The New York Islanders have sent head coach Ted Nolan packing after a disappointing 35-38-9 season in which he sparred with GM/former goaltender Garth Snow over personnel decisions.
The rift between Nolan and the organization became apparent last spring after his request for a contract extension before the final year of his three-year contract was denied by owner Charles Wang. When Snow became convinced that Nolan did not share his belief in rebuilding by emphasizing the development of the organization’s young prospects, he made the decision to end the power struggle and seek a partnership with a coach of his own choosing.
Describing the reasons for making a coaching change, Snow said, “There were philosophical differences between Ted and myself. Since last season and continuing into the summer, I have realized we don’t share the same philosophies. I’d like to thank Ted for his two years with the team and wish him the best.”
Asked why it took three months since the end of the season to reach this conclusion, Snow said, “That’s a fair question. This has been a difficult decision for both Ted and myself, especially for me because of Charles Wang’s desire to give Ted the opportunity to coach in the NHL and because of his loyalty to those he hires.
“I understand there could be some criticism, and if there is, it can fall on me. What I can tell you is there was a process. I spoke with Ted regularly following the season and when the draft and free agency ended. Our strong belief about our philosophical differences led me to believe, and Ted as well, that we needed to part ways. I know this decision will be best for not only the team and our fans, but for Ted as well.”
Considering how little talent the Islanders possess, the decision to fire a coach who kept them in the playoff race until Rick DiPietro’s season-ending hip surgery in March does not seem like a sound hockey decision. Game On hopes former Lightning boss John Tortorella fills the Islanders’ vacancy, which would invert his “great offense, no goaltending” conundrum in Tampa by introducing him to the Isles’ current scoring vacuum. After losing Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedetenko to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Islanders are left with the aging combination of Doug Weight and Bill Guerin, Hillary Duff“accessory Mike Comrie, and unproven rookie Kyle Okposo to improve on their conference-low total of goals from last season. Recently signed defenseman Mark Streit is effectively a forward, so add his name to that impressive core of talent upfront. Perhaps the only good news for Islanders fans is that this move puts them in contention with the Maple Leafs, Thrashers, and Kings in the John Tavares sweepstakes.
As for the fate of Ted Nolan, he did push the team to the playoffs in his only other season on Long Island, so hopefully he’s earned himself a shorter sabbatical from coaching than his decade-long absence after being deemed a “GM killer” in Buffalo back in 1997. Maybe the Los Angeles Kings will snap him up to fill their coaching vacancy and instill some team defense, a concept the Kings struggled to understand under Marc Crawford.