7/28/08

The Magnificent Seven ride into New York

New York Islander Fan Central | 7/28/2008 10:27:00 AM









You read some of the speculation on why some coaches would be a good fit here vs those who would not be a good fit here and I kind of laugh at most of it. Unless someone who worked with these people in those places comments about what outright skills or flaws they had it's virtually worthless in terms of today or the Isles of 2008-09.

Every team and it's circumstances are different and things change a lot.

Unless we are behind the scenes working with these people on a daily basis we really have little idea of anything. Al Arbour came here in 1974 after leaving the St Louis Blues where he coached and helped build a club with prospects into a dynasty, second time when he came back for Terry Simpson it took a lot of growing pains and the club never really became a good team for a sustained period with a lot of playoff misses or mediocre clubs that only played well in stretches.

Al Arbour did not turn many prospects into star players in his second tenure as coach, however Vladimir Malakhov or Darius Kasparaitis were never better.

Of course if Arbour were looking for a job today we would be reading he can only take playoff teams to the next level and is not good for a rebuilding.

With that we present the Magnificent Seven with some background and a little speculation of our own in no particular order:

You can put the actors to the name, Gerard Gallant can play the role of Eli Wallach for this one.

1. Scott Gordon-For those who will do the Steve Stirling analogies that would be a huge mistake given age difference despite the amazing job Stirling did in the NHL as a rookie coach with an injured Isles team after a great job in Bridgeport. Scott Gordon has been an outstanding coach in the AHL with Providence as an assistant coach first who almost was named Bruins head coach last summer who is well regarded in the organization with many saying he is more than ready for an NHL head coaching job and would be a great fit as an NHL head coach. He can work well with prospects obviously but can he work well with veterans would be my question. It should be noted he was Mike Sullivan's assistant coach with Providence before before Sullivan was promoted to the Bruins coaching job.

Goaltenders generally do not have great track records as NHL head coaches (at least recently) for what that is worth but goaltenders do bond well which could be a big plus to our goaltender turned general manager.

It should be noted one of the star players on the team Scott Gordon took over in 03was current Islander Andy Hilbert who also played for Mike Sullivan and no doubt he has plenty of experience with Ben Walter.

2. Mike Sullivan-Not a lot to write here, he was promoted from Providence with little coaching experience in the AHL and was the youngest coach in the NHL at the time of his hiring guiding the Bruins to a playoff spot his first season. GM Mike O'Connell decided not to retain many veterans during the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season so at the end of 05-06 with the club struggling he was fired by new gm Peter Chiarelli who brought in Dave Lewis who fared no better. Sullivan was left waiting as replacements for his job were being interviewed by Boston. John Tortorella feels Sullivan is an excellent assistant as Sullivan moved on to Tampa Bay who was part of a Stanley Cup and has endorsed him many times as being more than ready to be head coach of another club.

3. Paul Maurice-I know a lot of folks will point to his cup run with Carolina but that team only had eighty three points in 2002 (thirteen behind the Isles) and were given third seed because they won the division. I know the word is he works well with prospects and gets along well with general managers (Jim Rutherford is one of the best) but what team has Paul Maurice ever made good for an extended amount of time? Since the Hurricanes' appeared in the 2002 Stanley Cup finals, their record had been horrendous with the club winning only seventeen games out of eighty before he was fired in season. His Leafs tenure was an outright failure which of course had more to do with his general manager's choice of players.

Sure he could be hired here and do a great job, but on paper this does not seem like a good hire. The relocation to Greensboro from Hartford bought him time, so did the Canes moving into it's permanent home as did the cup finals run before time finally ran out for him.

4. John Tortorella-This is a coach who had been with one club for a long time who has basically seen it all in his first full-time assignment. He has coached superstars, developed players into stars, won a Stanley Cup, finished 30th while pushing his clubs for all they can give and more with sometimes burning his clubs out as they fell apart or looked over matched come playoff time. He took a Tampa team that had done virtually nothing (aside from one playoff run) it it's history and turned them into a winner. Most of his players liked playing for him, he never had any public problems with former GM Jay Feaster and his reputation of being a troublemaker seems more of a media creation because he gives colorful interviews.

