Monday, July 14, 2008

Nolan walks the plank

New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow announced today that Ted Nolan will not return next season as the team’s head coach. Nolan had one season remaining on his contract.

“Ted has helped us achieve some success over the last two seasons, however it has become clear that we have philosophical differences and have decided together to part ways,” said Snow. “Since last season and continuing into the summer, I have realized we do not share the same philosophies. I would like to thank Ted for his two years with the team and wish him the best.

“I have a list of several qualified candidates. After a thorough process, we will hire the very best coach to lead the Islanders on the ice.”

Added Nolan: “While I am disappointed I will not be coaching the Islanders next season, there have been philosophical differences and we’ve agreed it’s a good time for me to move on. I want to thank the Islanders organization for giving me a chance to coach in the NHL again. I have tremendous respect for what the team is trying to do and I wish them well.”
>> team release
Let's just say I'm kicking myself for not writing about the Nolan situation earlier.

It had become painfully obvious last season, and definitely over the past few weeks, that Snow and Nolan weren't seeing eye to eye, and the firing doesn't come as any surprise. When you've got a former media relations VP blogging about the downright dysfunction between coach and GM, there's definitely a problem, and I would have bet good money on Nolan being the first coach to get the axe in 2008-09.

Then, yesterday, Greg Logan at Newsday read the tea leaves and put Nolan on the hot seat. The truth is, he'd been there for months.

Eleven years ago, when Nolan was turfed in Buffalo after feuding with GM John Muckler, he was seen as a difficult coach, despite all his talents, and it took nine years for him to get a sniff in the NHL.

Now, after another spat with his superior, it's quite possible we've seen the last of Nolan in the league.

There's no question the Islanders are running their team into the ground, and Nolan's biggest problem was that he simply couldn't bite his tongue as things disintegrated around him. Some of his, shall we say, outbursts in the press came awfully close to questioning his GM's authority, and that's not going to fly in any organization.

Especially not one with a rookie GM who is already struggling to gain credibility in the league.

UPDATE The biggest indication that this was an ill-timed decision? The Islanders' annual five-day rookie camp started on the very day the head coach was fired.

Nolan may have had to go, but it makes quite a bit more sense to fire him earlier in the off-season, if only so the organization doesn't miss out on the best candidates to replace him.

My guess is that John Tortorella, Paul Maurice and Bob Hartley are likely to be the names in the mix.
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23 Comments:

At 4:53 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger Hallock said...

The question now is, do the Islanders get better because of this, or sink even closer to the bottom of the bowl?

 
At 5:14 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger islesblogger said...

I am going to go out on a limb and say they will get better and here is why.

Nolan had a strong personality, this can be a blessing and a curse because we have seen him butt heads constantly. He likes to stick to his guns and this often leads to some issues.

No matter how much he was pressed to go with youth, he fought them every step of the way often times being defiant and raising eyebrows.

He rarely adjusted his defensive system during the course of a game or season in order to improve different areas. Same holds true for the defunct powerplay. When something doesn't work, most coaches do changes on the fly - not true with Nolan.

His defensive system can almost certainly be attributed to the types of injuries the Islanders have seen the past two seasons. His grinding style of play wears players down to the point they are susceptible to injury. I am not saying he is the sole factor, but its a big contributing factor.

Lastly, Nolan has self admittedly claimed he was not an X's and O's coach - that to me is completely unacceptable from any head coach. You place too much trust and responsibility on your assistants.

The Islanders are in a rebuild, plain and simple. They will have a completely new look in 08/09 and have the ability of implementing a system during training camp - thankfully.

I have heard it all as an Islanders fan, "Mickey Mouse Organization", "Circus Act" pick your other favorites - this is a hockey personnel move and may not have the support of everyone at first, but it is for the best in my eyes.

Snow has a vision, he drafted well and is finally putting a plan in action - which is more than Milbury could ever accomplish.

Michael Schuerlein
www.islesblogger.com

 
At 5:45 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger islesblogger said...

James,

Nolan was VERY much not involved in prospect camp last year. He sat in the bleachers and watched, chatting with fans.

For what it's worth.

 
At 5:47 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

That may be, but I can't think of a single reason this move wasn't made at least a month or two earlier. What's changed?

