Now, depending on who you read and which NHL insiders you trust, the next coach of the Islanders will be someone who is accepting of a massive youth movement. No, wait, he will have to be able to deal with disgruntled veterans. Hold it. That is not it either. I got it. I think.
He willl have to be a little crazy. Why? Besides the obvious reasons like a terrible arena, dysfunctional front office, roster politics and a general malaise that encompasses the entire organization? Well, the decision GM Garth Snow makes regarding the next coach is probably the most important decision in the history of the Islanders franchise. If glory is ever to return to Uniondale, the next coach will have to lay ALL the groundwork, if not achieve it himself.
Think about it. Whomever takes over this sinking ship will have to deal with little to no talent, an owner who knows nothing about NHL hockey and a GM who thinks he knows just about everything about, well, everything.
For their part, Isles fans I have spoken to and monitored on various sites and in polls seem united on two potential names.
John Tortorella and Joel Quenneville.
I would take either in a heartbeat. Tortorella won a Cup with Tampa Bay and is a former Rangers minor league coach. He is more than qualified at every level. Quenneville is a former Jack Adams winner and seems to make something out of nothing every year. He did it with St. Louis and Colorado, the latter with a team decimated by injuries.
The Isles win if they get either guy. The $1 million question is: Are either insane enough to become the warden of the Long Island asylum for the hockey inept?
The list has several other names, many with fairly impressive resumes, if you consider merely being an NHL coach as impressive.
Here is a look:
Paul Maurice: Said to be straight shooter. You know where you stand with him if you are a player. His teams, however, have missed the playoffs in seven of his 10 years behind an NHL bench, his trip to the 2001-02 Stanley Cup finals with Carolina notwithstanding. Bonus: He just got fired by Toronto for finishing fifth. Sparkling potential.
Bob Hartley: Stanley Cup winner with Colorado in 2000-01. Disciplinarian. Friend of Snow. That could be an ominous sign, but maybe its better to have two guys you do not care for on the same page than one you like and one you cannot stand walking in opposite directions. Bonus: Just fired by Atlanta.
Jack Capuano: Bridgeport coach. Successful. Bright. Probably a longshot considering the number of 35-somethings presently on the Islanders.
Scott Gordon: AHL coach of the year with the Providence Bruins. I do not know much about him. Anyone who does, please enlighten all of us.
Bryan Trottier: I cannot get crazy about a former Islander great coaching the team. It did not work with Butch Goring. And though he was not a great by any means, it did not work with Lorne Henning either. Trotts is the man. We all know that, but we need serious people for this job. He simply does not have the track record. If anyone should be coaching a minor league affiliate to work on his chops, it is Trottier.
Greg Gilbert: Got run out of Calgary but is coming off a great year coaching the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, going 50-21-3-6. Gilbert also won two Cups as a player with the Islanders. I would call him a darkhorse, but he is proven at the minor league level, has respect as an NHL champion and probably has what it takes to mesh with veterans.
So there you have it. Of course, knowing the Snow track record, or not having a clue what he will do (take your pick, both generally haunt my dreams), he could hire someone completely off the radar.
Regardless, he better make the right choice here. Not because he runs the risk of being fired. Mike Milbury proved that under Charles Wang, if he likes you personally, you have tenure. You can run a franchise into the ground and then move on gracefully to another job and still have influence over the one you just destroyed.
No, Snow better make a great hire because I know Islanders fans will simply stay away. I would not blame them at all. It is bad enough the team sells out four games a year with the help of the Rangers faithful. Let us see how quickly this franchise relocates to Cleveland after another year or two of this nonsense.
Party on, Garth.