Mike Milbury’s Top 15 Worst Moves As A GM

General Managers, its in the name, they must manage alot of general functions and operations of players and coaches for the franchise they are working for. So, in order to be a good, if not great general manager you should probably be patient, understanding, and have forethought.

Mike Milbury’s GM career shows very few signs of such things. Milbury’s tenure on long island was a decade of troublesome decisions, followed by irrational short term thinking which in turn lead Milbury to one of the worst ever general manager resumes in NHL history.

His moves were made with passion and fire, just like Milbury spent his entire playing career, whether it be on the ice or even up in the stands fighting visiting fans on the odd occasion. Milbury’s passion was clear during his tenure in long island but his success rate in terms of his managerial decision making was very, very low.

When first brought in by the Islanders the hope was his leadership qualities and passion would be the driving force behind an Islander re-birth in the mid to late 90’s. However, Milbury’s choices soon became the butt end of a bad joke, and Islander fans quickly came to find that things were going to get much worse before they were ever going to get any better.


15) 1995/1996 – NYI Traded D Brad Lukowich to DAL for 3rd round choice in 1997 Entry Draft.

One of Milbury’s earliest moves is definitely one to look back on and scratch your head. Going into the 1995/1996 season Milbury sent young defensive stalwart Brad Lukowich to the Dallas Stars, and in return he literally got almost nothing. A third round draft choice two years forward in the 1997 entry draft would mean little to nothing for New York once Dallas rose to the top of the Western Conference in the mid-90’s. So, in return for a young, improving and solid defenceman which the Islanders could have most definitely used in their lineup, Milbury exchanged that future for a bag of hockey pucks and maybe a few pylons at best. Meanwhile Lukowich went onto win a stanley cup in his second season with Dallas.


14) 2005/2006 – NYI trade D Janne Niinimaa & a 5th round pick in 2007 to DAL for D John Erskine & a 2nd round pick in 2006

After arriving a few years prior in a stinker of a trade from Mike Milbury, Janne Niinimaa was quickly finding himself out of town in another one of Milbury’s finer failures. While trying to move the defenceman and his contract the only suitor he could find was the Dallas Stars. In order to make the deal Milbury swapped a fifth round pick for a second, a very, very slight win for Mike, but gave Niinimaa away for nothing more than a goon. Erskine never did anything more than fight throughout his entire NHL career, and thus even a salary dump move such as this could have been executed so much better on the return value coming back New York’s way.


13) 1998/1999 – NYI traded G Tommy Salo to EDM for F Mats Lindgren & 8th Round Selection in 2000 (Radek Martinek).

In the midst of the Milbury madness one former Islander goaltender caught quite a bit of flack from the former GM, even more than the other four or five goalies who didn’t last too long during Milbury’s time in New York. Tommy Salo was a solid young swedish netminder who was showing some signs of promise in his first few years on the island. However, Milbury felt compelled to rid himself of a goaltender whom he didn’t have the greatest relationship with publicly. In doing so he sent Salo to Edmonton during the 1999 trade deadline for a sparsely used forward in Mats Lindgren and an 8th round selection in that years draft. The most positive piece of the trade for New York was Radek Martinek from the draft, he had a few solid seasons on long island but Tommy Salo got the last laugh against Milbury reaching the post-season three consecutive years with Edmonton.


12) 2002/2003 – Islanders trade LW Brad Isbister and prospect LW Raffi Torres to the Edmonton Oilers for D Janne Niinimaa, WSH’s 2003 second and fourth round picks.

During the deadline of the 2002/03 season the Islanders Mike Milbury was looking to give his team a shake up. Milbury had been wheeling and dealing at the deadline already (see #11), and continued the shake-up by dealing a hard working pair of forwards in return for as he had hoped a solid puck moving defenceman. Isbister was not much of a threat offensively anymore, and therefore the trade was really the young Raffi Torres drafted 5th overall in 2000 for Janne Niinimaa and a few future draft picks. Torres had alot of potential and had yet to show it and Niinimaa had proven himself as a solid two way defenceman, however, Milbury made a move for a veteran who was on the decline and gave up a youngster with alot of potential and promise. The move came back to bite him within a year or so as Torres had become a regular in the Oilers lineup and Niinimaa a forgotten piece on the island.


