Monday, November 15, 2010

First axe has fallen


For those who had Nov. 15 in the "first NHL coach to be fired" pool, congratulations! You're a winner.

Unlike Islanders coach Scott Gordon, who was relieved of his duties after New York lost 10 straight games, returning the team to the bowels of the league. The year started off so well for the Islanders before the wheels came off.

Was the firing justified? Well, it's hard to argue against that little 10-game losing streak. But how much did Gordon actually have to work with? Not a whole lot, especially after long-term injuries to top defenseman Mark Streit and key forward Kyle Okposo.

Apart from John Tavares, maybe Matt Moulson and the injury punchline that is Rick DiPietro, how many members of the Islanders are household names? That would be none. It's possible I suppose that Gordon could've pulled a Jacques Lemaire-with-the-Wild style coaching job and that he wasn't up to the task.

Still, you can make only so much chicken soup out of chicken, well you know. I don't think it helps that the Islanders have played so many games on the road already this season (12 out of 17; they've had two home games in the last month.)

Tavares is really struggling his sophomore season. He has no goals and just two assists in his last eight games. Moulson is doing OK (six goals and 10 points) but DiPietro has become a disaster, with an ungodly 4.21 GAA. James Wisniewski has stepped in to somewhat fill the void left by Streit's injury but that blue line is among the thinnest in the league.

Then again, since being hired at the start of the 2008-09 season, Gordon had the lowest points percentage in the NHL.

I'm guessing Garth Snow thinks the firing will reignite his team. This was the last year of Gordon's contract, so maybe Snow also didn't want to have any questions hanging over his head and Gordon's about Gordon's future, especially if the team continued to lose.

I thought, given the injuries to Okposo and particularly to Streit, Gordon might have more of a leash. Don't underestimate Streit; he's one of the most valuable members to his team in the league. So I'm a little surprised.

It's hard to say this team is underperforming; it's not like Snow has built a strong overall team. There's just not a lot of talent (or resources) to work with on Long Island these days.

The season has pretty much already spiraled out of control. It'll take much more than a coaching change to fix the Islanders.

Monday's games
Rangers (9-7-1) at Pittsburgh (9-8-1), 7 p.m. ET - Two teams looking for their third win in a row. With any luck, New York doesn't have any goals left in it after Sunday. Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury might be coming out of their slumps; they both need to keep up their current level of play. Pittsburgh 4, New York 2.

New Jersey (5-10-2) at Boston (8-5-1), 7 p.m. - Kind of funny that the Bruins were treated to boobirds last game. Sure, they were shut out at home but they've emerged as one of the better teams in the league so far. As long as they play on the road. New Jersey is actually kind of competent on the road (4-5-0) so this one might not be any easier. Boston 3, New Jersey 2

Vancouver (10-4-2) at Buffalo (6-9-3), 7 p.m. - The Sabres are on a hot streak, winning one game in a row, their first at home. The Canucks are 8-1-1 on the road. Vancouver 4, Buffalo 1

Ottawa (9-7-1) at Philadelphia (11-4-2), 7 p.m., RDS - Brian Elliott had a shutout last game for Ottawa, but I see no way he stops the Flyers, who are just tearing through the league at this point. Philadelphia 5, Ottawa 2

St. Louis (9-3-3) at Colorado (8-7-1), 8 p.m., Versus - Is this a fluke or are the Blues returning to earth? They've lost three straight, conceding 16 goals in that time. Probably a fluke; Ty Conklin started one game and you don't see many 8-1 scores. But at some point, the St. Louis forwards need to bail out their goalies. Colorado's goals allowed the last seven games: five, one, three, zero, four, one, three. St. Louis 2, Colorado 1.

Los Angeles (12-3-0) at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. - Only one team has a current win streak of longer than three games, and that's the Kings at six. The Sharks are starting to play better (6-3-1 last 10.) Jonathan Bernier is in goal for LA and he's not exactly doing much to push Jon Quick for playing time. San Jose 4, Los Angeles 2

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