It was recently suggested that the New York Islanders could look to exercise an opt-out clause in their lease and leave Barclays Center following the 2017-18 campaign. The team’s first year in the arena didn’t go as smoothly as hoped with obstructed sight lines and the poor condition of the ice drawing heavy criticism. However, with new ownership in place for the Islanders and a concerted effort on the part of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment to address the concerns related to Barclays Center, it appears as if the relationship between the team and the arena’s operator is in a better spot today, as Brian Heyman writes for Newsday.
Brett Yormark, CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, was at the Islanders’ home-opener on Sunday and “got an overall positive vibe” from fans in attendance, and said about the fan reaction: “A little bit different tone than last year.”
According to Heyman, Barclays added additional Islanders “imagery and branding,” at the arena as well as beefing up on Islanders merchandise in the team store. Additionally, they’ve brought aboard an “ice technician” to help keep the ice in good playing condition. Those efforts did not go unnoticed by team co-owner Jon Ledecky:
“I think fans have already talked to us after the opening day that they feel like it’s our home now. Just the whole feel of the building in our second season — Barclays has worked hard to make our fans feel like it’s their home. And I really appreciate that.”
Despite the progress, the Islanders still could exercise their opt-out after the 2017-18 season though that might appear less likely than it did just a few weeks ago, as Ledecky notes:
“We’re in a great relationship with Barclays now. No one has a crystal ball about the future. We’re moving forward in our relationship with them in a very positive framework.”
Elsewhere in the Metro Division:
- Flyers LW Michael Raffl was forced to exit the team’s 7 – 4 loss to Chicago Tuesday night with an abdominal pull, according to Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly. He suffered the injury during the second period when he absorbed a body check along the boards. Raffl, who has one goal so far this season in three contests, was the only Flyer to suit up for all 82 games in 2015-16 and finished fifth on the club in goals with 13. It’s not clear at this point how long the Austrian winger will be out.
- Sidney Crosby, who has yet to appear in a game this season for Pittsburgh due to a concussion, could return to practice Wednesday, writes Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Head coach Mike Sullivan indicated Crosby’s response to a workout Tuesday would determine when he would return to the ice with his teammates. Seth Rorabaugh of DKPittsburghSports.com noted via Twitter, however, that Crosby was not among the early participants at the team’s practice, though that could certainly change.
- Due to the compressed schedule this season, Washington Capitals backup goalie Philipp Grubauer is in line to see more action between the pipes this season, as Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post observes. Grubauer started just 16 of the 22 games he appeared in during the 2015-16 season but according to Capitals head coach Barry Trotz, he could end up starting one-quarter of the team’s contests this year: “I said to the goaltenders, if I could go Grubi one game and then Holts three, that type of situation, that would be in the perfect world what I’d like to do.” That split would see Grubauer receive 20 – 21 starts over the course of a full season. As Khurshudyan notes, Grubauer typically catches the second end of back-to-backs and the Capitals are scheduled to have 16 of those this year. Braden Holtby started 66 times in 2015-16, down from 73 starts the year prior, and Trotz would like to see a further decrease this season: “I think it’s important for the whole journey that we get the right number of games and keep both goalies sharp and not overwork guys. I thought last year with Holts, we did a better job of that than we did the year before. I’d like to do a better job in that area than we did last year even.”