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A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.



Islanders 2014-15 Season Mantra

Try not. Do...or do not.

~Yoda


Thursday, July 17, 2008

What Went Wrong... And What Must Be Made Right

The Ted Nolan epoch came to an abrupt end earlier this week, as coach and general manager Garth Snow parted ways just as we started to wonder what on earth was going on with our team. The "mutual decision" for Nolan to depart came after a flurry of speculation about the head coach's job security was raised among fans and sportswriters alike.

Over two seasons with the Islanders, Nolan achieved a record of 74-68-21. In 2006-07, he proved he can still coach after a nine-year absence from the NHL, taking his team from a projected last-place finish in the league before the puck was even dropped, to a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Granted, it was a last-minute clinch, and only for the No. 8 seed, but that kind of overachievement was unexpected of this team of grizzled veterans and overlooked players. The Isles would lose in five games to the No.1 seeded Buffalo Sabres (coincidentally, the team Nolan used to coach), but they recaptured attention as a passionate, overachieving and determined hockey club.

2007-08 would bring a buyout of Alexei Yashin, a new group of veterans- among them current captain Bill Guerin- and what the organization hoped would be a repeat of last year's late-season success. But instead, Ted Nolan's second year as Isles coach brought a low in season wins (35), goals per game (2.3), an inept power play and, from midseason to the end, a steady loss of control over the players, particularly the very veterans Nolan loves to coach. No playoff berth resulted, and the Isles were left with a depleted roster and a sense of disillusion as the season ended. And now, in the offseason, a prolonged rift between Nolan and Snow resulted in the former becoming an ex-Isle, to the disappointment and, for some, resignation of fans on the Island.

The problems lie on both sides, with everyone held accountable. Nolan is what they call a "player's coach" - loyal to his players, able to work with them and get the most out of them by being a teacher, not a screamer. However, where other players might have responded by working hard and skating through walls for their coach, some of the players on the Islanders responded by not giving their all to the winning cause. It took Nolan a few losses in a row to start getting tough with these guys and running them into the ground accordingly, every time they took a shift off or spent more time running a sideshow on the ice with opposing players instead of playing the game. Plus, his goaltending decisions were suspect in the last half of the season; instead of benching an obviously injured Rick DiPietro in favor of Wade Dubielewicz, Nolan deliberated and allowed DP to play three or four more games injured before pulling the plug, a move that made a potentially fixable situation that much worse. And of course, his outspoken comments with the media, about players in particular, had gotten him into trouble as well.

Of course, organizational moves have also been part of the problem. Nolan was never given the kind of team that he would have liked to work with from the getgo, and skill is still an issue with the team as of yet. Hard work aside, the Isles lack the talent needed in this new NHL not only to clinch a playoff berth but to win a playoff series, even if no one had ever been injured between October 5 and April 4.

The issue was hardly ever addressed by either Snow or Nolan. In this feud, the sides were clear: Nolan wanted vets, Snow wanted a youth movement. Neither side could in itself satisfy the Isles' desperate need for talent, a need that has afflicted them for years and what neither took into consideration when they decided to go their separate ways. It's hard to say, but it's true; unless they realize that, the Isles organization will remain one without a chance of making the Cup Finals, and if and when they do, it'll be years before a talented team makes the playoffs once again for Long Island.

It took me longer than usual to write this blog post, only because I needed the time and focus to find just the words to describe what went wrong here. I needed direction in order to keep from ranting, and apparently the same has happened with the organization of my favorite hockey team. Direction is something the Isles sorely need as of right now, when a youth movement has shown signs of being established. And as the search for a new head coach begins, here's to hoping it'll be someone on board for a season- or a few- of rebuilding.

2 comments:

Gina said...

Angie,
I had to leave you a comment to let you know how wonderful I think this blog is. You and Christine do such a great job. If you haven't already, please please PLEASE sign up for the blog box. They would be very silly not to make this blog a part of it next season.

Keep up the good work!
Gina
aka MrsDP from IM :)

AngieOnTheNYIslesScene said...

Thanks Gina. I appreciate it very much and I'm sure Christine does as well. We have applied for the Blog Box... all that's left right now is to find out if we've made the cut. Thanks for the comment again, and I hope you keep reading! :)

Angie