Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Isles Hire A Coach They Can Fire

It's an often stated line that "Coaches are hired to be fired". While this is often true, there are some meaningful exceptions (for example Jacques Lemaire and Barry Trotz have been the only coaches in the histories of their franchises), several coaches are replaced each season. It seems that poorly run teams tend to replace coaches a lot more than the more well run teams and often at poorly chosen times, such as the New York Islanders firing Ted Nolan in mid-July. This left the Islanders without a coach until Scott Gordon was hired yesterday (well into August).

Faux Rumors believe that the plan on Long Island was to make Ted Nolan the fall guy in 2008/09 if things did not go well and given the roster the team will likely have that is a good possibility. The Islanders are a bad team that had looked somewhat respectable due to Ted Nolan's coaching. Adding Mark Streit and Doug Weight as UFAs this summer is not going to do much to improve the Islanders chances and after two years of overachieving under Nolan, a crash was quite likely. Some blame could be deflected from owner Charles Wang and his GM Garth Snow if they fired the coach and made him the fall guy. It doesn't matter if the coach is actually doing a good job and the team gets worse without him. A scapegoat would exist.

Ted Nolan was not so willing to go along with the company line that all was well, when it was clear that he would be fired by the end of the season if the team did not drastically exceed expectations. As a result, Teed Nolan was fired. A coach who would be more easily controlled by GM Garth Snow was needed. After considering retread NHL coaches, the decision was made to hire somebody with no NHL experience. Of course, you need to find a plausible hire with no experience. The candidate chosen was Scott Gordon. Gordon is the reigning AHL coach of the year (since coaches of the year are chosen as coach of the most improved team they are often not the best coach in the league). This makes Gordon a man who is happy to be coaching in the NHL, willing to give it his all and not jaded enough to see that he is the fall guy if the Islanders do not overachieve this season.

Garth Snow got what he wanted in a coach. He has somebody he should be able to control. He has somebody that in a year or two, he should be able to fire. He has somebody he can sell in the short term as a good pick. What more could he want - except for a winning team - which is likely something he is not capable of producing. Snow's best bet for longevity as GM is to find a coach that he can successfully blame for his inept management who will get positive reviews from the media for his hiring. I predict within less than 2 years, Gordon will be fired and the Islanders won't look any more like a playoff team than they do now.

Here is TSN's story on the Islanders new coach.

Well, except that I don't think Snow's goal is to win this season anyway.

It's a rebuilding team. No one in the organization's shooting for the moon, but if Gordon can make some strides in the development side of things, he has a chance to stick around.

There's no question that that's a tough spot to walk into. But if the Islanders really just wanted a patsy, though could have just promoted from within the organization.
The Isles dont have a very good group of prospects. For a rebuilding team they are not even doing that well.

What makes Scott Gordon a good patsy is that he has some credibility (AHL coach ofd the year). Nobody within the organization has that.
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