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Once Upon a Time in Islanderland

New York Islanders GM Jussi Kalmi decided to end his unusually long silence and take reporters on a journey into the magical world of Islanderland.

After couple of months of silence Islanders decided to call an overall press conference. There has been a lot of speculation why nothing has been heard in last few weeks. Maybe some of those questions will be answered today.

From Islanders there will be GM J. Kalmi, K. Takko, J. Bednar & J. Hiller.

As from press has been invited following journalists: M. O’Leary, J. Nieminen, A. Valavuori, A. Gross & S. Hogan.

Normally bubbly and busy office of Islanders seems to be noticeably quiet and certain seriousness can be felt in the air. Everyone who enters the building are asked their ID and demanded to use the mask. If not, order is truly clear “bugger off”.

All invited journalists are asked to enter the press room with their masks on and keep at least 2m distance between them. All of them are also given wireless throat mics to avoid any unnecessary pandemic risks.

Islanders’ crew are already at the press room when the journalists enter the room. Even though masks are used, man can clearly see tiredness on Kalmi’s face. Also, the amount of grey hair has increased substantially from the last time.

The rest of the Isles’ crew seems to be on profoundly serious mood, hardly any greetings are done, so what is the reason behind this all very curious atmosphere?

After couple of minutes of silence, J. Kalmi stood up and said the following:

“First of all we as Isles’ organization would thank you all accepting the invitation to come. We have received many emails, messages, and calls in last few weeks as we have not been active with the press in overall.

"Therefore, I want to give my apologies, but reasons for that have been truly clear; firstly, if Trump would have been elected for the second term, we would have decided to depart from this long-term project. We want to be known as an organization which enforces free speech, equality, and globalization.

"Unfortunately, our HQ here got vandalized few weeks back from certain extremist groups, which was totally unexpected and unacceptable. We are not politically linked to any party, and we will not support any extremist views and tasks. Or maybe it was organized by Rangers’ or Devils’ (deeply laughing).

"Now newly-elected President Biden has given us back the belief our global investment on Islanders has been the correct one for short- and long-term.”

After sipping little bit of water Kalmi continued:

“As I personally have business interests in various countries around the world, as well an important quote in Porin Ässät hockey team in Finland, these last few months have been incredibly stressful for me and everyone else who are working with me in my organization.

"Cuts and reorganizations have been made, and our hope is to survive and keep every single job place secure. Me and few key members of our organization are here to talk about of our first part of the season and answering your questions.

"We try to answer as well as we can, and hopefully we can fulfill the needs of our fans in regard.”

M. O’Leary: “Many thanks for the invitation. Have you managed to get know the rest of the GMs in BEARD league?”

J. Kalmi: “Well (munching something behind the mask), in first 2-3 months we have met most of the GMs. With few of them keep almost daily contact. It is nice to get to know real people behind names. In overall impact has been very positive, and it’s a pleasure to be here.”

A. Valavuori: “Sir, to continue from O’Leary’s previous question, could you enlighten us what is Isles’ trading strategy overall?”

J. Kalmi: “First of all, don’t call me Sir, not needed at all. Just call me Jussi. To answer your question, well, it is a dilemma at the end of the day. Dilemma is all about of your mental set up. Let me explain; there’s styles as they are GMs, some are old school and some are, well, new school (little laugh comes out). I prefer hockey trades as quality vs quality, not interested selling quality piece for quantity.

"If I would have a bottle of Caol ila 25-yr, would not sell it for 10 bottles of Johnnie Walker Red label!!! If that answers your question?”

J. Nieminen: “Hi Jussi, good to see you again. My first question goes on your Draisaitl trade. What made you to do it, and how it went until the final decision moment?

J. Kalmi: “Hi Jouni. Fantastic to see you here, and extremely pleased to have accepted our invitation. As we all know, we gave large amount of our high-end assets to get Draisaitl, and our intention was to have him here for very long time.

"But, as I have tried to get Laine from the day one, we reached the point where we noticed that only liable way to get Laine was to attach Draisaitl on that trade. Believe me, we went through countless different options, but the result was always the same. I contacted Nashville’s GM Scott and gave our offer.

"Initially he was not so eager, but after time passed, he came back and accepted the offer with adding Wennberg from our side and Lucic from his side. A proper hockey trade, players involved, 3 left and 3 came. It was a quite shock to our team and fans when it was announced, but everyone knows this is business and sometimes must put the emotions to side.

"I had one-to-one talk with Draisaitl, and it was extremely hard to tell him that he has been traded. Draisaitl understood it all and he thanked as well. He thanked the whole team and made a superb open letter to our fans and everyone else in our organization. He will be missed, but you never know if our paths cross again at some point…”

A. Gross: “Hi, and thanks for the invitation, a pleasure to be here. Would like to ask how this trade and few other trades after (Yandle, Kassian, Rinne) has changed your game tactics?”

