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Ted NolanThese days, it seems no matter what the Islanders do there is a bit of overreaction involved. Be it the media, analysts, fans, or bloggers; the reactions are similar. As a life long fan of this franchise, it’s easy to understand why fans can get a little ornery from time to time, but what I refuse to accept is the way the media is so quick to place everything in a negative light or post opinionated drivel that is only meant to get a rise out of an already testy fan base.

The media holds somewhat of a responsibility to keep fans educated, for they are a connection to the inside of a sports organization – flies on the wall if you will. They report news on injuries and transactions to firings and promotions, and of course – recapping games. What makes me angry is when these same journalists, mostly analysts from outside the reach of local papers try to spin their web of hate towards the organization. Sure, the Islanders have been an easy target over the years – but the story is old and it’s time to move on. Especially when there are other organizations in the NHL that also make questionable decisions. Where is the focus on these teams? What’s fair is fair, especially when some may even reside in Canadian markets. Share the hatred!

I understand that any organization with the storied history the Islanders have will always be compared to the glory days, even more so when it really was run like a circus for a short period. The team has gone through numerous owners, some fraudulent and others as cheap as a piece of bazooka. You want to focus on coaches? Fine. Over the past 10 years, the Islanders have had several – eight to be exact (Mike Milbury, Rick Bowness, Butch Goring, Bill Stewart, Peter Laviolette, Steve Stirling, Brad Shaw and Ted Nolan). For the majority of the coaches listed, you can blame talentless rosters and Mike Milbury as a cause. Charles Wang, who purchased the franchise in 2000, was at the helm for four firings, with Milbury dropping the axe on three (Including himself prior to 2000 – twice).

What does all this mean you ask? It means that Garth Snow isn’t at fault for any coaching changes that have happened before yesterday, July 14th, 2008. In fact, Wallace Matthews of Newsday says yesterday may be the actual beginning of Snow’s GM career (something I don’t fully agree with):

The firing of Ted Nolan yesterday, a mercy killing if ever there was one, signals the beginning of the Garth Snow era and the end, if Snow is to be believed, of the hockey-by-committee that the Islanders have practiced – and failed dismally at – in the past eight seasons.

I have a feeling that the committee concept was abandoned sometime over the past year once Snow got a feeling for the GM role. He went into the trade deadline last season with a plan and once again in June for the NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa – so he has really been THE GM longer than many speculate.

Garth Snow, up until this point has begun to prove that he is a competent GM with a vision that many Islanders fans have shared over the course of the past decade. To try to minimize any positivity that the firing of Nolan has caused – just isn’t fair. In support of this statement, I offer the following.

Ted Nolan, sometime during the 2007/2008 season realized that the Islanders were out of contention, bruised, battered and likely going with youth from there on out. He maybe even felt a little scorned, betrayed even – that his protege Chris Simon was shipped out of town after two embarrassing incidents. I witnessed with my own eyes a man wrought with uncertainty and confusion walk down the runway and into an empty Coliseum on trade deadline day – as if to ponder the future of the team, and in retrospect his future.

Maybe it was that cold day back in February that Ted Nolan decided he could not bunker down and take the bruises of a rebuild. Maybe he wanted to show the league that he could coach a team of “lunch pail” players and get blood from stone. Who knows? What we do know, is that this same strong headed individual known for being a players coach and master motivator, began to lose his locker room. We also witnessed a man buckle under pressure when questioned by the media, it may not have been glaringly obvious – but he seemingly called out management and was defiant in his decision making. Somewhere along the line, Ted Nolan decided he was too good for a rebuild.

If this was any other team and Nolan was so defiant and outspoken in the media, he would be fired and there wouldn’t be much mud-slinging. But because this is the Islanders – it’s a free for all.

Some fans have claimed that Ted Nolan was the only bright spot and credibility this franchise has had the past two years. Other than squeaking into the playoffs and getting the team to play beyond what they were supposed to, what has Nolan done in his career outside of two post season appearances (winning one round) and the Jack Adams? Not enough to say Ted Nolan was any of those things above, he needs a few more years in order to reach credible status in my eyes. If you check out the poll on Newsday’s site, you will see I am in the minority with my line of thinking. Islanders Army also touches on this poll – which is worth a look.

The Focus on Blame

There are a ton of varying opinions on the subject of blame regarding Nolan’s dismissal, divorce or “mutual agreement” – whatever you want to call the situation. Two players in the blame game are James Mirtle who posts twice on this subject and Greg Wyshynski (aka Puck Daddy).

Mirtle takes the high road and places blame on both parties:

On Ted Nolan:

“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.”

On Garth Snow:

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.

In support of the timing issue, which I do admit was a tad on the bad side – I told Mirtle that last year Nolan wasn’t really involved with prospect camp and chose to observe, take notes and chat with fans. Bryan Trottier is really the man in charge of the prospect camp – so firing Nolan on the day camp starts shouldn’t have been the biggest issue. I agreed, that with all the negative press regarding the Snow-Nolan relationship it should have been taken care of before it progressed to the point it did. However, I still place the blame on Ted Nolan.

Greg Wyshynski talks about a Larry Brooks article in the NY Post (the man I love to hate) and the varying opinion in Islanders country.

The Islanders TOI numbers skew towards “Nolan-type players” and away from the future of the franchise, in what was a lost season. All due respect to Miroslav Satan, but on a team that’s 15 points out of the postseason there’s no reason why his TOI (18:19) should dramatically eclipse that of Jeff Tambellini (10:25, 31 games), Blake Comeau (11:40, 51 games) and Sean Bergenheim (11:15, 78 games). They’re the future; he was a lame duck.

Without question, Miroslav Satan should not have been given as much ice time, specifically on the power play playing the point given his off season and his nagging knee injury. What really is worth another mention, is the reluctance of Nolan to move away from his 1-3-1 defensive system later in the season. Given the team was out of playoff contention and suffering miserably with defensive injuries, he should have allowed the younger players a chance to play a more offensive style of play in order to get a feeling for the NHL, which is my biggest gripe.

Greg Logan has done an outstanding job covering all the latest on Ted Nolan’s departure, he has had several articles in Newsday and on his blog. One of the biggest pieces of news slipped into any of these is the surprising revelation that Nolan was given permission to interview with other teams following the end of the season.

When the season ended, Nolan’s job status appeared uncertain. With several NHL head-coaching jobs open, a league source said, the Islanders gave Nolan written permission to interview with other teams. But he did not receive an offer.

Regarding the bold statement in the quote above, I have a funny feeling that there may not be another chance for Ted Nolan in the NHL after twice having similar problems with his GM.

Looking forward, I liken this to a new beginning and a fresh start moving into a rebuilding year. The Islanders are ripe with young talent and the right amount of veteran presence to make things competitive. They will show the kids the ropes and make them better NHL players. Hopefully, whomever the Islanders tap into for a head coach will share the vision, install the correct systems and restore the glory to this scarred franchise. I know there are a bunch out there who are not looking forward to this season and between the draft and now the removal of Nolan may not want to come out and watch, but in order for this franchise to turn around – it needs all the support it can. This move was necessary and not wrought with that of peanut shells and three rings. I promise.