Sunday, July 6, 2008

Code Ted

The draft is over. UFA work is also done, proving the Islanders might finally be serious about building from within (maybe they were just waiting for me to leave).

That’s it until the opening of camp, right?

It shouldn’t be.

Somehow lost in the shuffle – maybe everyone is just living in denial – is the matter of the Islanders and their head coach, Ted Nolan. When we last left off, the season ended miserably, fingers were being pointed in all directions, and the whole thing got so awkward that at my last Islanders Open House in April, these were the only questions on every fan’s mind:

Why are the Islanders letting Ted enter the final season of his contract without an extension?

Is Ted on board with the team’s plan to build around young players?

Do Ted and Garth like each other?

I’m sorry, but has anything changed with this subject in the last two months? Seems in the haze of Bailey and Petrov, Streit and Weight, everyone forgot about it. That is, until it came up in an interview I did on Friday night on XM Radio. I touched on the break in trust between Ted and the Islanders, and I will expound on it here.

If the Islanders are truly committed to getting it right, then they have one more big decision to make this summer.

Is Ted Nolan their coach for the long haul? Is Ted the Islanders’ Barry Trotz, their Lindy Ruff – the man who will stay positive and consistent in his approach to developing the kids every stumble and step of the way? Do they feel they can count on Ted like – gasp – the Rangers rely on Tom Renney?


Right now, there isn’t much of a relationship between Ted and Islanders management. Despite Ted’s success as a coach in junior, I don’t believe the Islanders are confident he really buys into the youth movement.

The other tall hurdle is the immense damage from last season. From March 1 on, when the ship was sinking, awkward moments came daily. You didn't have to be the PR director of the team to see the stains.

There was Ted’s repeated use of the phrase, “You work with what you got,” referring to his own lineup. I saw an Islanders interim head coach named Bill Stewart say that once and he hasn’t sniffed the National Hockey League since. I was amazed Ted said it, and was equally amazed he got away with it.

There was Ted ignoring policy and telling Greg Logan he was entering the last year of his contract and there were no discussions about an extension.

There was the weekend I was visiting family over Easter and got a slew of calls with the same exasperated message: “Ted just said he’s playing Joey Mac because Garth told him to.” The coach could have said, “Garth and I talked about it and decided we wanted to see what Joey’s got.” But he went out of his way not to be diplomatic. Why? And what kind of message does that send to Joey McDonald?

There were damaging lapses in relationships with key players. There was a real stunner no one seemed to pick up on: after the Islanders struggled for weeks and were eliminated from the postseason, only then did the team implement a defensive system to minimize scoring chances. An act of defiance? I hope not. It may have cost the Islanders the first overall pick.

After each Open House this offseason, I’ve heard from too many Islanders fans who approached the always-accessible Ted with questions about his team, only to have their jaws drop when Ted gave some version of “Depends on what they decide to do,” “It’s up to them” and worse.

They, they, they. Not we. Shame on everyone.

The Islanders were the only team willing to give Ted another shot in the NHL. They were proud of it, and Ted would go out of his way in his first season to show his appreciation. Why did it come to this between Ted Nolan and the Islanders?


Ted Nolan is not 100% at fault here. Not even close. For the breakdown to get to this point, there is plenty of blame to go around.

I don’t care about the committee rules. If the GM thinks at least one of the four coaches should be a former defenseman to mentor Campoli, Gervais and the kids - those are my thoughts, I should make clear - the GM should insist on it. When Garth is asked by “Mike and the Mad Dog” if Ted starting Dubielewicz raised an eyebrow, he needs to resist his inner New England wise-ass and not say, “One eyebrow or two”? If you’re going to talk about how you’re a committee, you need to act like a team. I also don’t want to make this about Ted’s handling of Jeff Tambellini. That’s an insult to both of them. If Jeff can play in this league, he’ll prove it on his own.