There were no complaints from Brad Lukowich or Ruslan Fedotenko about Tortorella when they signed here, despite Fedotenko's poor final season in Tampa where he was dropped on the third line.

If Charles Wang, Garth Snow and John Tortorella are all willing to take the growing pains, the criticism and buck the second year trend of head coaches around here and work in the prospects and stick with the plan, it's the right hire.

Given some of the outright strange moves by Tampa's new ownership keeping it's gm in limbo and bullying a player just signed off the roster, I'm inclined to see the club hire Tortorella as long as he can accept there will be no Martin St Louis or Vinnie LeCavalier on his first line come October. If Mr Botta is correct that DiPietro and Tortorella know and like one another that does not hurt.

He's also a big name coach for a team that desperate needs a bigger media presence and should fit right in with the club reaching out to the community.

5. Bob Hartley-If relationship with the gm here is the over-riding factor than the Isles might as well schedule the press conference. Hartley was one if not the lone outsider who endorsed Snow's hiring as general manager in 2006. Of course it will not be only about that but about track record and Hartley is another coach who has basically seen it all from Stanley Cups and amazing success in Colorado to struggling clubs rebuilding in Atlanta he did take to the next level, he's worn out his welcomes and comes well respected by many others. Will he buy into a youth movement here or did the playoff meltdown carry over or did Don Waddell's shortsighted moves catch up with him or did Hartley push for the short-sighted moves?

Either way the situation was so poor in Atlanta on a team with many talented offensive players he was gone after six games but left Atlanta as the most successful coach in team history who got a very quick hook last season. Hartley's presence did not keep Heatley in Atlanta for what that is worth and never got Lehtonen to the next level with a defense less than adequate that always played an offensive style.

This is a man who never played an NHL game for those wondering.

6. Joel Quenneville-Hard to argue with Quenneville's record as a great choice for a head coach other than that he has only taken his clubs to one conference final but is another who has long experience who is well respected but after a while organizations make changes because a coach took his club as far as management felt he could. How would he deal with a club that could miss the playoffs for years given he only had one spring without a playoff. Ted Nolan did not react well, how will Quenneville with the adversity losing can bring?

Fair to say Quenneville has had some fantastic talents, including Doug Weight during his career. He seemingly has never been part of a franchise with a lot of prospects competing for spots and has never coached in this conference.

7. Marc Crawford-A lot of long experience, a Stanley Cup in Colorado and helped turn around the Canucks with four playoff appearances but the message does grow old and coaches burn out teams and Crawford is that kind of coach. Like Quenneville has never coached in this conference but was brought into Los Angeles for a prospect team that struggled for two year and was fired by the general manager who hired him which has to raise questions for Garth Snow who did not have close to the franchise talents Crawford had with Los Angeles despite many young players producing well under this coach.

Gerard Gallant-This will likely be the least popular choice among Islander fans because of how poorly the Isles powerplay performed combined with his dismissal from Columbus, but Gallant like many Jacket coaches (including Ken Hitchcock) still has not had the right core of talent around him where he had a fair chance to show his abilities and was with Columbus for six years. He could not make it work as coach with Anson Carter and the addition of Fredrik Modin in a trade, or with Rick Nash.

Gallant took over for Doug MacLean midway through the 2003-04 season and finished with a 16-24-5 record. After the lockout the Blue Jackets went 35-43-4 in 05-06 but went 23-16-2 in the second half of the season after Nash returned from an injury but opened 5-9-1-0 when he was fired in November of 2006.

One thing for sure he will not be getting a star like Nash here nor did he get more out of Carter, Fedorov, Modin. Was his animated confrontation with former Islander Marc-Andre Bergeron be taken as a positive or negative?







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