There were signs and whispers throughout last season, and into the draft, and today the Islanders made it official when it was announced that Ted Nolan will no longer coach the team.
Both GM Garth Snow and Nolan himself described the ending of the relationship as a matter of "philosophical differences." Snow wants to rebuild the team with youth. Nolan, who has one year and $600,000 left on his contract, wanted to be more competitive now.
As a blogger who has watched the team closely, especially this past season, I'm not surprised, but all along I held out hope that Snow and Charles Wang would make more of an effort to compete now (read: spend some more money on talent) while not abandoning the younger players, in the hopes that Nolan would stick around. That's not happening, and Nolan is now free to find employment elsewhere.
Nolan is a terrific coach, a class act and a good guy from all accounts. I think back to the ESPN fan satisfaction rankings that were published in April, which I wrote about here. Basically, fans of all of the 'big four' pro sports leagues ranked their teams in a number of categories, and in the coaching category -- described as 'strong on-field leadership' -- the Islanders finished FIFTH out of all of the pro sports teams.
In other words, Islanders fans who participated in the rankings had tremendous respect for the job Nolan was doing, ranking him ahead of the likes of Bobby Cox of the Braves and Phil Jackson of the Lakers. The only coaches ranked higher were Bill Belichick, Jim Leyland, Gregg Popovich and Mike Scioscia.
Presumably, the next Islanders coach will be on board with Snow and his desire to see the team's young talent develop and perform. The obvious names out there are Paul Maurice, John Tortorella (who is Dee's favorite, I'm sure) and Bob Hartley, all fired after last season. We'll throw Brian Sutter's name into the mix. The brother of Duane and Devils coach Brent took over as the coach of the Red Deer Rebels last summer; the team is owned by Brent.