On March 23rd Greg Logan wrote an article titled "Will Islanders give Nolan contract extension?" which focused on the fact that the Islander Coach is heading into the last season of his contract without an extension. The article would lead an average reader to believe Nolan's future, and even job with the Islanders, are in doubt.
My first thought after reading Logan's piece was that it was likely an article designed to stir up some interest and debate at a time when it must be challenging for a beat writer to attract the attention of readers, given the team's disappointing finish to the season. Having said that, the fact that there may even be a remote chance that Islander management is questioning Nolan's future with the team is disturbing.
Before we even discuss that the Isles can expect to miss approximately 400 man games due to injury this year we have to consider that the team which skated out on opening night was a sixth to tenth seeded team. Frankly, sixth to eighth seed was a fairly ambitious goal given the exodus of free agents in July. Without some stellar play by our franchise goaltender in the first half of the season, we could have been out of it by the all-star break. We were plagued even then by a lackluster powerplay and a general inability to score. And the team was largely healthy. Yet, given the lack of scoring talent, Coach Nolan was able to get his guys to play competitively.
Fast forward to today. Injuries. I haven't seen a team so decimated by injuries since my grammer school basketball team was stricken with chicken pox. And yet, when this team has seemingly little to play for, they play with heart, grit, and character. I think Nolan's greatest accomplishment this year is largely overlooked. He got a non-playoff team comprised of AHL players, a back-up goalie and a hand full of veterans to play each game like it really mattered.
And let's not forget the intangibles he brings to the table. My experience in the locker room exposed me to a coach whose professionalism is unassailable. He is a coach who literally smiles when names like Park, Bergenheim, and Comeau are merely mentioned, and will be a wonderful mentor to Kyle Okposo. I think he reserves complaint for the just the right situations. When referees calls are particularly glaring or when players (like Holweg who grabbed at Martinek's stiches) clearly step over the line. His restraint makes his critical comments meaningful.
Being the coach of the Islanders this year was not for the weak of heart. And yet, Coach Nolan accorded himself like a true professional. He is the coach to lead this young and developing team into Cup contention.
If I were Charles Wang, I would take Ted Nolan out to dinner. Just he and I. And I would offer him a contract extension.
Right after I thanked him for being here.