Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Islanders = Idiocy
By Imtiaz Mussa

There are certain things in sports that have been done ‘by committee.’ We’ve seen closer by committee and running back by committee but just six weeks ago, the New York Islanders decided to create front office by committee.

Islanders owner Charles Wang reinvented his front office making Neil Smith his general manager, Ted Nolan head coach, Bryan Trottier player development director, and Pat LaFontaine senior advisor. This ‘brain trust’ looked like a disaster from the start. I liked Neil Smith as a GM from his Ranger days (especially for the 1994 Stanley Cup) and I thought Ted Nolan was a hell of a head coach but I never thought they would mesh well. Smith never had a say in deciding who the head coach of the team would be. In fact, Nolan was hired before Smith was. And then add Trottier and LaFontaine and you have a recipe for disaster. There are too many cooks in the kitchen.

Today, Smith was let go by the Isles without ever having the opportunity to see the team take the ice. He was so uncomfortable with the system that Wang put in place and who could blame him? Granted, he should have known that this was what he was getting himself into but still, Smith should have the ability to dictate the operations of the team. He has won a Stanley Cup as a general manager. The other three have yet to do so in their roles.

So with Neil Smith gone, the Isles needed a new general manager. Instead of going for someone who has had some front office experience, Wang turns to the backup goaltender. Garth Snow has promptly retired and will take over as the general manager of the Islanders. Let’s take a moment to think about this. THE BACKUP GOALTENDER???? What’s next? Jerome James will become the next Knicks GM when Isiah is fired? All that Snow will have to do is learn about how to manage the salary cap that is in place in the NHL. One of the contracts that will count against the books is his.

As a caller said on WFAN here in New York, “If it wasn’t for James Dolan, we’d be talking about Charles Wang as the worst owner in New York.” For at least a day, Wang steals the spotlight away from Dolan. The man admits he knows nothing about hockey. That can be the only reason why he kept Mike Milbury on as long as he did and still hasn’t let him go. Why do I get the feeling that Milbury is still whispering things in Wang’s ear? When interviewed by WFAN’s Chris Russo on Tuesday to explain why he decided to change the structure, all he could say is that he wanted to change it up and see how it would work. He never gave a legitimate reason for the change and pointed to such things as Moneyball for giving him inspiration.

Now Charles Wang has done some nice things. His charitable work is well known and commendable. He brought Arena Football to Long Island. And more importantly, he saved the Islanders from financial hell after the horrific episodes of John Spano and Howard Milstein/Steven Gluckstern. Not getting rid of Milbury sooner and firing head coach Peter LaViolette were mistakes. His latest actions have been even bigger ones.

Neil Smith is not the only one leaving the Islanders after a short stay. Later on in the day, Pat LaFontaine resigned from his post. So now, half of the Islander’s new braintrust from less than six weeks ago is gone.

Someone should send a memo to Garth Snow telling him that the first thing he should do is find a new backup goaltender.


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