Photo courtesy of mrporter.com

Photo courtesy of mrporter.com

When you talk about New York sports, that used to mean championships. As 2014 comes to an end, we will take a look into which teams in the New York Metro area are the closest to winning a championship. Since 2000, only the New York Giants (2007, 2011) and New York Yankees (2000, 2009) have won a title.

The nine metropolitan teams are ranked in reverse order, from the farthest away to the closest to winning a championship.

9. New York Knicks

Where do we even start? The New York Knicks are a team that has won ONE playoff series this millennium. How is that even possible? Dumb luck should come into play every once in a while, right? I mean, more than half the league makes the playoffs every year. There’s the problem, though. “Dumb” has factored into the equation so many times. Everything from letting Isiah Thomas become part of your organization, to letting go the guy who got you out of salary cap hell, to hiring a 70-year-old Phil Jackson a few weeks after the trade deadline so that you couldn’t trade Carmelo Anthony and recoup the 13,234 first round draft picks that Thomas traded away for bloated contracts and mediocre players. The current roster is filled with bloated contracts and bad players. But luckily for the Knicks, the $89 million salary cap number drops to just over $40 million after the likes of Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani come off the books after this season. With the salary cap coming in around $65 million next year, Phil Jackson has to immediately plug-in the right players via free agency and acquire top young talent in trades for Bargnani and Stoudemire. This team has dropped the ball by having old, mediocre, and expensive players for too long. The Knicks actually have a 2015 first round pick and will more than likely fall into position for a top pick. It’s time to dig this once proud franchise out of the ditch.

Current Record: 4-15

8. New York Jets

The New York Jets were a team on the rise just a few short years ago. Coach Rex Ryan had not only bolstered the confidence of his players, but he became a celebrity almost overnight. The loud and boisterous Ryan lead this team to two straight AFC Championship games, and everything was hunky dory. But soon enough, the salary cap caught up to them and the level of talent suffered. All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis was eventually traded for a first round draft pick (which actually became 2013 defensive Rookie Of the Year Sheldon Richardson), the offense became down right offensive, and starting quarterback Mark Sanchez was essentially just shoved out the door. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum was shown the door at the end of the 2012 season and was succeeded by John Idzik. Idzik has done such a poor job with acquiring talent for this team, that a group of irate Jets fans have even created the website FireJohnIdzik.com and have put up billboards all over New Jersey calling for the general manager’s firing. I would have ranked the Jets dead last on this list, but as we have seen time and time again in the NFL, you can turn a team around overnight with some good draft picks, smart free agent signings, and a favorable schedule.

Current Record: 2-10

7. New Jersey Devils

The Devils have been one of the more successful NHL franchises in terms of wins and championships over the past twenty years. There is no doubt that team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello is one of professional sports most shrewd negotiators and does not accept losing. Hell, he’s even been coach of the team twice. Once due to the surprising resignation of Larry Robinson, and then after firing Claude Julien with just three games remaining in the season. But the future of the Devils, at least the immediate future, doesn’t seem to be as bright as it once was. For the past few seasons, the Devils have been pressed right up against the salary cap and have struggled to draft impact players. The only player the Devils have drafted that has more than 35 career NHL goals since Travis Zajac in 2004, is Adam Henrique in 2008. Right now the Devils are in that precarious spot of hovering around playoff contention and winding up with a mid-teens first round draft pick. With a team that has been built on goaltending on defense for over two decades, the Devils must find a way to cultivate some young goal scoring. Goal scorers in the NHL are like home run hitters in baseball. Someone will overpay for them, so make sure you have them under team control for an affordable price. According to hockeysfuture.com, the Devils have the fourth worst minor league system in the NHL, with no impact forwards currently in the system.