11) 2002/2003 – Traded G Chris Osgood & 3rd Round Selection in 2003 to St. Louis Blues for Justin Papineau and 2nd Round Selection in 2003 Draft.

Osgood was in the middle of only his second season on long island after having arrived from Detroit prior to the 2001/2002 season. After dragging the Islanders on his back to the playoffs in 2001/2002 on the strength of his fifth 30+ win season at the time, Osgood and the Isles were bumped by Toronto from the first round in 7. The next year, Osgood was traded at the deadline to St. Louis after struggling somewhat during the season on long island, or at least in the eyes of the impatient Mike MIlbury. In return for a playoff capable goalie the Isles received a grinding winger and a second round selection that turned into pretty much nothing. Osgood on the other hand, went to the playoffs that year with St. Louis, and then went onto another cup win in Detroit a few years later.


10) 2003/2004 – CHI trades D Alexander Karpotsev to NYI for a 4th round pick in 2005 (D Niklas Hjalmarsson).

At the time Alexander Karpotsev was a veteran defenceman in his early thirties that played solid third pairing minutes in Chicago for a very mediocre Blackhawks club. For no real reason whatsoever that can be drawn up from Karpotsev’s past history or statistics, Milbury felt the need to add the veteran defenceman to his squad late on in the year. Karpotsev only ever played 8 games over two seasons with the Islanders and in return they gave up young defenceman and future cup winner Niklas Hjalmarsson in the deal. Hjalmarsson has been an important part of the Chicago top four defensive pairings over their past three Stanley Cup victories in his nine plus seasons with the Blackhawks. Clearly Milbury’s lack of forward thinking hurt him here again.


9) 2000/2001 – Drafted G Rick DiPietro with #1 Overall Pick at 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

Going into the 2000 NHL entry draft many expected the Islanders to add depth to their scoring. Also, there really was no reason for the Islanders to add anything but young offensive talent considering they had a young and upcoming Roberto Luongo in their system with just a year under his belt of NHL action. Then the Islanders GM turned heads around the NHL with his first overall pick coming in the form of a goaltender? Yes DiPietro had great upside and showed signs of promise in the early 2000’s but his career was a massive bust in terms of what could have been. Also Marian Gaborik and Dany Heatley were picked following DiPietro, oh what could have been.

8) 1996/1997 – Islanders trade Darius Kasparaitis and Andreas Johansson to the Penguins for Bryan Smolinski.

This was a pretty awful trade to start out his early days on long island. Bryan Smolinski came over from Pittsburgh and while he was able to give the Islanders a little bit of scoring depth he never topped 60 points and more than fifty just once in his three seasons. The idea at the time was to put someone in the middle for Zigmund Palffy. Smolinski lack of touch didn’t quite cut it as a feeder for Palffy and his paltry point totals for a first line center were not worth Kasparaitis’ defensive abilities and brute force. Kasparaitis went on to have a +24 rating in Pittsburgh in 1996/97 and play another decade in the NHL as a strong defensive-defenseman, clearly costing the Islanders a very stalwart piece at the backend for years to come.


7) 1999/2000 – Traded Zigmund Palffy, Bryan Smolinski, Marc Cousineau and 1999 4th round pick to LA for Olli Jokinen, Mathieu Biron, Josh Green and 1999 1st Round Pick.

Zigmund Palffy broke through in his third season as a frontline goal scorer in new york. The problem was just a few short seasons later the Islanders were in the midst of a contract dispute again with one of their star players. Palffy felt undervalued by ownership and Milbury, and mad mike wasted no time in ridding of Palffy during the off-season prior to the start of 1999-2000. Palffy took his 40+ goal scoring to hollywood alongside depth centerman Bryan Smolinski. In return the islanders only received a good young Olli Jokinen due to the NHL not allowing the trade to go through without the Kings making their young finnish prospect a part of the deal. You know its a bad trade when the NHL vetoes your move because of just how unfair the deal really is.


