Shaw to coach team; GM Milbury to step down

Updated: January 12, 2006, 8:54 PM ET
Associated Press

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Brad Shaw replaced the fired Steve Stirling as coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, and Mike Milbury will step aside as general manager after a replacement is found.

Shaw, in his first year as an Islanders' assistant, will coach the team for the rest of the season, the Islanders said at a news conference. Stirling was dismissed Wednesday night.

"We're hoping that Brad can handle this and give us a jump start," Milbury said.

The coaching change is the eighth in the last nine years under Milbury, and came after the Islanders lost for the eighth time in their last nine games: a 2-1 defeat to Nashville on Tuesday night.

Shaw was to be behind the bench when the Islanders played the Calgary Flames at the Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night. It would be his NHL head coaching debut.

The Islanders said Milbury will relinquish his role as GM once he and team owner Charles Wang find a replacement.

"Charles will make that decision, I will help him with that," Milbury said.

Milbury will become a vice president for Wang's sports properties. In addition to the Islanders, Wang also owns the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League.

"All the coaches and players are disappointed about Steve because they like him," Milbury said. "He worked hard at it, but it just wasn't happening."

The Islanders were 18-22-2 before Thursday's game, fourth in the Atlantic Division and seven points out of a playoff spot midway through the season.

In his first season in 2003-2004, Stirling led the Islanders to a 38-29-11-4 record and a third straight playoff appearance. Stirling replaced the fired Peter Laviolette.

Stirling became the third NHL coach to leave this season. Pittsburgh's Ed Olczyk was fired, and New Jersey's Larry Robinson stepped down citing health and family issues.

After the Islanders dropped a home-and-home series last weekend to Carolina, in which they were outscored 7-1, Milbury said he wouldn't sit back and watch the club fall out of playoff contention.

He then traded defenseman Janne Niinimaa to Dallas on Tuesday before the loss to Nashville.

After running Wednesday's practice, Stirling said, "If you win, you keep your job. If you don't win, you could lose it or you do lose it. I didn't make the rules, Mike didn't make the rules."

Milbury has revamped the roster several times, changed coaches eight times, and has never won a playoff series since he's been in charge. Yet, his job had never been threatened until now.

When Stirling replaced Laviolette, Milbury figured it was the last coach he'd be allowed to hire.

Stirling had never led an NHL team, but came off a successful two-year stint as coach of the Islanders' AHL Bridgeport affiliate.

While Stirling lasted less than 1½ seasons, Laviolette moved to Carolina and now has the Hurricanes in first place in the Southeast Division. Laviolette will also be the U.S. coach at next month's Turin Olympics.

Stirling's only trip to the playoffs ended in a five-game loss to eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay.

With last season wiped out by a lockout, the Islanders regrouped this season and had a new look.

New York decided against buying out Alexei Yashin's big contract to create more space under the $39 million salary cap and instead dealt away Michael Peca. Not only did the Islanders keep Yashin, Stirling named him Peca's replacement as captain.

But Yashin has not become a leader on or off the ice. Despite being one of the highest-paid players in the NHL, he has just 15 goals in 42 games. In the loss at Nashville, Yashin took two of New York's four penalties, both for delay of game.

Also missing from the 2003-04 team are defensemen Adrian Aucoin, Roman Hamrlik and Kenny Jonsson, along with forward Dave Scatchard. Replacing them with defensemen Alexei Zhitnik and Brent Sopel and forwards Mike York and Miroslav Satan hasn't helped.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press