The New York Islanders held a conference call Monday morning to officially announce Scott Gordon’s firing as coach and the promotion of Jack Capuano to replace him and, in true Islander form, it turned into a comedy of errors.
At one point it was announced GM Garth Snow had joined the conference call, followed about five seconds later by an announcement he had left the conference call. Later on in the call, all you could hear was play-by-play of a soccer game, then "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga.
In all fairness, teams contract out their conference calls so all of this might have been out of the Islanders’ control. So we’ll refrain from making any jokes about them not being able to organize a one-car coaching funeral.
But it certainly did nothing to dispel the notion the Islanders have become the running joke of the NHL. As of this moment, they have a billionaire owner who once suggested sumo wrestlers would make good goalies and seems more intent on parlaying a new rink into a real estate development than building a hockey team; a GM who skated directly off the bench and into the executive suite and has a record of 139-162-44 and one playoff appearance in four-plus seasons; and, a new head coach with almost no playing experience and zero coaching experience in the NHL and has failed to win an American League playoff round in three seasons. Not that he’ll have to worry about the playoffs with the Islanders anytime soon.
Yup, that about covers it. Certainly looks as though the Islanders have set themselves up for success with this move, doesn’t it?
But when you’re carrying around a 10-game losing streak, this kind of move is inevitable. The fact is owner Charles Wang loves Snow even more than he did Mike Milbury, which tells volumes about the man’s ability to judge hockey executives. It should also tell you that Snow isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future.
Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs take note: For the umpteenth time, it doesn’t matter whether you’re working with chicken entrails or not, it is the coach’s job to produce wins and coax superhuman efforts out of overmatched players. Even when you are acknowledged as a good coach and you’re working in an organization that’s as dysfunctional and irrelevant as the Islanders.
(Speaking of the Leafs and Islanders, the Islanders were a respectable 2-1-2 and in first place in their division when they met the 4-0-0 Maple Leafs Oct. 18 in Toronto. The Islanders won the game 2-1 in overtime and after winning their next game, have lost 10 in a row. Since that loss to the Islanders, the Leafs are 1-8-2. The betting here is that both teams watched tape of that dreadful game afterward and realized just how bad they both really are.)
Snow acknowledged Gordon, who is generally regarded as a cutting-edge coach with good credentials, was the fall guy for the Islanders’ ineptitude. He was asked how he would grade Gordon’s work on developing youngsters John Tavares and Josh Bailey, who represent the future of the organization.
“Scott did an excellent job, not only with those two players, but with the development of all our young players,” Snow said. “He had a knack for not only getting the best out of the John Tavareses and the Josh Baileys, but even the veterans, the James Wisniewskis right on down the line. Scott has done an excellent job. Unfortunately, we’re in a situation where we have 10 losses in a row and it was a situation where a change needed to be made and we went ahead and did what I thought was right for our organization at this time.”
What would be right for this organization would be a complete cleansing and a total teardown. Luckily, there really isn’t much to tear down, since the Islanders, as of Monday morning, are already the worst team in the NHL.
But the only obstacle in all of this is the teardown must include ownership and nobody can make Wang sell the Islanders. The other problem is even if Wang wanted to sell the team, there’s an even slimmer chance anyone out there would be dumb enough to buy it. The Islanders are tied into the worst building in the league until at least 2015 and in case you haven’t noticed, the value of NHL franchises is in a complete freefall because people with big money tend to stay away from investing in things that are destined to bleed money.
So, the Islanders are stuck with an incompetent owner, a GM who is clearly way in over his head, a coach with no experience and a roster full of young players who are learning nothing more than how to lose and veterans who simply are not NHL worthy.
Aside from that, things are looking rosy. Good luck, Jack Capuano.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear every Monday throughout the season.
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