Current Record: 9-12-4

6. Brooklyn Nets

The city was supposed to be under new management once the New Jersey Nets moved into their new home in Brooklyn, but that hasn’t exactly gone to plan. The Nets are now on their third coach in three seasons since setting up shop at the Barclays Center. After acquiring essentially half of the 2009 Boston Celtics by giving up three first round draft picks and a slew of players on July 12th 2013, the Nets were in complete “IDGAF” mode. They blew the doors off the NBA’s salary cap, and had no f–ks to give when it came to the luxury tax. But, that didn’t equal playoff success. Jason Kidd, fresh off playing in the NBA the previous season, was hired to be the team’s coach and let’s just say that he’s not employed by the Nets anymore. The one thing I will say that the Nets do have going for them is that they still have a relatively young core to build around. Bojan Bogdanovic, Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic are all under 30. And if you can believe it, point guard Deron Williams is only 30. When you have an owner like Mikhail Prokhorov, anything can happen. So there’s another plus for them. The Nets will still be in salary cap hell next year, but only have $25 mil committed to the 2016/17 season. They play in the eastern conference. I’ll just shrug my shoulders and say anything can happen.

Current Record: 7-9

5. New York Giants

The New York Giants won the most recent championship in the NY metropolitan area back in 2011. You would figure that since we are only a few years removed, the G-men would still be in a decent position to win another. Price Is Right sound effect. Since 2009, the Giants have missed the playoffs each year except for when they won the Super Bowl. Bad drafting, bad contracts, tons of injuries, and refusal to make coaching changes have put this team in a bad spot. Back in 2009, quarterback Eli Manning was given a 6-year $97 million contract extension by General Manager Jerry Reese. In that extension, Manning would carry salary cap hits in the last three seasons of $20 million per season. This type of contract has limited the Giants ability to fill holes along the offensive line and defense. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell took over in 2010 and has taken a once proud unit and allowed it to become arguably the worst in the league. Like I stated before with the Jets, you see it year after year in the NFL. A team goes from worst to first. The Giants have offensive weapons, unlike their co-tenants, and that alone moves them into the middle of the pack on this list. If you don’t have playmakers, you can’t succeed in the NFL. 2015 will probably be another salary cap challenged year, but depending on Eli Manning’s upcoming contract extension, they may be able to start building an offensive line and linebacking corps.

Current Record: 3-9

4. New York Yankees

With a title as recent at 2009, the New York Yankees have been a model of consistency in the sports world. The last time the Yankees had a losing record was 1992! But, the 2015 season will be the first time in twenty years that Derek Jeter will not be playing shortstop. In case you lived under a rock, 2014 was Jeter’s final season in the big leagues. There was some fanfare or something surrounding it, you might have seen it. With Jeter’s departure, not only do the Yankees have a hole a shortstop, but the question marks up and down the lineup are pretty alarming. Even though the Yanks are going to be sporting a payroll over the $200 million mark, injuries, age, and the lack of a farm system will drag this franchise down. So why are the Yankees ranked so high? The return of Alex Rodriguez, of course! No, I’m just kidding. It’s the all mighty dollar. If there is one thing that can keep a team relevant, it’s money. And in the Yankees case, it’s the only thing. I’m not ready to declare the boys in the pinstripes “dead”, but this franchise is going the wrong way. There’s no denying that there is talent on this team, but injuries and age are going to be the death of this franchise. And who’s to blame for that? General Manager Brian Cashman. Reckless spending on players on the wrong side of 30, extremely lengthy contracts for those players, and a terrible draft history have put the Yankees is a terrible spot.

Current Record (2014): 84-78

3. New York Mets

It has taken a while, but they’re finally knocking on the door of the playoffs. And like they say, “just get in and anything can happen”. The New York Mets have been rebuilding for essentially the last five years. Once GM Sandy Alderson was brought in to clean up the franchise, his number one goal was to restock the farm system, and get affordable, top talent. The albatross contracts are essentially gone (whether you consider David Wright and Curtis Granderson’s contracts that is up to you), and the kids are now contributing. The 2015 starting rotation will consist of Matt Harvey, who will make his return from Tommy John surgery, Zack Wheeler, 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, Jacob deGrom, and a combination of Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon, and Jon Niese. That’s six starting pitchers for five rotation spots. Now this is the position that Alderson wanted to be in. A surplus of pitching to trade for a legit bat. Has that trade happened yet? No, but for this franchise hopefully it will come sooner than later. 2104 was supposed to be the year when the Mets got back into the playoffs but it didn’t happen. But what did happen was development of young players, and a breakout performance from on player they’ve been waiting on. First baseman turned outfielder turned first baseman Lucas Duda, was finally given regular at bats after Alderson jettisoned Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates a few weeks into the season. Second year starter Zack Wheeler showed great consistency, and centerfielder Juan Lagares won his first of many Gold Glove Awards. Many were ready to give up on catcher Travis d’Arnaud after he was sent down to triple A for a few weeks. In the 69 games he played after getting sent down, “TDA” posted an .805 OPS to go along with his 10 home runs and .272 batting average. The young pieces seem to be in position now for the Mets to sustain a somewhat lengthy run at a title. 2015 might not be the year, but they are trending in the right direction.

