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Islanders Executive Search: Add Gillis, Gilman to Ledecky’s List

It’s like Craig’s List except absolutely not in any way.

Vancouver Canucks Introduce John Tortorella
Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

On Friday, we learned that Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky had been speaking with people around the NHL about a president’s position within the club. Then on Saturday, we learned that Ledecky was seeking more than just a new face in the front office, and had been gathering opinions and information about what to do with his club. Names mentioned around included Pat LaFontaine, Brad Richards, agent Pat Brisson, Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille.

That circle got a little bigger today with some tweets from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and TSN’s Darren Dreger (Canadian Media Fight!), who added some names to the pile.

First, the tweets. Here’s Friedman:

Then Dreger:

Update: As expected, Friedman did talk about the situation in his 30 Thoughts column this week. Here are the relevant section in its entirety (and read the full article for two other bits on not trading Josh Ho-Sang and maybe dosing Garth Snow with sodium thiopental.)

4. Newsday’s Arthur Staple broke the story last week about New York Islanders owner Jonathan Ledecky’s attempts to search for a “big name” to run the team’s operations. In all of our chasing to catch up, there are two things we’re learning.

First, there are some executives who don’t like the idea of chasing a job while someone is still in the current position.

“I wouldn’t want it happening to me,” one said.

Second, this isn’t just about one job. I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but it sounds like he’s looking at very-large scale philosophical changes on how the Islanders do business. Staple mentioned agent Pat Brisson (who represents John Tavares), Pat LaFontaine and Brad Richards as people Ledecky has talked to. LaFontaine was at the Islanders/Rangers game on Tuesday night.

Luc Robitaille is in that conversation, too, although it’s hard to see him leaving Los Angeles. The owner is friendly with Wayne Gretzky, and has asked for his opinion as well, but that’s not going to result in The Great One joining the Islanders organization.

Mike Gillis’s name got out on Tuesday, and although the Canucks have not been asked for permission, I don’t see that as a problem since his contract is close to expiring. Ledecky is determined to improve the relationship between the team and the alumni, which is why you’ll also hear names like Pat Flatley. No doubt there are others we don’t know of yet. There are a lot of different ways this could unfold.

Gillis, you may or may not remember, was Vancouver’s GM from 2008-2014. The Canucks did go to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, losing to Boston, but as wikipedia notes: “the players arguably most instrumental in their Finals appearance — the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, Alexandre Burrows, Alexander Edler, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider — were already in the Canucks' organization when Gillis took over as general manager from his predecessor, Dave Nonis.”

But hey, he won the 2011 NHL GM of the year award so it’s all good. Right? Well...

Following that season, Gillis became known as the man who presided over one of the most bizarre goalie situations we’ve ever seen. With Roberto Luongo signed super-long-term and Corey Schneider pushing hard for starter’s playing time, Gillis somehow managed to navigate Vancouver to losing both, trading Luongo back to Florida and Schneider to New Jersey. That’s not good news for the Islanders, who have more goalies than they know what to do with.

Gilman was Gillis’ assistant GM during his time in Vancouver. He’s currently working for the NHL on expansion matters, and is basically the architect of next year’s expansion draft rules.

The less said about Healy, who went from lovable scamp goalie to raging, inexhaustible TV caveman, the better.

We don’t know the extent of whatever talks Ledecky has had with these guys, nor what they were about. As Friedman and Dreger both note, the Islanders would need permission from the Canucks to talk to either Gillis or Gilman. It doesn’t sound like they have, so maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves in worrying about them (or, to be more specific, worrying about Gillis).

Of more importance, I think, is what Friedman gets to regarding coming into preside over an existing hierarchy.

Newcomers being wary of being placed ahead of Garth Snow in the pecking order is exactly what I said I was wary about following Arthur Staple’s initial report about the executive search. Snow’s been at his job for over a decade. He’s drafted or signed every player, hired every coach. Snow’s already said he’s not firing Jack Capuano, despite the team having a tiny chance at the playoffs as of the first week in December.

As Brian Compton told us on our Islanders Anxiety podcast, Garth has a bit of “Smartest Guy in the Room Syndrome” and he probably isn’t going to totally be on board with some new guy telling him how to run his team, whether that new guy is Pat LaFontaine, Mike Gillis or anybody. It’s the same reason you shouldn’t hire a coach before you hire a GM.

Once again, no hiring is imminent and a lot of this is basically hearsay. Maybe I’m wrong and Ledecky makes the right choice. But there are a lot of aspects to be concerned about for all parties.