Thursday, June 08, 2006

Exiles to return to NHL

Two names from the past are being brought together to try and resuscitate the hopes of the New York Islanders and their fans. Press reports out of Long Island have it that Neil Smith will be named General Manager of the Islanders on Thursday and Ted Nolan will be introduced as the head coach for the much maligned New York City franchise.

Smith who once ran the New York Rangers has been out of the NHL loop since 2000 when he was replaced in Manhattan by Glen Sather. The absence makes the heart grow fonder file is even longer for Nolan, who last coached an NHL game back in 1997 with the Buffalo Sabres, he won the coach of the year award that season and promptly found himself banished to the hinterlands the following year.

Nolan most recently coached in the Quebec Junior league, leading his Moncton Wildcats to the league title, only to suffer the disappointment of losing the memorial cup to league rival Quebec Remparts.

If the reports prove to be true it may be one of the few smart moves the Islanders have made in a number of years, things have been rather unsuccessful on Long Island for a number of years now, as a roster of non performing talent seemed to be permanently in place out of the playoffs and showing no intention of making a move anytime soon.

As the 2005-06 season came to an end, changes seemed to be on the horizon. Mike Milbury stepped down as GM and moved on to a newly created position at Wang Sports, the parent company for the Islanders. It was the presence of Milbury still in the stable that seemed to scare off any previous serious candidates for either the GM’s or coach’s job. Many feeling that even though he was leaving the GM’s booth, Milbury would still be controlling the team from a distance.

By hiring a GM such as Smith the Islanders have handed the reins over to a solid hockey man and by brining in Nolan they seem to have answered the question about coaching, Nolan will be instrumental in motivating the young talent that thus far has been quite underwhelming on the ice for the Islanders.

The Smith/Nolan tandem should be a solid addition to an Islanders team that had shown little in the way of improvement or hope in 2005-06. Things will be a quite a bit different on Long Island in 2006-07, those passengers on the bench from last year will find that if there’s no effort on the ice, ice time will be something that gets shorter and shorter. Both Smith and Nolan will be looking for quick results to regain credibility before they launch their plans to regain those high elevations that Islander teams once enjoyed as if given to them as a right.

It may take a few years to rebuild the Islander brand after seasons of neglect, but if the press reports are proven true the Islanders have begun the process that may just lead them to the top of the New York area pack. A place they once held down for a good number of years. It may be a tad premature to declare that the Glory years are on their way back, but if nothing else the Islanders will soon become an entertaining and effective team on the ice, long suffering Islander fans can take comfort in the knowledge that their team is heading back in the right direction!

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