Current Record (2014): 79-83

2. New York Islanders

Just like the Mets, the New York Islanders have been stockpiling young talent and it’s finally paying off. The Islanders currently have the most wins in the NHL and newly acquired goaltender Jaroslav Halak is riding an Islanders franchise best, 10-game winning streak. As a die-hard fan of this franchise for nearly thirty years, I can honestly say this is the best team I have seen since the 1993 team that made a run to the conference finals. General Manager Garth Snow has taken a ton of heat not only from the main stream media, but also from me.  I wrote this piece at last year’s trade deadline.    It’s almost like Garth Snow read it.  He addressed every single thing that was wrong with this franchise.  He traded for the free agency rights of goaltender Jaroslav Halak and locked him up for the next four years.  Once free agency opened up, he signed forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to provide secondary scoring. But, Snow had one thing left to do. Get this team some defenseman. Former first round pick Griffin Reinhart wasn’t ready (he has been called up today) to step up and be a top four defenseman, and the depth just wasn’t there. As the start of training camp came upon us, Snow snagged not only one, but two blueliners. The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins had run into salary cap issues and this was the Islanders chance to strike. Snow Grabbed Nick Leddy from the Blackhawks and Johnny Boychuck from the Bruins. Leddy is the smooth skating, puck moving defenseman Snow has coveted for years. Johnny Boychuck is the monster in front of the net with the missile from the point that this team has desperately needed since the days of Rick DiPietro. I realize that we are only a quarter of the way through the season, but this team has “it”. Every night a different player has stepped up. Captain John Tavares has had the quietest 23 points in 25 games I have ever seen. He doesn’t have to carry the weight of the entire Nassau Coliseum on his back anymore. Young players (I’m saying “young” and Tavares is only 24) like Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and Kyle Okposo are giving teams other players to worry about. Garth Snow has done exactly what I have asked for and it’s paying off in a big way. In the final season at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Islanders have a real chance to do something special. They have a goalie and a defense now. It’s time to make noise.

Current Record: 18-7-0

1. New York Rangers

When it comes to winning titles, you need players who are hungry. That’s what the New York Rangers should be this year. Last year they fell in five games to the Los Angles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals. I’m placing them in the number one spot partly because of that and partly because of one player. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Yes, he’s had a bad start to the season (.905 save percentage), but he is arguably the best goaltender in the game, along with the Kings Jonathan Quick. The goaltender is the most important player in sports. I’m sorry, but in football you can hand the ball off to another guy and he can run with it. In hockey there’s one guy to stop the puck. That’s it. If you have a hot goalie, you can win a Stanley Cup. It’s a fact. When you have a goaltender who is seemingly hot all the time, well you just have a greater chance. The Rangers are a playoff tested team. That’s why I have placed them as number one and not the Islanders. Do I have any idea if Jaro Halak can stand tall in the playoffs for the Isles? Nope. But know that King Henrik has been to the cup finals. Do I think the Rangers have a better overall team then the Isles? Nope. But I know the Rangers are battle tested. I also know that Rick Nash will show up in the playoffs and score a bunch of big time goals. Ok, I was lying there. Betting against the team with experience and a bad taste in their mouths is just not my thing. Hopefully a Rangers/Islanders Eastern Conference Final will help settle this debate for me.

Current Record: 11-9-4

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