So you thought it was going to be just another boring summer? As Isles fans well know, boring it never seems to be. Many Isles fan harp on that the coaching change is just another dreaded blemish to the cavalcade that have traipsed past us over the long and arduous years as Isles fans. Those dubious bruises to our fan egos that have hit us over and over again years after a dynasty that turned hockey on its head.
How We Got Here: Dynasty to Doldrums
From expansion losers, we were winners. And then undisputed greats. Then others past us by, and we hit the bricks like a Britney Spears career. The fact that the hits keep coming with not much else to show for it, is what stings.
We'll skip the lean years, since it I'm sure all are sick and tired of that retread.
Fast Forward: When Milbury stepped down, fans rejoiced as if George Lucas decided to bury the Star Wars prequels. Then, in 45 days, Neil Smith on-board old school ego clashed with Charles Wang tampering ways as the Isles were going to go with a committee structure. Meanwhile, committees are actually used in the NHL. Your current Stanley Cup champs, Detroit are a successful example. So the problem wasn't so much that, but more of an owner who didn't know what he was doing and yet trying to be the key guy than delegate. Bottom line, he trusted Mike and he failed. He did not trust Smith.
So Isles fans were quickly flummoxed again as hope and dreams crashed with the focal point of a backup goalie taking the reins. The only shred of comfort was that we had Ted Nolan as coach and several key free agent pickups that Smith and Nolan were able to produce.
So we got a taste thereafter, with a lot of luck and Nolan becoming a vet-orientated coach in his first year. The Isles backed into that playoffs, scraping by, but with it created more hope. Especially when they were able to get a key guy like Ryan Smyth in a ballsy trade that came out of nowhere.
Ryan Smyth encapsulated change. A new perception. He was finally a star who was on the team. He stood as a correction to the many stars who Milbury traded away. He was an affirmation on a future of grit and heart, something missing from the Isles for years and years.
But he went away. Because the Isles are still in recovery and not quite that attractive to free agents. In a lot of ways, the Isles are like a recovering addict. They ruined their own selves, while pulling down those around it. And fans, since, have become jaded and angry looking for the next outrage and hurt. Fans are not quite believing. And the mistakes, antics and actions since have been steps forward and backward to this tug on our hearts and minds since.
Garth Romances Charles
So last year disappointed. This is normal hockey. When Yashin was bought out and Blake asked for far too much, most knew the Isles did the right thing. But the offense was never rectified. And statements that Garth thought that Satan and Guerin were enough to make a playoff, no...cup worthy team is worse than dead wrong. It was just plain ignorant of what a winning team needs. Maybe this is why, upon recognizing this error, Garth regrouped for youth.
Over this time, I'd say about February, Garth was in Wang's favor. Wang is in a lot of ways a gal to be courted. You work on getting trust and the chastity belt to the Isles inner workings gets flung aside. This is how Milbury was able to reap control and remain perched for so long. Politicking and getting trust. Garth did the same and was able to wrest Wang from that committee and go with his singular voice.
In February, after a disappointing winter, Garth and those he trusted in the Isles org seem to move to a new philosophy. To be more than just mediocre they needed to have prospects. Good prospects. That with pressures of getting the business and organization turned around, the Isles themselves would need a refurbishment. New mortar. New foundation.
There is not a doubt that this is a good philosophy and mindset. The problem is this should have happened over a decade ago. And that the guy pushing this, now solely in the glowing halo of light in Charle's big brown eyes, had made key mistakes just that year. That his pickups were only good for about a month. And they clearly weren't the answer in his coaches eyes. Nor ours, by the way.
So, here is the thing. His coach. Did Snow spend too much time moving to ascend and be trusted that it destroyed the relations, or perhaps lack of one, with Ted Nolan? Is his own actions and focuses help create that rift?
Don't get me wrong. I am far from a Nolan apologist. I have seen far too much reaction, talk and antics that are on his head solely that created his firing...oops, mutual agreement. Nolan made that bed. He had ample time and room to bridge that gap, and chose not to. And has proven that he has difficulty working for people. This is not the first time, nor the first goalie he didn't get along with either. One would figure someone would change tact and mindsets. And Nolan not only did not, that this situation much mirrors the Buffalo one. Except that Muckler is not on the Island to blackball him by talking to every GM under the sign with horrid spun tales.
Coaches don't get along with GMs all the time. Sometimes focuses change, and the coach is no longer the right fit. Or GM even. A coach getting booted is actually commonplace. But it is the larger picture and beaten Isles psyches and bashed expectations that leaves us even more hurt, annoyed, frustrated, and such. We have been made far too vulnerable by a destructive organization who is recovering, but who have not quite found their feet. And therefore each misstep is magnified. Each bump becomes an earthquake. Each issue becomes a fiasco. For the press who has used the Island as a buttress for all that is wrong with hockey, sometimes glaring homers in their own neck of the woods, irk us mightily. It IS hypocritical. It is unfair. It is time for the Isles to get it right.
So, What Now?
So, what now? A Prospect Camp remains ignored. Walter and Colliton, per Newsday's Isles blog, have accepted their qualifiers. Bergie has signed two years. This is no thanks to super-agent Marc Gandler, who's vitriol and contempt for the Isles mgt was hurting his own client. Upon his firing, a deal was quickly struck. This follows Tambellini, who signed for two years, one-way contract. And we move forward. Per Logan's article this AM, Snow said he expects to talk to 7 to 10 coaching candidates. A majority with NHL experience.
But, woe to the Isles if they keep making mistakes. And any expectation that this year will even sniff the playoffs with still a lack of a top dman, a goal scorer, a protector/enforcer, and now a coach....would be another mistake. But it will give kids the time they need to sink or swim.
The tale of the Isles is far from over. They have put the eggs in the basket of rebuild, which might coincide paying off by the time the Lighthouse Project is in full gear. Things will take time, but they are putting their plan forward. Snow's plan. It's on his head now. The new fair-haired boy in Wang's eyes. Till the eventual fall-from-grace. The question is how long does that take. And moreover, will Isles fans stay that faithful stalwart if the Isles fall off the wagon, once again.
There are no room for errors anymore. The line has been drawn. Snow will live or die by this next coaching decision and past two drafts, essentially. Meanwhile, fans who sit stunned once again need to regroup or watch baseball till the pain fades away to that dull ache we all know so well.