On Long Island it's beginning to look a lot like football, and not just because the New York Jets are preparing to open training camp there next month. At the direction of new chief executive David Seldin, (the former president of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars) the Island's NHL franchise, the New York Islanders, has restructured its front office and coaching staffs to resemble an NFL operation. According to one Islanders staffer, "Seldin thinks the NFL is in the 21st century in terms of running teams, while the NHL is in the 16th."
The setup, under which New York coach and general manager Mike Milbury won't be involved in negotiating contracts, is unusual. Unprecedented, however, is Milbury's intention to hire as many as seven full-time coaches (the norm is four). Among them would be two top associates—Ted Nolan, the NHL's coach of the year while with the Buffalo Sabres in 1996-97, has already been approached—and, below them, two assistant coaches, who will serve as offensive and defensive coordinators to shuffle personnel during games. There might also be three other specialists who will focus on goal-tending, penalty-killing and power plays.
Milbury will emphasize classroom work and hopes the commitment to specialists by the front office will inspire a corresponding commitment from the players. Having many coaches, he believes, will allow young players to receive individual attention.
Milbury says he got some helpful advice from the Jaguars' Tom Coughlin and the Jets' Bill Par-cells, "but it's not like we're going to start using a football instead of a puck." On the other hand, he admits, thinking back on his team's abysmal 30-41-11 record this past season, "sometimes I wish I could punt."
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]