Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Long Island Mess

The best way for an owner to build a winning hockey franchise is to hire a good hockey man as general manager then get out of his way and let the GM manage the team. Unfortunately, under owner Charles Wang, the New York Islanders are not following this process.

In early June, Wang hired Neil Smith to be his GM, Ted Nolan to be his coach, Bryan Trottier to be director of player personnel and Pat LaFontaine to be an advisor to the owner. In a perfect world, he would have hired the GM and let the GM fill out the rest of the coaching/management team, but the moves seemed okay (for the most part). Tom Benjamin noted that the overly involved owner may be taking too much control. To make matters worse, old GM Mike Milbury remains on the payroll in an advisory roll. Who is in charge? Is it Smith? Milbury? Wang? Nolan? Someone else? An undefined group of the above choices?

Only forty days later, Wang has fired GM Neil Smith. In Smith's run as GM, the Islanders played zero games. They signed free agents Tom Poti, Mike Sillinger, Chris Simon, Brendan Witt and Andy Hilbert, though it is unclear exactly who in the management team instigated these signings. There was friction between Neil Smith and all the other GM wannabes and he was fired.

Wang says:

As I made clear at the press conference last month, we are running this as a business, incorporating the opinions of our hockey operations staff - including Ted Nolan, Bryan Trottier and Pat LaFontaine. Despite Neil's commitment to me that he could work in this environment, he later expressed to me on a number of occasions his philosophical opposition to our business model

Then Pat LaFontaine resigned his position as an advisor to the owner.

Wang very quickly hired Garth Snow as general manager. What are Garth Snow's qualifications? He was an NHL goalie for several years and he appears to have convinced Wang that either he is competent or that he will not get in the way of the rest of the management team running the show (probably a bit of both).

The CBA is complicated. Hockey finances are complicated. Contract law is complicated. You need a well qualified GM to build a winning team in today's NHL. Garth Snow shows no signs of being this man. Neil Smith had significantly more qualifications, but was not given a chance due to the stupid way Wang wants the team managed.

It will probably be a long year on Long Island and I doubt things will get better until they find a competent GM and get out of his way while he does his job.

Here is the TSN story on the Neil Smith firing and here is the story on LaFontaine's resignation.

CONVENIENT: both the Nolan and Lafontaine storys aren't available. Wang: suck one.
Sorry. I meant Smith's comment, but if Nolan had an article too, I'm sure that it would have also been blocked. And this is coming from someone that couldn't care less about the Islanders.
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The career of Neil Smith is very attractive. It is also dynamic. In the early age he was a ice hockey player after that General manager in different team. Now he is the president, general manager, and governor of the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL.
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