J. Bednar: “Excellent question. Yes, we have made quite a few trades, from smaller to larger. Of course, our intention always is to improve our Pro and Farm teams. And I think we have managed to do that. Selling Draisaitl and Teräväinen left a quite a hole in our line up, but I’m certain Laine and Couturier have filled them more than accordingly.

"Couturier has given us also slightly more defensive prowess, which we may have lacked in our second line prior. And of course, Laine is an absolute monster on wing. His shot is second-to-none, but he has surprised me how good passing skills he has as well.

"Also, he has immediately put into rubbish bins comments, which accused him to be lazy and poor defensively, absolute total rubbish to be honest. Getting Trent Frederic, Robin Salo and Jason Robertson have improved our Farm roster and given us to solid talents for the future."

J. Hiller: “As we initially lost few key assets on first Draisaitl trade, it was imperative to put effort to get some solid pieces back at some point. Therefore, Frederic, Salo, Robertson and Bychkov have been important acquisitions for us. And of course, we have high hopes for our remaining prospects, which will hopefully come to play in our organization next season. Jordan Harris, Lauri Pajuniemi, Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemelä to name a few.”

M. O’Leary: ”I would have a question for Kari Takko. Could you give an overall view who have been the bright spots regarding our young players this season?”

K. Takko: “Well, Samsonov have adjusted to North American way of playing extremely quickly. As all of you know, we took him on 2nd round on Dispersal draft, so we rate him extremely high. But we thought he would need more time to adjust, but we were total wrong (smiling same time). He has been particularly good indeed.

"And it is a pleasure to have Sandström here to support Samsonov and Luukkonen to grow. Juolevi has been very solid as well and has grown very quickly and very eager to take overall responsibility. Ylönen came to group with some doubts about his readiness to play here this season, but he has proven us wrong. He has grown in these few months from junior player to adult player, pleased.

"We are eager to see in Farm roster next year players as such as Jordan Harris, Topi Niemelä, Lauri Pajuniemi, Roni Hirvonen, Otto Kivenmäki and Valtteri Puustinen. They all have played well this year on club and national level, and we are certain that all these players can grow to be very solid professional players in near future.

"In overall for us to put resources in our scouting is on top of the list. We might not have ton of prospects, but we try to find those hidden gems also on lower rounds. The ownership and GM Kalmi seem pleased with our work. At least I hope so (bursting to laugh and glanced Kalmi)!!!"

J. Kalmi: “I think we are (seems in deep thoughts)…. Well, I will sack you personally if needed (twinkles an eye and laughs). Seriously speaking we are incredibly pleased, so no worries at all. We have absolute great personnel here.”

S. Hogan: “Thank you for the invitation. It seems that Islanders have quite a few UFA players in roster, and few of them are extremely important players. Such as Parayko, Raanta, Skinner, Dzingel and Moore. What’s the plans with those players?”

J. Kalmi: “Thank you Shannon to be here and for the excellent question. In ideal world we would love to keep them all here as you mentioned they all are important players in our team. For sure we will do the utmost to get their names in contracts, but of course we live in cap world. It can make things difficult.

"Also, for some reason or another, one or two of those players might not decide to continue with us by their own choice. In overall we must be realistic; we have done our calculations and scenarios. Hopefully, we can keep at least 3-4 of those players here, names unfortunately can’t reveal at this moment.”

J. Nieminen: “There has been some rumors about a verbal conflict between the Beard league GMs regarding possible RFA offer sheets. Apparently your (GM Kalmi) comments were pretty, well, how to say; very straightforward?”

J. Kalmi: “Mmmm, there’s no fire without smoke, that’s true. While ago we were talking about it. I want to say firstly that UFA is and should be fair game for everyone, but RFA is slightly different. I have very black-and-white opinion on RFA offer sheets; only wankers do those. And, yes, I said it, write it down.

"I will take the penalty from Beard league, no problems at all. Categorically I can confirm Islanders will not do them. BUT, if someone does it to us, well, we will do them (looks profoundly serious). An eye-for-eye, remarkably simple. I’m sure that defines our position regarding RFA offer sheets, I presume?!”

S. Hogan: “Are there any teams in Beard league with whom you would not trade?”

J. Kalmi: “With certain teams I have a great trade relationship and with some have not done any trades till so far. To answer your question; I will trade with anyone but offers from certain managers I will look very thoroughly through and with a pinch of salt (grins).”

