Today we wrap up our review of the 2009-10 season and the full-time blog entries with a review of Head Coach Scott Gordon & General Manager Garth Snow.
In a painfully mediocre conference, which saw the playoff cut on average drop dramatically from ninety five points/eighth seed to the final three seeds all being under ninety points, a huge opportunity was to qualify for a playoff spot was missed.
New York won only as many regulation games as they did a year ago with about two hundred fifty less man games lost to injury. Overall goals scored/allowed improved with point total which is what many media sold as improvement, but special teams were worse than a year ago with both powerplay/penalty killing dropping into the bottom five.
Third period scoring saw this team at the bottom of the league.
Head Coach Scott Gordon:
Like the individual players grades, Scott Gordon did not build a roster of smaller/less physical players, which lacked veterans who could contribute as top line forwards. He worked with what he had and changed some players positions with Comeau, Sim, Bailey, Okposo, Weight. (on more than one wing/point)
As on any other team, some players improved or had a breakthrough while others regressed. Some of that has to speak to Scott Gordon's decisions, others to how players performed individually.
Decisions that also included Comeau riding the bench so Trevor Gillies could play three minutes in Philadelphia.
In 2008-09, he did not put public pressure on his young players, even criticizing a 2002 pick in Bergenheim for being worried about his numbers, that is what good coaches do, which of course he held to with virtually all his players again this year.
Being head coach is not about winning a popularity contest with the players, the job ultimately is to win hockey games and getting the most out of the talent you have.
Unlike Ted Nolan, Gordon did not take the media bait regarding his contract toward the end of this season. Owner Charles Wang (despite management claims it does not discuss management contracts) informed the public of Gordon's contract status in an radio interview.
Are Gordon and his general manager on the same page and a team that work well together? Only they know, however Nate Thompson was the player Scott Gordon used but lost his spot to waivers while Jeff Tambellini was glued to Gordon's bench and his comments about his defenders lack of size after a to Boston sure did not seem an endorsement of Snow's trade deadline decisions.
Scott Gordon was not in the same situation as AHL counterparts like John Anderson in Atlanta or Peter DeBoer in Florida, both who had more top line veterans or older, more-developed prospects. The clock is running for the first head coach since Al Arbour who should be back for a third consecutive season to have this team not only in playoff contention but ready to take the next step and qualify.
A club that can beat the top teams, have a good record against the West should have been able to win against equal/lower teams by standings and on the road in their own division.
Many opposing coaches/players, praised how difficult the Islanders were to play against. Next year they have to beat the clubs they are supposed to win against.
General Manager Garth Snow:
The general manager said recently he is not satisfied with the season and that everyone who returns has to be better. This has to start with how he reconstructs a roster with some expiring contracts that were lacking in terms of size, physical players, speed and veteran scoring on far too many night's that had nothing to do with the young players.
You going to tell me Max Afinogenov (pick a struggling veteran from last summer) with his eight goals would have failed and been a mistake here as a late signing/tryout? Ok.
You going to tell me Tim Jackman or some other veterans were a better offensive fit, than Afinogenov (pick a struggling veteran) and had to be signed at the end of last March?
Snow also has to be held accountable for leaving his club short on defense (in terms of depth and size) after the trade deadline. Anton Klementyev came up who was sitting prior to recall and to date had not played again for Bridgeport after drafting and signing him last summer. When this club was in it's losing streaks Snow did not panic, however he did nothing in terms of a lateral move to address any weaknesses beyond Brendan Witt being placed on waivers.
With Jesseu Joensuu, Matt Martin and other players in teams system, expect part this teams changes to come from within. Having written that there are not a lot of open spots heading into July 1st with five defenders already under NHL contract and many players at the point here signed (Gervais-Hunter-Bergenheim-Tambellini-Comeau) where it may be time for a change.
Make no mistake, this is now Garth Snow's organization and he is on the hot seat with his head coach. He has made a few excellent decisions on Matt Moulson, Mark Streit and even Dylan Reese. He needs more signings like this and a few creative trades for established veterans that upgrades the overall veteran talent pool. This gm has also had his share of clunkers with Bobby Hughes, Ben Walter, Petteri Nokelainen and Rob Hennigar along with Joel Rechlicz, albeit minor league players or the past general managers former picks but par for almost all organizations.
2009-10 was a missed opportunity and like the teams uneven play, he must receive an uneven grade more than anyone because he constructed the roster.
Finally, don't tell us the Coliseum is one reason why free agents won't sign here anymore when they took front-loaded contracts to play in dumps like Joe Louis Arena, Msg and Mellon Arena.
Tell the truth which is Charles Wang and most non-corporate owners cannot afford to front load a contract and pay someone twenty/thirty million dollars over the first three seasons of that kind of contract. It's not a knock on Wang or you.
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