Žigmund Pálffy: Honor the Knight of the Dark Ages

In the final season at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders are looking to honor the great history within the Barn’s confines. A building that opened its doors in 1972 has seen a plethora of great moments but unfortunately for fans younger than 40, they failed to duplicate that success at any point since the Drive for Five stalled.

As the Barn closes its doors for good, the Islanders need to honor the few bright spots from the dark days. We all love the dynasty but there are a few players that were great but just born in the wrong era of Islanders’ hockey.

Don’t forget some of the overlooked heroes that seemed to be the only ones competing at a high level during the down years.

For fans in their early and mid-20s, success was a fairy tale; a pipe dream. The majority of our memories of the Nassau Coliseum will unfortunately wind up being predominantly negative. There is no way to sugar coat the facts. Since 1993, the Coliseum has soaked up more tears of sorrow than joy.

Sprinkled in with the failure are a handful of good teams are moments filled with enough despair to go around.

It was as if the Islanders’ dynasty signed a deal with the Devil in exchange for the 4 Cups and 5 straight appearances in the Finals. How else could you explain the hex?

This isn’t a reflective piece or an avalanche of personal memories about the Coliseum. There will be plenty to follow as each game ticks off the schedule.

Consider this a public service announcement for fans to remember the bright spots even in the dull and sometimes downright atrocious eras of New York Islanders hockey.

The team is off to a great start of honoring their history (good and bad) by exorcising the demons of the Fisherman garbs. They will do this by donning them one last time in warm ups sometime during the season.

An unfortunate side effect of the era is the bright spots are glossed over with a broad stroke of the brush. Fans think of the mid to late-90s and immediately cringe at the aforementioned Fisherman jerseys. They also recall the mostly empty crowds and the apathetic teams that could not score. Who can forget all of the would be stars that were shipped from Long Island by Milbury and company?

However, hidden in the rubble was a gem named Žigmund Pálffy.

Pálffy’s first full season on Long Island was 1995-96 which saw the Isles harvest a pathetic 52 points winning only 22 games on the year.

This wasn’t for a lack of effort for Pálffy. The Isles’ RW scored 43 goals and helped with 44 assists totaling 87 points in a season where the Islanders only scored 229 goals in total. (Photo Credit: Flickr/Official New York Islanders)

His breakout performance made him the star of a beleaguered franchise that seemed overmatched and outsmarted at every turn.  The team did nothing but sink while Pálffy rose to the occasion. He continued his rise as an NHL star for the next 2 seasons netting 48 goals in 96-97 and 45 in 97-98.

Pálffy was literally the only reason to watch the Islanders’. He continued to excel even when playing on what should have not been able to qualify as an NHL caliber roster.

He was dazzling and exciting at a time when the Isles simply were not. His numbers were even more impressive when you analyze them because he was able to do it with no supporting cast at all.

He was a one man show and he entertained on a nightly basis.

Often times, that era of Islanders’ hockey is stricken from the record and for good reason.

There has been zero mention of Pálffy and he is often ignored when talking about the legacy of the Islanders. But actually, he is important bridge from the 4 Stanley Cups to the Yashin/Peca era which eventually led to the Tavares rebirth.

Ziggy PalffyPálffy kept the Island afloat to the best of his ability even when there wasn't a life boat for miles.

Pálffy is also cursed by the fact that he played during a time that fans of the Isles tended not to watch on television or attend live because the product was so bad.  They were never showcased nationally.

A lot of what he brought to the franchise has been ignored or simply just not seen by the fans. He seems to be celebrated as a folk hero rather the quality NHL star that he was.

Mike Milbury deemed it necessary to trade Pálffy after only scoring 22 goals in 50 games in the 1998-99 season for the struggling Islanders. He went to the Kings for prospects because it is believed that ownership did not want to pay him to age on a team that wouldn’t compete until he was past his prime. (Photo Credit:SportingNews.com)

His departure from Long Island left the struggling Isles without a marquee or franchise player. Without Pálffy, the Islanders’ officially gutted the team and ended an era.  There was writing on the wall but fans did not see it coming.

He went on to have a productive tenure with the Los Angeles Kings and even got to appear in some playoff games. After spending some time playing internationally, he left the minds of many NHL fans.

Following the lock out in 2005, Pálffy returned to the NHL, joining the Penguins. This return was nothing to write home about. He went out with a whimper into the night.

He played until 2012-13 in the Slovakian league for Skalica HK 36. Ziggy hung up his skates and seems to have disappeared in the annals of NHL's stat book.

1997-98 Ziggy Palffy Islanders Game Worn Jersey - "Slovakian Flag" - All Star WeekendDon't take this the wrong way.

This is not asking for 68 or 16 to be raised to the rafters of the Coliseum this season. That standard has been perfected and set early on in the franchise's history.

Ziggy doesn't quite meet those qualifications. But who knows? He might have been able to earn a banner if he wasn't traded away.

However, the Islanders need to honor a truly great player in their history in some way. (Photo Credit: Game Worn Auctions.net)

As bad as the Islanders’ were for all of those years in the late 90s, think about where they would be without Pálffy. It is frightening to ponder.

The Islanders should consider honoring Pálffy by adding his name to the team's Hall of Fame banner.

For a generation of fans that weren’t as fortunate to experience the Isles’ dynasty, Pálffy represented a glimmer of hope and brightness in an otherwise dark time. He deserves to be remembered and honored.

Get it trending. #RememberThe68Mullet

-Steve Giangaspro