After just two seasons and two playoff appearances, the New York Islanders fired Peter Laviolette. A massive mistake in the 2000s.
Mike Milbury was a brutal front office guy. Islanders fans, unfortunately, know this all too well and it didn’t help that the keys were given over from one of the worst executives in sports history to a backup goalie.
Anyway, in the 90s and early 2000s, Milbury made many uninformed decisions that ultimately set the franchise back years. One of those moves was giving up on Peter Laviolette after just two years.
After Al Arbour stepped away following the 1994 season, the Isles blew through coaches like it was going out of style. In seven years, Lorne Henning, Mike Milbury, Rick Bowness, Bill Stewart, and Butch Goring all were head coach at some point with Henning and Milbury getting second stints.
Seven coaching changes in seven years in truly an impressive level of incompetence. After the Butch Goring and Lorne Henning experiment in 2000-2001, the Islanders hired Peter Laviolette a young up and coming AHL coach.
In 1998-1999 he took the Providence Bruins to a 56-16-4 record winning the championship followed by a third-round exit the following year. He served as an assistant coach in Boston for one year before taking the Isles job.
This was a smart decision to bring him in as a candidate that was absolutely ready for the next level. In his first year, the Islanders finished with 96 points and 42 wins. It was their highest point total since 1983-1984 when they lost in the Cup final to Edmonton.
The Islanders bowed out in the first round after a tough seven-game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The following year, the Isles finished with 83 points but made the playoffs as the eighth seed.
They were promptly bounced by the Senators in five games. During the Stanley Cup final, Mike Milbury decided to pull the plug on Laviolette after two seasons that featured a playoff appearance.
He was 77-62-19 for a .546 points percentage. He still to this day ranks third all-time in points percentage and fifth all-time in wins (reminder, he only coached two seasons). His replacement, Steve Sterling lasted a season and a half.
Meanwhile, just two seasons after being let go by the Islanders Laviolette won a championship in Carolina. He would go on to take Philadelphia and Nashville to the Cup final as well during his stints there too.
He has a .588 career point percentage with 18 years coaching in the league. Of coaches who have coached 500 games or more (appx 6 years minimum), he ranks 14th all-time in points percentage.
On the day Milbury fired Laviolette, he was rightfully ripped on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show that resulted in this epic exchange:
Milbury gets a lot of heat, and deservedly so, for his awful decisions when it came to trades, contracts, and management of the players but one of the worst things he did was give up on Laviolette so early in his career.
Now, Laviolette is getting ready to take over the Washington Capitals and with that roster, he should have them as playoff contenders for the foreseeable future.