"But until proven otherwise, Ted Nolan: NHL Head Coach remains a ticking time bomb. Perhaps his personality clashes in Buffalo were unique to that situation. Or perhaps his recent defense of friend and aspiring baseball slugger Chris Simon proves he still can carefully place his foot in his own mouth on occasion." - Me, March 2007
Tick, tick tick ... and boom. Greg Logan of Newsday breaks the shocking news today that Ted Nolan and the New York Islanders have parted ways after two seasons. This follows word that Nolan hadn't been consulted on any of the team's off-season moves. Which is really never a good sign for a coach who was turned down for a contract extension by his owner last spring.
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."
So what kind of difference in philosophy are we talking about here, exactly? And who's taking over this team?
Logan writes that Snow and Nolan "disagreed on the use of the so-called ‘Kid Line' of Jeff Tambellini, Frans Nielsen and Blake Comeau." They were a fourth line that didn't see any time on the power play; that's not how Snow saw them.
This is exactly the issue Chris Botta said was the boiling point between Nolan and the team on the late, great NYI Point Blank:
Beyond all the garbage, there is the essential issue of whether the Islanders believe Ted wants to coach this team in a rebuild, is the best man to coach this team and is a coach Garth Snow can see himself working with side-by-side for the next decade. Darcy Regier has it with Ruff, David Poile with Trotz. Garth will be the GM of this team for at least ten years. He needs to have a coach he trusts implicitly. Long Island could use a mainstay behind the home team bench.
The Islanders have two options: work through the issues and commit completely to Ted Nolan, or shake hands and say goodbye. More than themselves or even their fan base, they owe that to Ted.
Exactly. This would have been a lame-duck season. Players can be motivated by the last year of their contracts (see Theodore, Jose), but coaches can be distracted by the same situation. That's because one is playing for his bank account, and the other is coaching for his professional livelihood.
Nolan had to go, because Snow isn't going anywhere. The euphoria of the Islanders' improbable postseason berth two years ago had run its course. The little games between the coach and management would only grow more intense; Botta identified one stunner from last season:
There were damaging lapses in relationships with key players. There was a real stunner no one seemed to pick up on: after the Islanders struggled for weeks and were eliminated from the postseason, only then did the team implement a defensive system to minimize scoring chances. An act of defiance? I hope not. It may have cost the Islanders the first overall pick.
If true, that's rather disgusting, though not exactly out of character for a coach who keeps a lighter on him at all times just so he can burn his bridges.
Will Nolan resurface in the NHL? Had this been a performance-based "mutually agreed upon parting of ways," I'd say yes. But for a coach that already lists "butting of heads with management" under "skills" on his résumé, it's hard to imagine another team taking a chance on him like the Islanders have. At least on the NHL level.
As for Snow, the coaching search begins right now.
Boy, where can one find a qualified, NHL head coach who is out of a job; has a system that fits well with the Islanders young crop of defensemen and goal-scorers; who has the temperament for New York media insanity, having worked previously for a New York team; and brings instant gravitas and respect the minute his Stanley Cup ring catches the glare from the Nassau Coliseum lights?
Say ... what about this guy?
Best of all, with Rick DiPietro there for the next 100 years, no goaltending controversies. And it'll sure make that first Lightning/Islanders game more interesting.