 
At 5:58 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Snow has a vision, he drafted well and is finally putting a plan in action - which is more than Milbury could ever accomplish.

Well, I'd hope the Isles are trying to strive for a lot higher than "better than Milbury". I think they are, but there's a long ways to go to build a team here.

The Isles have only one option and that is to build from within and around DiPietro. They can't attract quality UFA's right now so Snow has to go with what he's been dealt. Whether he was right in passing on Filatov and Schenn and electing for Bailey and a greater quantity of prospects is probably his biggest move to date as GM, while firing Nolan certainly has to be right up there with it.

As far as going without the head coach for this "rookie" camp, James, you should know it's actually a developmental camp rather than an evaluation at this time of year. Maybe Nolan was hands on in this, I don't know, but I generally get the impression that the bulk of the duties is handled by assistants and specialized coaches that are brought in from outside the organization. Meeting with quality coaches like Nolan sure is a nice thing for a young player, but his job isn't to know the current coach. It's to develop the skills needed to become a professional.

Nolan's job isn't as much on the development side as on the results side. This isn't a camp for the head coach.

My guess is Tortorella amongst the recently fired for this gig. Guys like Brad McCrimmon, former interim coach Brad Shaw, and Randy Cunneyworth might be worth a look at here as well instead of the usual recycled garbage.

 
At 6:04 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

The only coach in the organization without ties to Nolan, I believe, is Gallant.

Will Nolan's hand-picked assistants stick around to run the ship?

This isn't a huge issue but it does speak to the poor timing of the decision.

 
At 6:12 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

I do agree that it is a late decision. But I guess with free agency largely over it won't affect a lot at this point. Generally you want a coach in place for free agency, if not the draft. But if you wait until June there's no harm in waiting until July, I suppose. As long as they hire a guy quickly so he isn't a total stranger come training camp.

 
At 7:19 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger islesblogger said...

I am 90% certain that Nolan selected all assistant coaches, he tapped his assistants from Moncton.

I would guarantee that whomever comes in likely cleans house.

To my knowledge there is nothing said that the assistants were asked to stay.

 
At 7:25 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger islesblogger said...

Gerard Gallant was the assistant brought in from Columbus, in order to replace Danny Flynn whom is back with the Moncton Wildcats.

 
At 7:35 PM, July 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Garth Snow just got jealous watching Tampa Circus getting all the ink.

Next? Give Jashin 10 yr. contract or make Bergenheim cry at salary arbitration hearings?

That would be too "Milbury".

Snow should hire Neil Smith as his replacement! That would be something original and refreshing. Even guys in Tampa would be impressed.

(The summer of Tampa continued with signing of Mike Smith. Can't wait tomorrow's press release.)

 
At 7:54 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger islesblogger said...

Bergenheim fired his agents, in case you didn't know that Anon....he may actually avoid arbitration if the team and whomever is representing him come to an agreement.

Sportsnet has some speculation in the article in terms of the assistants remaining with the team:

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/2008/07/14/islanders_nolan/

 
At 8:23 PM, July 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Islesblogger: Bergenheim changed agents two years ago, so he did it again?

He's had Russian guy Gandler for the last couple of years - heck, he was a hold out and now arb. so no need to tell you that - which was huge surprise for everybody.

A Finn having a Russian as an agent? There should be a punchline there but there's none. Pure jaw on the floor wonder.

If Bergenheim has changed his agent again I would be a little bit worried about his character.

 
At 8:52 PM, July 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup, regarding Bergie.

http://weblogs.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/blog/2008/07/sean_bergenheim_fires_agents.html

 
At 9:21 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger dwillms said...

As an outsider reading about this story, here's what I don't understand:

Why did the organization feel they had the veteran talent to make the playoffs, but then get upset at the coach for not giving the younger players more playing time?

I also don't get why Nolan came from coaching a junior team, but sounded like he was poor at working with younger talent.

-Dustin

 
At 9:39 PM, July 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nolan didn't lick Dipietro's balls.
If you aren't an ass kisser in the NYI crap hole of a franchise you are nothing.
He was supposed to make the playoffs with ECHL talent?
Why don't they just cut Wang a cheque and fold that franchise.

