Islanders General Manager Mike Milbury surprised many in the hockey world when he passed over Ted Nolan and hired new head coach Peter Laviolette. After all, Ted Nolan has the experience the Islanders were looking for. He won the Jack Adams Trophy for the Coach of the Year and brought the Sabres all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997. But that was four years ago. And since then, Nolan has been completely absent from the NHL. That was just enough to tip the scales in Laviolette's favor.
While Laviolette hasn't coached a single NHL game, he was an assistant with the Boston Bruins last year and has had success at the minor league level in his brief career as a coach. Laviolette was also a player in the NHL and for the United States Olympic team.
Laviolette is a young coach, but many people around the league see a bright future ahead of the 36 year old. He has a good reputation for being able to know how to get the most out of his players. He also has good results working with young players. In 1998-1999, Laviolette set an American Hockey League record when his team went 56-16-4-4 and won the Calder Cup.
Laviolette has his work cut out for him, of that there is no doubt. But he is eager and ready for the opportunity to work with the Islanders' young and talented stock of players. If given the right tools, through off-season trades and free agent signings, Laviolette could easily make Islanders fans wonder aloud, "Ted who?"
Former Islander Brent Sutter has made quite a name for himself in the WHL as owner, general manager and coach of the Red Deer Rebels. His team, led by league MVP Justin Mapletoft, won the 2000-01 Memorial Cup, signifying supieriority in Canadian Hockey.
Mapletoft was a key player in the success of the Rebels this year and because of it, this 5th round pick in the 1999 draft was rewarded with a contract from the Islanders.
Mapletoft signed just prior to the deadline for Canadian players selected in 1999. Had they not reached an agreement, Mapletoft would have re-entered the Draft. The Islanders didn't allow this to happen, however, and now have a very promising 20 year old center waiting in the wings.
In spite of his late round selection in 1999, Mapletoft was among the league leaders this season, posting 120 points in 70 games, along with a whopping +45 rating. He also came through with 11 game winning goals for Red Deer.
The Islanders look forward to having Justin Mapletoft in training camp this year, to give him a look. Most likely, he will be playing in the minor leagues next year, but anything can happen. Just ask the new head coach.
What do you think of the Islanders' coaching decision? Is there something Islanders-related that you'd like to discuss? Do you have comments about Justin Mapletoft? Send them to us! We'd love to hear from you. You can mail them to
or post them on our bulletin board below