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Maybe Doug Weight, who has been an important part of the Islanders’ front office since 2011-12, is destined to become the franchise’s next Al Arbour.
Maybe the 40 games he coached — perhaps coaxing the team to a 24-12-4 record and a shot at finishing eighth in the East following a shipwreck first half under Jack Capuano — was all the organization needed to see in order to appoint one of the greatest American players in NHL history to the full-time position behind the bench.
And maybe the Islanders got it right this time.
But — and there always seems to be a “but” when it comes to the Islanders — it is impossible to understand the process by which this decision was made.
What is more perplexing, it is all but impossible to understand the endorsement given by the Scott Malkin-Jon Ledecky ownership to Garth Snow, who was granted the authority to make this coaching hire and is thus safe in his post as general manager and the hockey department’s decider for the foreseeable future.
Make no mistake. The removal of the interim tag on Weight also represented the removal of the endangered label on Snow. That’s a fact.
It is the most open secret in the sport that Ledecky spent the past eight or nine months conducting a search for a president who would have autonomy to oversee hockey operations and would decide Snow’s fate. At one point, we’re told on good authority, an offer was made to one individual, who rejected it.
The decision to empower Snow within 24 hours of the end of the season and within 48 hours of being eliminated from playoff contention would indicate that ownership: A) Could not find another suitable individual to offer the job to; B) Could not find a suitable individual who would take the job; or, C) Believes that Snow is the best choice to continue as general manager after a thorough canvas of the hockey industry.
Again, the evidence on which Conclusion C would have been reached is rather unconvincing, even allowing for the fact that teams do not necessarily progress on a linear basis any more than players do. Maybe this season was the proverbial one step back preceding two steps forward. If not, Dick Cheney can lead the next search.
Meanwhile, the notion that John Tavares would make an eight-year, $80 million-to-$100 million life decision and commitment based on the fact that he has a comfort level with the head coach just doesn’t meet any norm of common sense. Coaches get fired all the time, even ones with Weight’s track record. One would think Tavares would be aware of that.
Is “business as usual” the sell job the organization believes will entice its franchise player? Is that all that Tavares wants? Seems to belay common sense, but then, we are talking about the Islanders, aren’t we?
It is, of course, fashionable to suggest that teams should bottom out rather than seek to retool or rebuild while continuing to contend. But a second look reveals just how long it takes to go belly up. For despite the self-congratulatory claims from Sixth Avenue regarding parity, the NHL still has a semi-permanent underclass. Upward mobility is no easy task.
Carolina has been out of the playoffs eight straight seasons, Buffalo six, New Jersey and Arizona five, with Florida out 10 of the last 12 years and without a playoff round victory since 1996. The Coyotes have won two playoff series in their history, both in 2012. Colorado has been out for six of the last seven years and Winnipeg has missed 10 of 12.
And though Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Toronto invariably will be cited as franchises that did it the right way, all three franchises received Masters in Pingpong-ology, winning lotteries to select generational players Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. The Oilers had been out 10 straight times until this year and the Maple Leafs missed 10 of the previous 11 years until both rode the backs of their wonder kids to make it this time.
So bottom out if you will, but good look on getting to the bottom’s up portion of it.
What was going on there, anyway, with goalie Cory Schneider at the end, 1-10-3/3/38/.891 in his past 14 starts. Are the Devils further away from the playoffs than the Knicks?
Dean Lombardi will get another job, and of course he should, but the former Kings general manager who won Cups in L.A. two years apart in 2012 and 2014 went dramatically off course somewhere, with his personnel selections for Team USA’s World Cup roster and his latter defense of them windows into a wayward soul.
NHL: Revenue flat. Television ratings down. But escrow holding steady. Ka-ching!
Finally, Snow’s claim that he demoted Jaro Halak to the AHL because one of Bridgeport’s goaltenders had been injured and the team needed another one was the most creative answers on a media conference call in these parts since Dave Karpa signed as a free agent with the Rangers in 2001 and said the reason he did so was because Wayne Gretzky had once played for the team.
The $3.3 million over two years probably didn’t hurt, either.