After the Islander home opener in October, I stood with my fellow bloggers in the midst of about a dozen credentialed journalists such as Greg Logan and Dan Martin in a small room near the Islander locker room. A podium stood in the center of the room, and a blue curtain with Islander and Allstate logos hung on the wall behind it. Against a wall to the left, catty corner to the shower stall, electrical wires of various colors lay on the floor.
The chatter amongst the beat writers ceased immediately when a rear door opened. Quietly, Ted Nolan, led by then VP of Media and Communications Chris Botta, approached the podium. Nolan, wearing a dark suit, perhaps navy, stood over six feet tall. He was an imposing figure. There was a moment of silence before Greg Logan approached with his first question. A few minutes later, after a brief silence Botta asked "that it guys?", and then it was all over. Nolan left, taking the same route as he had on the way in. And there ended my first exposure to the man.
One year ago, the thought of attending opening night for the 08-09 season with someone other than Ted Nolan at the helm of the Islanders would have seemed unimaginable. Yet, here we are again. Another Summer, another PR disaster. Another reason for Islander fans to endure abuse from those affiliated with other local hockey clubs.
The Islanders absolutely had to make this work. The organization could ill afford another blow to its reputation. Separating with a very popular and talented coach should never have been an option. Snow and Wang should have addressed their issues with Nolan, while expressing confidence in his ability to coach this team. The magnanimous approach would have been the appropriate one.
While we can fault all parties for missteps, some of the blame placed on Nolan is not justified. You coach what Nolan had in the Spring and see how many times you utter "you have to do the best with the players you have". I bet it would slip from your mouth once or twice. And Nolan played too defensive of a style toward the end? Alternatively, would you preferred to have seen the Isles lose 8-0 at home to the rangers? Would that have been good for youth development and instilling confidence in the likes of Kyle Okposo?
Sure, Nolan didn't fit in with the organization's vision. Either did Neil Smith. Do you sense a pattern?
One opening night, this year, or perhaps next, hockey fans of another team will be watching Ted Nolan's tall frame walk with confidence as he approaches his podium. There might be a few more journalists, or fewer bloggers and less electrical wiring in their room. But there will be a special coach, a player's coach, whose time to shine may have finally arrived.
Goodbye Ted. You'll be missed.