 
At 10:11 PM, July 14, 2008, Blogger danae said...

The Isles are setting up their run for John Tavares. Actually, that's probably giving them too much credit.

 
At 12:04 AM, July 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The assistants are expected to stay, and Gallant might make the jump to head coach, some article suggested. Which would be horrible, but oh well

 
At 3:17 AM, July 15, 2008, Blogger NYIsles1/IslesTigers said...

Mr Mirtle,

You cannot have it both ways, first claiming there is no question the Islanders are running their team into the ground and then writing Nolan may have had to go.

The decision for him not to return should have been arrived at earlier, not after months of denials from both of them, that's where the criticism is well deserved.

Bottom line if Ted Nolan could not work with a youth movement and had problems with his veterans it was time for a change.

Garth Snow has a plan to incorporate the youth into the lineup and apparently he plans on seeing in through even if that means he has to fire a coach for someone who has the same vision.

That may not be popular right now but it's the plan everyone complained Mike Milbury would never see through.

 
At 7:07 AM, July 15, 2008, Blogger islesblogger said...

I won't argue that the length of time it took Snow to reach a conclusion should be criticized, but I have a problem with the media claiming this is another circus act.

It's easy to jump on this organization, but truth be told there is a bunch that Snow is actually removed from. His early decisions were only questioned because of his decisions as GM, but everything up until this point has actually been praised (for the most part).

Snow is actually flexing his muscles and coming into his own as as a GM, so removing a coach that doesn't seem to share the vision or even drive as management is the right thing to do. This position is only strengthened by the way Nolan was handling himself with the media.

I honestly have no problem with this move and I wouldn't be so positive about it if I did not feel it would better for the long and short term.

 
At 12:21 PM, July 15, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Mr Mirtle,

You cannot have it both ways, first claiming there is no question the Islanders are running their team into the ground and then writing Nolan may have had to go.



Nonsense. The team's a mess and Nolan had to go — there's dysfunction there on multiple levels.

No one's entirely to blame, but Nolan's made as many mistakes as anyone. Snow's not blameless in this situation.

 
At 1:41 PM, July 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hell, with what he had to work with and where they ended their seasons, I'd say Nolan did a he'll of a job. Garth Snow is running that team into the ground for a rebuild.

If I was hired with an understanding that the Iskansers wanted to win now, and then was told, "New Direction, we're tanking for the next three years," I imagine I'd have philosophical differences, too.

Too bad for Nolan. He needed to learn how to kiss ass and like it if he wanted to stay in the NHL.

 
At 1:43 PM, July 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:05 PM, July 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mirtle,

I'm with you on this with plenty of blame to go around. Nolan wants to win and now, he'd also like to be considered the architect of their success. He's a great motivator for teams with plenty of heart and an "us against the world attitude." Veterans that know how to play don't need alot of X's and O's to be competitive. The direction of the team is not the same as when Nolan was hired, making the playoffs more often than the Leafs and Rangers didn't make the Isles a desireable destination for UFAs and therefore the draft is the only way to acquire talent.

Snow is a novice and may feel threatened by a "Keenan" in the hen house. Hopefully, Wang has really given up on the idea of running a team by committee. Wang runs hot and cold on his favorites of the day (i.e. Yashin, DiPietro, Milbury, Nolan) and needs to step away from hockey decisions. Snow needs his own people in place before Wang finds favor in someone else and puts them in charge.

Snow is still a mixed bag - swung and missed on Smyth (a widely praised move at the time for a sixth seed), Smyth failure to re-sign lead to a plan B of re-treads (handicapped Nolan's attempt to win), didn't over pay for RFAs that did leave (Did the Isles want Blake for the $$), moved Simon (could he really be kept?), traded down in the first round at the 08 draft(a move panned by fans), and then parlayed a consensus strong day two (which re-stocked after the Smyth move and previous organizational philosphy to move assets before they mature).

The fear of Islander fans everywhere must be that this will be a period of a re-build through the draft then switch to a quick fix philosophy because "we need to boost attendance for a new stadium" that was the Milbury/weekly new owners decade of the past.

-Hockey1919

 

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