“As we are heading to lunch time, Islanders have decided to offer you all selection of food and drinks. Of course, we must respect the pandemic restrictions rules, so please do not stay exactly near each other.

"In our President box there’s buffet: fresh salmon slices, Pea soup, Finnish rye bread, roes, cabbage rolls with fresh lingonberries, new potatoes and different salads. For drinks we have: Rhubard Summer Sour Ale, Hazy India Pale Lager, Asentaja Dark Lager and Jouluapulainen Ginger Lemon Pale Ale given to us from Ruosniemi Brewerery Pori, Finland.

"As well there is on offer usual non-alcoholic drinks and as red wine Doppio Passo from Italy. I hope there is something for everyone. Enjoy it."

J. Nieminen: “There has been speculations on Finnish newspapers that they might be Islanders games in Finland next year. Is there any truth on those rumors?”

J. Kalmi: “I’m so pleased you asked about it as we have been talking to Beard league about the possibility. Understandable we have few Finnish players in our team, and we would be honored to have a chance to play couple of games in Finland. We have put it forward, not heard anything back yet. Maybe after this press conference something will start to move towards it?”

J. Bednar: “As to thank you all, we have done with our organization and players in front row a humorous summary of some of players. This summary will be given to you all and as you are enjoying the lunch, will be shown as a slide show. Players in question are introduced as important historical, fictional, music or/and cartoon figures.

"We thought to give this serious press conference an enjoyable and funny end. Everyone involved has given their acceptance. We all had a great laugh while doing this.”

Our dear leader Aleksander the Great (Aleksander Barkov). Leads his team from the front. Alexander the Great – “An army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep.” Islanders do not have to worry about leading the troops by a sheep, Barkov is a lion with a capital L. If someone of the troops act like a sheep, he will guide them to become a lion. Man of few words, but correct and selected ones. No more is needed, Isles’ C.

Dear Jeff Skinner can be a dud or a total blast. Prodigy’s song Firestarter defined perfectly: “I’m the self inflicted, mind detonator, yeah. I’m the one infected, twisted animator.” Can never know what comes out of him on the game day; like a possessed lunatic, or just like 80-year-old granny. Even the fans have game day bets on him.

Väinö Linna’s epic book about Finnish WWII campaign (Tuntematon sotilas – Unknown soldier). Contained many truthful and genuine characters. One of the main characters is Rokka, no-nonsense and lethal soldier, and with sense of rightness. Islanders’ Pate : Patrik Laine is our version of him. One of Rokka’s most famous quote: In a trench (during summer 1944 Russian major attack) Rokka said to fellow soldier: “We aren’t here to die, but to kill”.

Poor Elmer Fudd is like our Josh Anderson; shoots and shoots but, cannot get a kill 😊. Elmer’s quote; “KILL THE WABBIT! KILL THE WABBIT!”. Maybe next season Josh, we all in Isles’ organization believe that you will kill few wabbits next season. With a big smile… Bloody hell!!! He has scored once this season, almost forgot.

Every successful army needs ruthless and skillful general, who can go forward and defend with ease. Sean Couturier is one of those people. Idem to George S. Patton. Couturies goes by this Patton’s quote: “Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.” It’s always a pleasure to see how Couturier leads his teammates and what intelligence he has.

Every organization should be privileged to have a such loyal servant as Luca Brasi. Here in Isles’ we have Matt Martin. Well, he will do what ever is needed for the organization. Biggest teddy bear, but do not make him angry. He will crush you, as he has pledged his loyalty totally to us. One thing is for certain, he will not end up with fishes in the sea.

Every man has their limits and sense of humor. Sometimes it can be slightly difficult to define what is what. That goes for our Antti Raanta, idem to Tommy DeVito at Goodfellas. Quoting: “I mean, funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to f**kin’ amuse you?” Don’t ever make a joke about his previous injuries, or if you doubt his commitment; don’t say it to him. When his on a good mood, it is perfect time for everyone, otherwise watch your back.

Isles’ Hefty Smurf is Colton Parayko. Hard working, and extremely skilled member of our crew. Sometimes he forgets how important he really is. Still looking for his Smurfette, hopefully New York can provide it to him. Thank God for Tinder 😊

You even notice that he is there? Well, you notice when he is not there! Casey Cizikas is one of those players. Gives blue & orange blood for the team and defends till the bitter end. Isles are infinite grateful for him. Quote: “Whether we commit seppuku by our own hands or are crucified by the executioner, our ultimate end is to die. This is a band of death, but death with honor.”

J. Kalmi: “Thank you all for participating to our press conference. I hope you enjoyed food and drinks, and most importantly our answers. Isles organization deeply thanks you. Till next time.”

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