Charles Wang says Islanders will make playoffs if NHL season is played
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No one knows when the NHL will start this season, but Islanders owner Charles Wang feels good about where his team will finish if it does.
"Yes, we're going to make the playoffs," Wang said on SiriusXM radio Thursday afternoon. "We should have even done it last year, but we didn't. And we're disappointed. We're going to make the playoffs and we're going to have a great run."
Still basking in the glow of Wednesday's announcement that the Islanders will move to Brooklyn in 2015, Wang said his team will be competitive not just on the ice but for some of the marquee free agents who have declined to join the Islanders in the past because of the rundown Nassau Coliseum and the uncertainty surrounding the team's future.
The Brooklyn deal, he believes, will change all that.
"I think we've never said we're not involved in big-time free agents. Our track record has been to offer [deals] to big-time free agents," Wang said. "They've been concerned about where we're going to be. [The Coliseum] is not an environment where everything is first-class -- we know the Coliseum is a little bit old, being kind. All of those things will be gone.
"We've never said [to our management], 'No, you can't have free agents.' We've made a lot of offers and they've decided to go somewhere else. We believe we will be in the hunt in getting some now."
Wang also addressed the small seating capacity of Barclays Center, saying Islanders fans will find room among the 15,000 or so seats that will be available.
"If you look at the Coliseum, we have about 16,200 seats in the arena. I wish I could say to you, 'Gee, we're sold out every night.' As you know, we're not," he said. "Yes, we should be so lucky as to have a problem [in Brooklyn] of not having enough seats. When we say 14,500, we're talking about unobstructed seats. We have to work on it. At 15,000, it's really good, it's an intimate environment."
Wang also talked about Rick DiPietro, who still will have six years left on his 15-year, $67-million deal when the Islanders move to Brooklyn. DiPietro is playing in Germany while the lockout continues.
"I don't know how many years specifically he has . . . We felt that he was the franchise goalie and wanted to keep him here," Wang said. "It wasn't one of those fancy, funny deals with big money up front, signing bonus. He certainly took less than what he could have gotten, given his status, and we made a long-term commitment. We believe in him. He's truly an Islander.
"I can't say what's going to happen. We know, the healthy Ricky DiPietro, we know what he can do. We hope that's what we get going forward. You can't find a kid with better heart when it comes to being an Islander."
Wang even addressed the lockout, though at risk of a heavy fine from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
"I think it makes everyone nuts -- players, owners, management," Wang said. "I think they will work it through. I think everybody's heart is, let's get hockey on the ice. I think they're doing their best and I hope it gets resolved soon."