Dynastic Islanders deserve unprecedented Hall of Fame honor

Please don’t tell Denis Potvin I said so, but No. 5 had a point on SNY Friday night when he said the Islanders team that won four straight Stanley Cups and 19 consecutive playoff series in the early ’80s should be inducted en masse to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Potvin was at the Coliseum — a sentence that begins like this just rolls off the tongue and computer screen, doesn’t it? — to celebrate John Tonelli’s No. 27 jersey retirement just as the three-time Norris winner will return to the building on Feb. 29 to participate in Butch Goring’s No. 91 jersey retirement.

A time it was, and what a time it was, as a pair of lads from Queens might have warbled about that remarkable group of athletes and unparalleled organization whose 19 straight playoff round victories from 1980 through the conference finals of 1984 eclipsed the previous mark of 18 established by the NBA Boston Celtics from 1959 through the opening round of 1967 during their run of eight straight championships.

Potvin is in the Hall of Fame; so are Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies; so is Billy Smith; so is the coach, Al Arbour; and the general manager, Bill Torrey. But that’s it for the old gang. Goring and Tonelli are likely just a cut short, but if Dick Duff and Guy Carbonneau have been inducted, then No. 91 (who wore No. 21 during the run to the first Cup) and No. 27 merit second, third and fourth looks.

But there will be no Hall of Fame recognition for Bob Bourne, whose No. 14 would be the next to go up to the sky if there is a next from that greatest generation, and there will be no Hall of Fame induction for Kenny Morrow or Dave Langevin or Anders Kallur. But these players should be recognized en masse, all of the 16 who played for all four champions.

Denis Potvin holds the NHL Stanley Cup in 1981.
Denis Potvin holds the NHL Stanley Cup in 1981.AP

The Hockey Hall of Fame does not have a category for teams. That should change. The U.S. Hockey of Hall of Fame has inducted and welcomed four teams — the 1960 and 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic gold medal winners, the 1996 men’s World Cup championship team, and the 1998 U.S. Women’s Olympic gold medalists — into its museum.

There is no reason the Hockey Hall of Fame should not have a category of its own for the greatest teams. Surely the five-time winning Canadiens of 1956-60 (10 straight playoff round victories) and the Habs of 1976-79 (13 straight through the first round 1980) would be among the first NHL teams so recognized. The Oilers who won four out of five Cups through the mid-’80s would be honored. So would the Red Wings teams that finished in first place of the Original Six for seven straight seasons from 1948-49 through 1954-55 and won four Cups in the interim.

The 1980 U.S. Olympic team, of course, would merit inclusion, so would the Red Army teams that ran roughshod over the world until they set down camp in Lake Placid and, 40 years ago this weekend, met their fate dictated by Herb Brooks and Mark Johnson and Jim Craig and Mike Eruzione and Mark Pavelich.

But the dynastic Islanders would be first. The dynastic Islanders should be first. No team ever played the game at as a high a level for as long a time. No team ever won 19 straight playoff rounds. Potvin was right: The 1980-84 Islanders belong in the Hall of Fame.

By the way, if the Islanders ever want to put up No. 16 in recognition of Pat LaFontaine, we’re good with that at Slap Shots.

And with Goring and Tonelli both recognized, that leaves Brad Park and John MacLean as the most obvious ongoing snubs around these parts.

Park’s case for the retirement of No. 2 at the Garden has been made often in this space, but MacLean’s No. 15 should have a place of honor in New Jersey, the winger second in franchise goals scored (347), fourth in assists (354), second in points (701), fifth in games played (934) and the scorer of one of the five most important goals in franchise history, the overtime winner in the 1987-88 finale in Chicago that propelled the Devils into the playoffs for the first time.

A very nice deal for the Bruins, pulling in a 24-year-old winger Ondrej Kase from the Ducks on Friday, maybe even Charlie Coyle-ish, but it is doubtful Boston is finished attempting to bulk up in the Eastern arms race any more than their direct competition in Tampa Bay in the wake of the Lightning’s addition of Blake Coleman.

You realize, of course, that the teams with the two best records in the NHL, Boston and Tampa Bay, are on course to meet in the second round of the playoffs because Sixth Avenue believes the convenience of presenting brackets usurps the concept of competitive integrity.

Well, just seven more years to go for the Sabres on that Jeff Skinner contract at $9 million per. And is this the summer in Buffalo that ownership/upper management takes at peek at a possible boffo return for Jack Eichel, who will have six years at $10 million per remaining on his contract after the 23-year-old captain’s sixth straight playoff miss since joining the NHL as the second-overall behind Connor McDavid in 2015? Or is the player who will request a move?

So in New Jersey, how much of it was, A) Cory Schneider; B) John Hynes; C) Taylor Hall?

Finally, once again, presenting Jere-ME Roenick, another one who just never got it — not when he acted as an enemy within as an NHLPA union member through the 2004-05 lockout, not when he got the gig at NBC, not when he posts on social media.

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