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And, in the end, after making us sweat it out for a couple of months, they got it right!

Alexei Yashin’s tumultuous tenure as captain of the New York Islanders has finally come to an end. Whatever sales pitch Ted Nolan and Garth Snow threw at Charles Wang worked, though it must have been a tough decision for the Islanders owner. Regardless, as I have written in previous columns, it was a decision that had to be made if the team had ever hoped to take that next step.

While Yashin’s exit does not by any means guarantee the returns of pending unrestricted free agents Jason Blake and/or Ryan Smyth, it most certainly was, at least, a prerequisite for the latter. Smyth didn’t exactly call out Yashin after the Islanders fell to Buffalo in the first round of this year’s playoffs, but his words screamed Yashin up and down.

“There were too many guys tonight who didn't leave everything they had on the ice.”

Yep, that’s Yashin alright!

Thankfully, for me anyway, the Yashin debate ends here. I’ve spent far too much time, energy, and breath on the subject and, quite frankly, never did find a formidable opponent to argue for Yashin. (Did one ever exist? Hmm, guess it wasn’t much of a debate then, eh?)

The fact that this took so long, however, leads me to believe that, despite the obvious lack of success in trying to jam the square Yashin into the circle hole as Isles’ captain, what kept him around (yes, even more than the mammoth contract) was his relationship with Wang. Because of that, I empathize with Mr. Wang. He is most certainly loyal, probably to a fault. (See Milbury, M.) And it is never easy severing a business relationship with a friend. I’m sure many of us, myself included, can relate to that situation, at least a little.

As for Yashin, at this point, no hard feelings, right? By all accounts, he’s a decent guy. He’s been both courteous and generous with fans over the years and there are certainly many players in all sports who could learn something from Yashin there. I’ve been vigilant in my descriptions of him with monikers like, “Captain Cancer,” and, “The Craptain,” which may or may not have been fair. But my hard stance on Yashin was cemented after a game here in Tampa on March 20, 2007.

Through a chance encounter with some associates of Arron Asham, my wife and I got the opportunity to meet with many of the Islanders as they left the locker room after the game that night. It was a hard-fought contest that saw the Isles fall in overtime at a time when their playoff fight appeared to be a losing effort. A lifelong Islander fan, I was obviously excited to shake hands and chat with members of the team. My excitement quickly turned to disdain as the first player out of the room, showered, dressed, and headed for the bus, was indeed Yashin. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I extended my hand, offered a, “Hang in there, Yash,” and received a left-handed handshake and a quick, muffled, “Thanks,” before he sped through the lobby and out of the arena. He couldn’t possibly have exited any quicker. A tight, end-to-end, chippy loss in the midst of battling for their playoff lives and the captain, of all people, virtually runs from the room, by far the first one out.

As he exits, I suppose there really is no lingering ill will toward Yashin. He had his moments, too few and far between to remember in detail, on the Island. One can only hope his departure helps to open the door for the returns of Smyth and Blake, Tom Poti and, perhaps, the arrival of other key cogs for future success.

Let’s hope any remnants of Yashin exit with him just as quickly as he left the locker room that night here in Tampa.
Filed Under:   Yashin   Smyth   Islanders   buyout  
June 6, 2007 9:17 PM ET | Delete
nice piece JJ! ((yashin buyout high-five))
June 7, 2007 10:51 AM ET | Delete
Nice post, JJ.
June 8, 2007 12:55 PM ET | Delete
OK so you got rid of a stiff, now how does the team get better from here? There are still many, many holes. And let me remind you that this is a perfect example of why any sane GM would not offer a contract for such a ridiculous term. And Yashin's was only 2/3 that of your goaler......
June 8, 2007 1:59 PM ET | Delete
Let me remind you that the insane GM that you speak of is now long gone ... AND that our "goaler" is a stud. Now go away!
June 8, 2007 4:46 PM ET | Delete
You're missing the point. The Yashin deal didn't look too bad at the start. But things happen over time and things obviously got so bad that they bought him out of almost half of the deal. Your goaler may be OK now, but what happens if he gets hurt or tapers off a bit? And his contract is 5 years longer than Yashin's. I wouldn't give Crosby a 15 year deal right now. You just have no idea how the player will perform that far down the road. And to be committed to that kind of a term is not good business sense. Buyouts cost the team needless amounts of money and cap space. Not very prudent. That's the point I'm trying to make.
June 9, 2007 10:44 AM ET | Delete
Damage control. What's done is done and buying out Yashin was the best thing they could have done at this point. They corrected a mistake as best they could. Keeping that stiff any longer would have been a HUGE detriment to the team.
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