Costs And Benefits of the NHL Lockout For the Islanders
For those of us paying attention, the NHL lockout has been a long time coming. Others seem to have been blindsided by the news. Whatever the case may be, however, fans are now faced with the prospect of losing some time -- perhaps a full season -- on watching and supporting their favorite teams and players.
Of course, this doesn't mean that there's a complete lack of hockey. There are still teams and leagues that a die-hard puck fan can latch onto. But this work stoppage doesn't come completely risk free. Let's look at the pros and cons of the lockout and where the Islanders might stand should there be a full season's worth of it.
From a young player's standpoint, this is a great opportunity to develop even further and perhaps regain some confidence. This is especially the case with Nino Niederreiter, who would probably have spent time in the AHL regardless of when the season starts.
Niederreiter is coming off of a dismal rookie campaign (only one goal, no assists in 55 games) in which he played mainly bottom-six minutes, albeit against the Isles' weakest competition. The Swiss winger needs some truly offensive linemates and better ice time to produce, both of which he should receive in Bridgeport. The farther away he gets from being our next Josh Bailey, the better.
Matt Donovan, Casey Cizikas, and other young guns poised to break the roster very soon have extra time to hone their skills in the A as well. Donovan in particular was a player thought to be in an Isles uniform soon, but this buys him even more development time. (Also, the Sound Tigers are going to have a stacked lineup. Hockey in Connecticut, anyone?)
Unfortunately, that seems to be where the benefits end.
If the lockout goes into 2013, as BD Gallof pointed out, it'll look to eat up the contracts of players the Isles have only just brought in, namely Brad Boyes and Lubomir Visnovsky. (There goes our power play.) Evgeni Nabokov will also be gone, as will be Eric Boulton. While yes, these guys are mainly just stop-gaps for younger incoming talent, it'll still be a few spots to fill.
For those still not convinced, captain Mark Streit is in the final year of his contract, and Travis Hamonic and Josh Bailey will be RFA status come the 2013 offseason. It will also be a year lost for all the young core forwards the Isles have signed long-term -- John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Martin.
Even if the lockout stretches to just half of a season, which some believe it will, there will be hardly any cohesiveness to this Isles team. They'll have to jell awfully fast in order to get anywhere in the standings, which will be the case with 29 other teams, making for a very disjointed on-ice product. And with players already having signed elsewhere (Streit to SC Bern, Visnovsky to Slovan Bratislava, Nabokov apparently considering the KHL), it doesn't look like there will be any team lockout practices a la Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks.
From a larger financial standpoint, according to this article in Newsday, Long Island stands to lose a potential $60 million in visitor spending, and Nassau County could lose up to $1 million in taxes and revenues. That's a lot of money no matter how you spin it, and it also goes to show how Long Island benefits from having NHL hockey. Though other events such as concerts and ice shows might help recover some of the money, it's important to note that there's a new venue competitor in town -- the Barclays Center in Brooklyn-- that wasn't there in 2004, when it was just MSG and the Coliseum. (That goes to show how much LI needs a new arena, too, but that's another story.) Basically, Long Island won't bode well should this lockout prolong itself.
Overall, this lockout will prove costly for most teams and for the league. It'll also hurt local arena employees who now need other forms of income, as well as the greater regions these teams play in. The Islanders don't look to benefit at all from a long work stoppage, and yet with the NHL and NHLPA so at odds with one another, that may well be the case.