6) 1998/1999 – Islanders trade RW Jean-Pierre Dumont & NYI 5th round pick in 1998 Entry Draft to the Chicago Blackhawks for C Dmitri Nabokov.

J.P. Dumont was a terrific skilled winger in the Islanders organization who had yet to break into the NHL while playing his junior hockey in the QMJHL. His contract disputes prior to getting him onto the ice with the team made Milbury uncomfortable and clearly didn’t help Dumont’s chances of winning over the general manager. So prior to the June entry draft in 1998 Milbury sent the young winger to Chicago for young unknown center Dmitri Nabokov. Nabokov played about 20 games in the NHL with the Islanders and left for Russia never to return. Dumont went onto 12 seasons in the NHL compiling six 20+ goal seasons from the wing.

5) 1998/1999 – Islanders trade D Bryan Berard & NYI’s 6th round choice in 1999 Entry Draft to Toronto for G Felix Potvin and TOR’s 6th round choice in 1999 Entry Draft.

Calder Trophy winner Bryan Berard, a speedy, puck rushing defenceman blessed with great hands. A sure fire all-star and could have been so much more (see Bryan Berard eye). Berard was coming off a rookie of the year campaign that was followed by an equally as good if not better sophomore season. During his third season Milbury decided to ship Berard off to the leafs in return for veteran goalie and backup Felix Potvin. With Potvin’s career on the decline and Berard’s really just beginning, this was easily a horrific move on the part of the general manager.


4) 2001/2002 – Signed F Alexei Yashin to 10 Year, $87.5M Contract.

10 year 87.5 Million USD contract was signed by Alexei Yashin as he arrived in long island. Before having even played a game with the team Milbury signed him to an outrageously long and overpriced contract as well as handing him the captaincy. Milbury only really stopped shy of handing Yashin the keys to the city through this contract, because from 2001 through 2011 he averaged nearly 9 million a year for playing only 5 of those seasons in the NHL. A pretty bad decision on Milbury’s part in regards to choosing a cornerstone for your franchise.


3) 2000/2001 – Islanders trade G Roberto Luongo and F Olli Jokinen to the Florida Panthers for F Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish.

This will always hurt most because of Robby Lou. However, its easy to forget Olli Jokinen was also an 80+ point player down the road with Florida twice in his career and four separate seasons scored 30+ goals. Jokinen’s scoring would have really helped the Islanders and Luongo’s great goaltending career would have too. Both had just one season under their belt with the Islanders when this deal was made in return for two forwards who never topped 60 points. Parrish was the better of the two but was never more than an average winger at best and Oleg Kvasha was always thought to be so much more in terms of scoring never topping 15 goals in a season.


2) 1997/1998 – Islanders trade D Bryan McCabe, C Todd Bertuzzi and a third-round draft pick to Vancouver for Trevor Linden.

Trevor Linden was coming off of injury and was never was able to regain quite the same scoring touch. In return for his year and a half on long island they gave up Bryan McCabe’s quality defensive and offensive skills as well as leadership, losing a possible future captain. Todd Bertuzzi within just two and a half years in Vancouver was already proving how lopsided this trade would be by compiling his first of four consecutive 25+ goal seasons. A pair of bright futures were lost for a burnt out bulb in this very lopsided deal.


1) 2001/2002 – Islanders obtain C Alexei Yashin from Ottawa for D Zdeno Chara, RW Bill Muckalt, and the second overall pick in the 2001 Draft(C Jason Spezza).

Possibly the worst trade in team history, and Milbury’s crown jewel. When looking back at a trade such as this one it makes you wonder what the Islander’s could have had as a future. Instead Milbury threw away the future more than used kleenex. Yashin was a player few felt comfortable bringing into their lineup, especially with his personal lack of playoff success and attitude/work ethic issues. Still, Milbury threw the Senators a top young defenceman with lots of upside, a guy named Zdeno Chara. Along with that blue chip prospect he served up the second overall pick in the that year’s draft, aka Jason Spezza. Milbury sure knew how to ruin a franchise’s future outlook in just one deal.



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