Smith Out, Snow In, Lafontaine Resigns
TSN is reporting new Isles GM Neil Smith is now old Isles GM Neil Smith.
Neil Smith is no longer general manager of the New York Islanders.
Sources tell TSN the Islanders are expected to make a formal announcement to that effect shortly.
It is not clear whether Smith quit or was fired, but sources have confirmed he is no longer the GM of the hockey club.
There were rumblings that Smith wasn’t happy with Islanders owner Charles Wang’s announcement that he, not Smith, chose the coach of the team, and he was concerned over control.
We’ll see what comes next.
The Yankees had the Bronx Zoo, is this the beginning of the Long Island Game Farm?
Update 145pm: Just more feedback coming my way about Smith’s lack of control. Coach Ted Nolan supposedly has more influence over the team than Smith did. The roster the Islanders are putting together could indicate that, or they could also indicate a GM putting together a team that’s suitable for his coach. Nolan’s previous gig in Buffalo and his relationship with then Buffalo GM John Muckler (and a power struggle) will no doubt be brought up by many.
Is Mike Milbury back? Did he ever leave?
Update 215pm: Lots of similar emails. All focus on Smith’s lack of control and how this was a quicker leave than expected. The former Islanders brought in (LaFontaine, Trottier) do have influence on the team and Trottier’s never made his front office aspirations a secret. Could he take over?
What might be relieving to some Islanders fans is the word that former GM and Wang buddy Mike Milbury has not been involved and most likely won’t be.
Update 235pm: TSN now says Smith was fired.
Sources tell TSN the Islanders fired Smith, but it’s unclear at this point why.
The team announced that they have fired Smith and have hired former Islanders goaltender Garth Snow as the new general manager.
“I spoke with Garth at length throughout the spring about the general manager’s position and he really impressed me with his passion and his knowledge,” said Islanders owner Charles Wang.
“When the job opened up, the choice was an easy one. Garth knows the league as well as anyone, has an eye for talent and understands how our staff works as a team. Most importantly, Garth is a man of integrity, someone I trust will work hard, be creative and represent the Islanders with dignity.”
A fresh GM will take a lot of advice from his staff, including Nolan, who likes to have a lot of input. I wasn’t expecting Nolan to actually grab the GM post, if for no other reason than to avoid nasty PR.
Snow joins a hockey operations staff that also includes head coach Ted Nolan, senior advisor Pat LaFontaine, player development director Bryan Trottier, chief amateur scout Tony Feltrin and pro scouting director Ken Morrow.
Will Snow be able to grab some control of the team? Can this turn into a “too many cooks” scenario? Or is this simply Ted Nolan’s team with a supporting cast?
Update 355pm: Charles Wang will be on WFAN at 605pm et. You can listen live through their website. Correction: Wang will be on at 605, not 645.
Update 445pm: Just a reminder: Snow didn’t retire until today. One of the things he must do now is replace himself and find a backup goaltender. Snow was to make $750,000 US as part of the Islanders roster. Wade Dubielewicz, who was called up if Snow or starter Rick DiPietro would get hurt, could get a call. Dubielewicz is currently an unrestricted free agent. Dubielewicz was 2-3 in 7 games for the Islanders during the 2005-06 season and had a 2.90 goals against average.
Update 605pm: Wang, on WFAN, states that he wants to run the team like a business, like having a board of directors.
Wang stated he was clear about the fact that this is how he wanted to run things, and because of this philosophical difference Smith was let go (and better now than later).
Wang added that the signings were from a mix of opinions.
Chris Russo insists that sports teams aren’t successful with Wang’s business model way of thinking and Wang answers that he thinks this method can work.
Russo says that he doesn’t understand how Snow has been put in the position of decision making and Wang’s counter argument is that he’s surrounded by many good hockey minds.
The conversation keeps going back to Wang’s team management concept.
Wang named Bill Torrey as someone he sometimes consults with, but did not say whether or not he agrees with this method of management.
More back and forth about Wang’s management concept and trying to do something differently.
Wang said Gary Bettman didn’t really push him one way or another.
Wang said he trusts Snow and that they [his management team] will work with him to help him in his new GM spot.
Wang admits risk in trying this, but says he just wants to be upfront and honest about it all.
Update 710pm: A picture floating around the web purportedly of the Islanders new GM. Face is partially covered, you be the judge. mini-update Jul 19 210am: From the comments on VCOE we have another pic with Snow smiling. Is that Snow’s place? It looks like those are his jerseys in the background.
Update 1025pm: It’s not over yet. Pat Lafontaine, a “senior adviser”, informed owner Charles Wang he’s resigning. There’s no word if anyone else has jumped ship yet, but it would certainly be ironic if anyone else left and Snow is left to fend for himself - which is exactly what Smith wanted in the first place.
Lafontaine was someone who supposedly had a good amount of influence in the organization. Apparently he did not approve of today’s changes.
Update 1135pm: Newsday has more on the Lafontaine situation:
LaFontaine does not want to abandon Nolan and told Wang last night that he will be willing to help the club in whatever way Nolan might need. LaFontaine made it clear that he will help Wang’s many charitable endeavors.
But LaFontaine had advised Wang to take 48 hours before making any final decision about Smith. He then suggested that the owner let the dust settle and not name a replacement today, the source said. After Wang ignored both bits of advice, LaFontaine “decided this was not the right time and place for him,” the person said.
I also want to point everyone to an article by John Kreiser, Isles look at their future, about the two most recent first round draft picks by the Islanders. It’s good to have at least something positive out there for Islanders fans.
I’m also looking into whether or not Snow’s contract will count against the cap due to his age.
Update 1155pm: For those thinking Milbury had anything to do with Smith’s firing, Newsday’s Alan Hahn has this tidbit:
One person who surprisingly came to Smith’s defense, Wang said, was former general manager Mike Milbury, who has remained with the Islanders as senior vice president but is no longer involved in hockey operations. Wang said Milbury tried to convince him to give Smith more time. Wang said he couldn’t wait.