Coaching in the NHL is a difficult life
Jun 03, 2003
I think Peter Laviolette's time behind the Islanders' bench will be
viewed as a positive one. He came here as a young, inexperienced
coach with a great deal of passion about what he wanted to do, and
was a part of turning this franchise around. He wasn't solely
responsible, as no one person is, but along with the trades to get
better players in the fold and so on, he deserves credit.
Unfortunately, Laviolette's dismissal is partially tied to not just
losing to Ottawa in five games to open the playoffs, but to why this
team had a lack of motivation for the last 25-30 games of the season.
And there was concern obviously. The Islanders didn't play well when
there was a lot on the line and this firing is the result of what
ultimately happens in all sports. If it's determined by your bosses
that the team is not motivated and not playing up to what they
perceive to be the potential, then it comes down to the coach.
Sometimes it's fair, sometimes it's unfair, but that's what Mike
Milbury and his staff determined had to be done.
It's such a tough job coaching in the NHL. The guys deserves credit
for what he did while he was here. He was a hard-working passionate
coach that dealt with the kind of personalities he had to deal with,
and I don't say that negatively. It was a new sea for him to fish in
and he learned a lot.
The thing that must be remembered is that it's not just always the
coach. I'm not saying Peter was the perfect coach, but at the same
time, why was Alexei Yashin so brutal for most of the year? That has
an effect on the coach. Is it the coach's fault that he didn't
motivate him? That's the age-old question. Should you have to
motivate a guy that's making $90 million dollars over ten years?
Ultimately what happens is the coach goes, and the player stays.
That's the way sports is. There are players that didn't play very
well or as hard as they should have. It's a difficult thing.
I think as a young coach, Laviolette certainly learned something
about himself, and he'll get another opportunity to coach someplace
and be better for it.
I'm sure Mike Milbury took his time and made sure that all the facts
were in place before he made his decision. I haven't talked to Mike
about it, but I wouldn't necessarily say he wrestled with it. He went
on a fact-finding mission, put all the cards on the table and made
his decision. It's never easy to fire anyone, but those guys are
hired to make tough decisions to try and win championships.
I don't know how this will be received. There are probably certain
players that aren't shocked and some that are. There's probably fans
and media in that same boat. But I think anytime somebody's fired,
unless it's been speculated about for a long period of time, when it
happens it probably raises some eyebrows.
I know that Steve Stirling did a really terrific job in Bridgeport,
where the team got to the AHL Finals last spring. The players loved
playing for him because he taught them the game well and had a very
good rapport with them and they responded by playing hard for him. He
has a solid hockey background, and his resume also shows experience
in education and management being that he was an athletic director.
Charles Wang also like promoting from within and I know the Isles
were really happy with the results in Bridgeport, and besides all
that he's a really likable person.