Beyond all the garbage, there is the essential issue of whether the Islanders believe Ted wants to coach this team in a rebuild, is the best man to coach this team and is a coach Garth Snow can see himself working with side-by-side for the next decade. Darcy Regier has it with Ruff, David Poile with Trotz. Garth will be the GM of this team for at least ten years. He needs to have a coach he trusts implicitly. Long Island could use a mainstay behind the home team bench.

The Islanders have two options: work through the issues and commit completely to Ted Nolan, or shake hands and say goodbye. More than themselves or even their fan base, they owe that to Ted.


7th Woman said...

Bridges that have been hit by a blow torch are hard to repair. Does Paul Maurice have a job yet? Maybe he should send in a resume.

Anonymous said...

Garth Snow is FAR more at fault for all this than Ted Nolan is. If i was Ted Nolan, I would be pissed too about the crappy team he has been given and how Garth Snow has failed time and time again to get him scoring help last season.
Also, I am sorry but I completely disagree with Chris Botta saying Nolan should have said WE AGREED to play Joey Macdonald when he really didnt. If Garth Snow wants to choose what goalie plays, maybe he should coach the team too. Then we will really see how many losses this team will get.

Anonymous said...

Chris .. 19 ISLE in NJ 22 here .. religous poster on Logan's blog.

I just have to say .. even though I don't post on here regularly... I have read your blog a lot... so I will try to get all my thoughts out at once.

It's postings like this one that attract me to your blog ... because you had that unique insight into not just only how the Islanders work... but how NHL teams operate.

I've worked for Fox sports during their "NHL on Fox" days ... and I've had the privledge of doing one Islander game (yeah ... I rooted in the truck... LOL ... not professional of me) ... but in my time with Fox I've met with dozens of team PR guys that hand me the stats and fluff they wanted displayed on the graphics (CG)during the course of the game ... being a stats guy, hockey player and hockey fan was a dream job (didn't pay well) ... but I got a unique perspective I couldn't get as a fan ... hanging with refs, off-ice officials, trainers and players on game day...

Heck ... Ron Francis, Barrasso and I were poking fun at Rob Schick behind his back in the old Philly Spectrum when the Pens were visting .. it was hilarious.

I even got to skate on the ice of many an arena after morning skates and shoot the puck around with some lingering players ... and yeah .. coaches. I even played pick-up with the Celebrity all-stars in San Jose during All-Star weekend.

Working for Fox during baseball season .. I got to sit in the Yankee dug out during a Yankee Red Sux game and be the "Red Hat" (tell the umps we were out of commercial break)... and got to hold a radar gun against Rivera's cutter in a game.

Those days were lots of fun for me and were tough to leave ... so I understand that you have to move on and forward for your own personal reasons ... but I leave you with this since we are both huge hockey fans and Islander fans and are about the same age .... YOU ARE ONE LUCKY SON 0F A GUN ... no matter what the circumstances of your departure .. I'm sure you'll look back on those days with fondness.

I hope in some capacity you can still blog and join us on Islandermania and Newsday ... because your contributions will be definitely missed.

19 Isle in NJ 22

Patrick Hickey Jr. said...

Just wanted to say I've really enjoyed reading these posts over the past few weeks.

Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

Chris - please continue your blog beyond July 7th.

Chris said...

There was a real stunner no one seemed to pick up on: after the Islanders struggled for weeks and were eliminated from the postseason, only then did the team implement a defensive system to minimize scoring chances. An act of defiance? I hope not. It may have cost the Islanders the first overall pick.
Huh? Whats the defiance in this course of action, Chris? I am not sure what youre saying here.

The fact that the Isles havent told Ted to take a walk and Ted hasnt told them that he is taking a walk is a good indication that they want to try and work out their differences. If not, I dont think Ted would be there right now.

And BTW: I am really going to miss you.
Chris TMC

NYIsles1/IslesTigers said...

Mr Botta,

Bottom line, did Garth Snow get a contract extension while Ted Nolan did not?

Until that is answered as fans we have to think both have to earn a contract after this season and owe it to the man who stuck out his neck to hire both of them to work together better.

Is Garth Snow's contract as general manager expiring when Ted Nolan's contract is up next summer.

