New York Islanders: Can Ted Nolan Win?

Dee Karl@@7thWomanSenior Analyst IMarch 10, 2008

Considering the abysmal power play unit, and the inconsistent play of the NY Islanders veterans, can anyone really pin-point what’s gone terribly wrong with this team? The season started so bright, and then the light kept getting further and further away until it is now only a flicker in the tunnel as the train speeds toward the golf course.

Today I had a pointed exchange with one of my favorite hockey writers on this very subject. The email exchanges are always brief, but always leave me thinking. Considering this particular hockey pen-pal has been in the business longer than I’ve been a fan, I tend to defer to his wisdom, even when I don’t agree with it. I’ll admit; I’ve been accused of wearing rose colored glasses (or are they orange?) on more than one occasion and told that I don’t look at things objectively or as “uniquely” as I should. I hate to say it, but that is true. But those orange glasses seem to match my orange high tops, and they‘re pretty comfy.

Ok, but if I am indeed challenged to look at things from a different angle, what would I see?

At first glance I see a roster that looks quite different from the one they started out with back in September. Injury has plagued this team -- a team that prided itself on chemistry. They have chemistry now on a line or two, but it was cultivated in Bridgeport.

If I keep looking sideways I can see the game summaries I kept as I charted the amount of ice time certain players received during the course of the season. Yes, yes…I remember being disappointed about certain players not getting the opportunity to adequately prove themselves. At the time, I said nothing. Now when the chips are down, Nolan has no choice but to let them play, and still there are inequities. For the longest time, Jeff Tambellini seemed to be Ted’s personal yo-yo as he rode the ferry back and forth, sometimes without even unpacking his gear. Was that the right way to handle him? Maybe, considering Tamby was angry enough to prove himself at the AHL level for sure.

Nolan is always cool under fire, sometimes emotionless. It truly takes a lot to get him going. He has blown up at officials, but only on rare occasions. I’ve never seen him take anything out on his underachieving players. The league certainly doesn’t need another John Tortorella, but a little fear might be a good thing on the bench. The entire organization respects Nolan, but maybe the players need to fear him almost as much as they respect him.

If I turn my head the other way to look from yet another angle, maybe it’s a trust issue. Does Ted trust the players he has on that bench? Do the players trust the coaching staff? What’s the real issue here?

Perhaps Ted was too easy on them after some glaringly lackluster performances this year. There were nights that I walked away from a horrible defeat saying “I hope Ted skates them till they puke tomorrow!” only to find out that he canceled practice. I assume he felt they needed a mental health day or something. But maybe they needed more structured discipline. Check the press conferences from this week on ITV. Ted talked quite a bit about discipline; and discipline is something that CAN be taught, talent is not.

Could Herb Brooks coach this year’s Islander roster to a playoff spot? Uh, um…. Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps the veterans don’t have anything left in the tank, and the young guns don’t have the experience to get them where they would need to be. We’ve heard time and again this season, the Islanders are a team of peripheral players with no superstars, no superb talent, and no-edge-of-your-seat boy wonder. They are just GOOD, solid hockey players with a star-caliber goalie who can’t seem to find a way to be consistent… or healthy.

So while Garth Snow is looking at what the team needs in the off-season -- which is going to start the second week of April this year -- maybe Ted needs to do a little reading, a little soul searching and perhaps try a few exercises in mind control. Because although he can “….love them for who and what they are” he needs to be able to LEAD them too. No matter whom “they” end up being.

Ted:  You have a tough road ahead of you and I wish you luck. The good thing is… there aren’t that many more games left this season for everyone to analyze your every move. Wait… maybe that was the BAD thing. I can’t be sure.