Some observers have questioned the accuracy of calling Garth Snow's direction a youth movement. With several aging veterans slated to play key roles on the 2008-09 Islanders, it is a valid question.
Unless Kyle Okposo, Jeff Tambellini, Blake Comeau, Sean Bergenheim, and Frans Nielsen are all playing significant minutes, then the youth movement looks half-hearted.
At least, it did until the last several days.
With the signings of Tambellini, Bergenheim, and Nielsen to multi-year, one-way contracts, Snow has added a new dimension to his youth strategy by:
- Making a quantifiable commitment to the young players
- Demonstrating confidence in the abilities of these players
- Giving them reassurance that their roles belong to them
- Adding stability to the roster
Of course it remains to be seen if Snow has made commitments to the right players. But under the terms to which they agreed, it's certainly worth finding out.
The Nielsen contract is unusual. Rarely do you see an organization commit four years to an unproven player unless he is a can't-miss prospect. It's not as though large offer sheets were in his near future.
But with an average salary of $525,000, the cap structure is hardly at peril. You could even argue that Nielsen is taking the bigger gamble. While he may be limited to fourth-line duty this coming season, his position on the depth chart promises to improve in the coming years. If he produces at all, he will be underpaid. So credit Frans for making a commitment to being an Islander as well.
In a matter of a few days, Snow changed the perception of the youth movement from being about who plays where next year to who is an Islander for the next couple of years.
It would have been very interesting to see how all of this would have unfolded with Ted Nolan as the head coach. That being said, it's even easier to figure out why he's no longer at the helm. Imagine the conversation last Monday went something like this:
Snow: We're making commitments to Tambellini, Bergenheim, and Nielsen.
Nolan: I can't guarantee them lineup spots or ice time.
Snow: They will be Islanders. They won't be going down to Bridgeport and they'll be around for the next few years at least.
Nolan: Then I need security beyond this year.
Snow: I'm not prepared to do that right now.
Anyone who now takes over as coach of the Islanders will know exactly what he's getting into. One of Snow's most important tasks is to figure out which of the candidates pay lip service his to plan and which are prepared to execute it.
Let's dismiss the notion that no one wants to coach the Islanders. There are only 30 of these jobs in existence. Way more than 30 people are interested in having them.
Only the very best can afford to turn their noses up to an NHL head coaching vacancy. And most of those guys already have jobs.