Thank You.

Andy Facini said...


Your honesty and dedication to us Islanders fans in these past weeks has been nothing short of amazing.

You've cleared the air on a lot of strange issues, and it's hard to see how we were even debating 'X' scenario after you shed some light on it.

As a blogger, a journalist, and most of all, a hockey fan, I want to thank you for all you've done.

Good luck on whatever is next, and have a great summer,


Bryan said...

I don't know that it's for any of us to say who's at fault here. I do know one thing, though - while Snow's done a decent job, I defy anyone to name a coach who could have done a better job with what he's been given than Ted Nolan.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line Ted Nolan is paid to coach. He should be gratefull Charles took a shot at him otherwise he would still be out of the NHL. If the Isles fire him good luck for him getting another NHL gig. It's not Garth's fault Smyth chose the Avs both Poti & Kozlov took the money & ran along with Blake. Rebuilding is what the organization needs to do. We took a gamble with Smyth and lost. Snow's biggest mistake was not trading Satan & Feds at the dedline. Nolan was back 1 season & his ego has blinded him that Simon had to go. There is no way the Isles could keep him. If Nolan does not want to rebuild withthe team see ya bring in a coach that is good with young players.

B.D. Gallof said...

Your blog has been brighter than even the Lighthouse Project over this summer. It was a pleasure to work with you in the Blog Box and HB.

But most of all, your writing and work since has been exemplary. In a blogosphere of plied opinions, insiders and outsiders, your blog really has carved out something unique and important.



Anonymous said...

This sounds oddly familiar to the summer of 1997 in Buffalo.

George said...

As always, you bring great insight to what could become a season long distraction to a team trying to find an identity. I hope Ted and Garth clear the air soon and get on the same page.
I add my name along with everyone that wishes you well and hopes you continue this blog.

Melissa said...

What confuses me is when people talk about how Nolan won't work with the younger kids, and be open to rebuilding. Isn't he used to coaching kids? Wasn't he semi-successful coaching young players before coming to the island?

If you're coaching an NHL team, I think he expected NHL players to perform to their ability. I don't blame him for his decisions and feelings, but I think if he was given a team full of kids I don't think it would be out of the ordinary and out of his comfort zone.

But if what's done is done, then we will see. Jack Capuano? Tortoella? Trottier? For myself, I think this rebuilding process will take time, so extend Nolan. A year ago we did get a playoff spot...

Rich said...

You take 12 starters out of any lineup and the team is going to suck. I give Nolan credit for having them battling every game at the end of the season. They didn't lay down and die like past Isles teams. That's not Snow, that's Nolan. He deserves better. Keep him around. If we fire him this year we'll be even more of a joke around the league and it will be even harder to land FAs because, once again, it'll look like we have no idea what we're doing. Keep him. Sign him for two more years. And shut up.

BTW, Chris I'm going to miss your blog and insights terribly. Please don't go!

Anonymous said...

Thank You For This Blog. Even though you aren't with the NYI any longer, it still feels like you are giving us insight. More importantly you are educating us on the "things" we could never see behind the curtain.

Please keep the blog going!

Adam Raider said...

Chris, I know from firsthand experience what a loyal and enthusiastic employee you were for the Islanders, and I know they're going to miss you. I hope your replacement is as professional as you were. Best of luck in the days ahead.

Anonymous said...

The blog should be continued. Anything else is pure silliness!

Anonymous said...

There had to be a reason Nolan was blackballed for all of these years. I doubt it was for sleeping with someone's wife. Maybe we are seeing things clearly now?

Anonymous said...

Chris: Please continue with the blog. I look forward to reading every entry.

Anonymous said...

I think Nolan has done well the past 2 years but it was frustrating watching him play the veterans over the younger players on the powerplay.

Chris, good luck with everything. You're blog has been a favorite reading of Islanders fans everywhere. You were even the first to break the official Doug Weight signing. I wish more writers would have the same desire you have. Good luck.

Jack said...


Love your work. Add me to the list of those who hope you continue writing this blog.