's claim to fame was a fight-filled, 9-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in February (see video), which saw a grand total of 346 penalty minutes handed out and drew a ton of criticism from around the league.
Most of the offseason was spent focused on an Aug. 1 referendum vote, which saw residents a referendum that called for a new arena built in Nassau County.
In September, it was reported that a group of developers, business leaders and community planners was proposing a of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and its surrounding 77-acre property. There has been no word on the progress thus far.
In her pre-referendum vote piece on Grantland, writer Katie Baker delved deep into the Islanders franchise and its problems over the last decade. Of the Coliseum, she wrote:
Built in 1972, the Coliseum is the second-oldest NHL arena behind only Madison Square Garden (which is currently undergoing extensive renovations that will span several summers.) The roof leaks. Chairs and fixtures are beginning to crumble. The air-conditioning system is wonky, and that means the ice surface is, too. If The Coliseum sounds like some sort of torture chamber that’s because it basically is, complete with a victim who has been chained up, ball-gagged, and held hostage for years within the arena's cold depths: the Islanders franchise.
With key players like John Tavares and all-star Michael Grabner, the 2011-12 season does look much brighter for the once great franchise — but will it translate into a new arena?