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PRO HOCKEY NOTES

Lost at sea on the island

The Bruins leave Boston in October when the circus makes its annual visit to TD Banknorth Garden. However, on Long Island there's a circus going on all the time in the Islanders' front office. The latest mind-blowing saga featured the hiring of Neil Smith as general manager, and then the firing of Smith by owner Charles Wang only 40 days into his tenure. Compounding matters was the resignation of senior adviser Pat LaFontaine on the same day.

Wang created more shock waves when he promptly hired his backup goaltender -- Wrentham's own Garth Snow -- to replace Smith. The owner wants a committee to make hockey decisions and Smith, who engineered the Rangers' run to the Stanley Cup championship in 1994, wanted to run the show himself. Now it will be up to Snow, a former University of Maine standout, Bryan Trottier, who is the team's executive director of player development, coach Ted Nolan, and director of pro scouting Ken Morrow to turn around a franchise that has been a stunning underachiever for years.

Starting with the 1990-91 season, the Islanders have missed the playoffs 10 of the last 15 seasons, and have not won a playoff series since 1993, when they made it to the Wales Conference finals. They go through coaches like the Bruins and they have arguably the worst building in the NHL, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which is more dungeon than arena.

With regard to drafting players, the Islanders have been much like Rick Pitino when he was running the Celtics. They've made a big splash on draft day, only to make a bigger one when they trade the player away before he could grow into a bona fide NHLer.

For example, here are some of the top players who got away or were practically given away by the hair-trigger Islanders:

Zdeno Chara -- In one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history, the Islanders traded Chara, whom they had taken with the 56th overall pick in the 1996 draft, Bill Muckalt, and their first-round pick in 2001 (which turned out to be Jason Spezza) to Ottawa for Alexei Yashin in June 2001.

Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen -- Luongo was the goalie of the future when the Islanders took him fourth overall in 1997. That future, however, was brief. He played just one year with the team before it dealt him to Florida with Jokinen, a first-line center, for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha in June 2000.

Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe -- Bertuzzi was taken 23d overall by the Islanders in 1993 and McCabe was grabbed at No. 40 the same year. After two seasons and part of a third with the team, they were shipped to Vancouver with a third-round pick (Jarkko Ruutu) in 1998 for Trevor Linden.

Wade Redden -- He, Chara, and McCabe have developed into three of the top blue liners in the game but evidently they weren't good enough for the Islanders. Redden was traded to Ottawa Jan. 23, 1996, with Damian Rhodes for Don Beaupre, Martin Straka, and Bryan Berard.

Darius Kasparaitis -- He'll be 34 in October but when Kasparaitis was playing for the Islanders at the start of his career, he showed all the signs of being what he turned into -- a pain in the neck to play against. After being drafted fifth overall by New York in 1992, he played four-plus seasons for the Islanders before being dealt to Pittsburgh with Andreas Johansson for Bryan Smolinski.

In 1999, the Islanders had three picks in the top 10 -- Tim Connolly (No. 5), Taylor Pyatt (No. 8), and Branislav Mezei (No. 10) . None of them is still with the club. Connolly played two seasons with New York before being swapped with Pyatt, who lasted only one year, for Michael Peca in June 2001. Mezei, a defenseman, also lasted two seasons, before the Islanders sent him packing to Florida for Jason Wiemer.

Eric Brewer -- Taken fifth overall in 1997, Brewer lasted two seasons before being traded to Edmonton in a multiplayer deal for defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who lasted four years on the island.

So, the revolving door continues, both on the roster and in the front office. It's too bad Winnipeg and Quebec City can't get back in the NHL but chaos continues to reign in Uniondale, N.Y.

He hopes he fits
Billerica's Tom Fitzgerald, an unrestricted free agent who played for the Bruins last season, has yet to sign with a team but would like to play one more year, preferably in Boston. Fitzgerald, who turns 38 next month, said that when his playing career ends, he would like to remain in the game, perhaps as a coach. Fitzgerald, a leader throughout his career, was a stabilizing factor in the Bruins' dressing room during the frustrating and chaotic 2005-06 campaign. Should he return, he would be a positive influence on their young players. Fitzgerald said he can't see himself signing with another club because it would mean leaving his wife, Kerry, and their four children back in the Boston area. ``My family comes first," said Fitzgerald. ``We'll see what happens. I'm a realist." . . . The Central New England chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society will hold its annual charity golf tournament at Ipswich Country Club Monday. Both the Boston and Providence Bruins have donated items for the silent auction. In addition, two Baby B's players will participate -- goalie Jordan Sigalet, who was diagnosed with MS in the spring of 2004, and his brother Jonathan, a defenseman. Ben Guite, who recently signed a free agent deal with the Colorado Avalanche, will also take part. For information, log on to msnewengland.org . . . The Bruins Academy will hold its second ``Frozen Face-Off" Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at Skyline Bar and Grill at Marina Bay in Quincy. General admission tickets are $40 with Bruins season ticket-holders getting in for $30. For information, call 617-624-1928. Don Sweeney, the Bruins' director of player development, will be on hand as will Bruins great Terry O'Reilly. Proceeds will benefit the Bruins Foundation's bike team, which will ride in the Pan-Mass Challenge next month. The foundation's team includes captains O'Reilly and Kim Jacobs (wife of Bruins executive vice president Charlie Jacobs), Gary Doak, Lyndon Byers, and Bob Sweeney. A ``Meet the Team" fund-raising party will be held tomorrow from 5:30-8 p.m. at Legends at the Garden. Tickets are $250 and may be purchased through Jay Southwood at 617-624-1924 . . . The Bruins will also hold a ``Skate and Bait" fishing tournament Aug. 1 out of Gloucester. The event, presented by Yankee Whale Watch and Deep Sea Fishing, will include breakfast with O'Reilly and Doak as well as other Bruins alumni, a day of fishing, and a barbecue dinner. Registration is at 7 a.m. and the boat departs at 8 and will return at 4 p.m. Participants will be separated into groups of four and paired with a Bruins player or alumnus. Individual tickets are $180 and foursome packages are $600. For more information, call 617-624-1923 or log on to bostonbruins.com. Proceeds will also benefit the bike team.

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