Isles owner just odd

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

It was Mike Milbury, the New York Islanders' inexplicable executive for life, who once countered a media question he didn't like by pointing out that a village somewhere was missing its idiot.

Today's question is this: Has a recent survey been done in Islanders owner Charles Wang's village?

First of all, keeping Milbury on the payroll -- and even promoting him -- would make any reasonable observer wonder about Wang's ability to make hockey decisions.

After all, it was Wang who approved Milbury's idea to give Alexei Yashin a 10-year $90-million US contract. Has it not by now dawned on Wang that this was perhaps not the best hockey decision ever made?

Knowing Wang, probably not. Wang, after all, has seriously suggested that team personnel should go to Japan to scout sumo wrestlers who could be turned into National Hockey League goaltenders.

At one of the NHL rules meetings, he insisted, in all sincerity, that anger-management courses should be mandatory for any player who got into a fight.

No wonder he couldn't get along with general manager Neil Smith. One of Smith's acquisitions during his tenure, which ended on Tuesday when Wang fired him after 40 days on the job, was Chris Simon.

Wang is one of the many owners dredged up by commissioner Gary Bettman to invest in hockey. These people don't know a puck from a pumpkin, but Bettman promises a profit so they rush in where angels fear to tread. Real estate, stock market, pork bellies, hockey, what's the difference?

When Wang came in, he had a partner, Sanjay Kumar, and had Kumar still been around, the team might have been more successful. It turns out that of the two, Kumar was the one more closely aligned to the NHL ownership model.

In most leagues, it is the players who commit crimes and go to jail. In the NHL, it's the owners.

So for his involvement in a fraud case over a trifling amount -- a mere $2.2 billion -- Kumar probably will spend the rest of his life behind bars and is, therefore, unavailable to help hire people of "integrity" for the Islanders.

Curiously, Wang's assessment of backup goaltender Garth Snow, his hand-picked successor to Smith, was that his most important asset is that he is "a man of integrity".

Most of us would have thought that you'd be hard pressed to find a man with more integrity than Pat LaFontaine, who had been Wang's special consultant until he wisely walked out in disgust on Tuesday.

And there had never been any indication during Smith's previous hockey jobs that he is integrity-challenged.

There are plenty of people in hockey, however, who would question Snow's integrity as a player. He didn't cheat quite as much as the Italian soccer team -- who does? -- but he was close.

He constantly modified his equipment to defeat the spirit of the rules. His goal pads were the largest in the league until limits were specified, and you could have done your woodworking on the platforms he carried on his shoulders.

His experience in managing a hockey team is even less than Wang's. It's zero.

At least Wang has made hockey decisions. They've all been bad, but nevertheless, he has made them.

He hired his coach before he hired his general manager, for instance. And he sided with the coach in a recent dispute over the hiring of assistants.

Decisions like that do wonders to establish authority and create a chain of command.

In the next few days, a couple of Islanders players will have their arbitration cases heard. They'll win, of course, because the new GM has no idea of the circumstances involved.

But Wang probably will like that. When you're a New York Islander, any sort of win is a rare achievement.


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