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July 18, 2006
Jim Kelley - Sportnet.ca

Having seen this play before, Ted Nolan wants it known he has nothing to do with the current situation in Long Island.

Ted Nolan, still feeling his way around as coach of the New York Islanders, wants it known that he didn't have a hand in the dismissal of general manager Neil Smith.

He claims he never even saw it coming. "I was at home when (owner) Charles (Wang) called," the recently hired Nolan told Sportsnet. "He asked me if I was sitting down and I said 'why' and he said he fired Neil. He said it was for philosophical reasons.'"

Wang did sever ties with Smith, his general manager of a little over six weeks, though it remains unclear as to whether Smith was fired or opted to leave.

Sources told Sportsnet earlier in the day that Smith was at odds with Wang over the working environment the owner had created (he had hired Nolan separately from Smith and also hired Pat LaFontaine, a former Islander great, to be his special assistant) and decided he couldn't work in the environment Wang had constructed.

Reached Tuesday evening by phone, Nolan seemed unaware of reports that LaFontaine had tendered his resignation (a call to LaFontaine was not immediately returned). He stressed, however, that he had nothing to do with Smith leaving and the appointment of Garth Snow, the Islanders backup goaltender, as the new general manager.

"I know how it looks and what people are going to say, but I had nothing to do with this," Nolan said. "I didn't have anything to do with this or the last one."

The last one was former Sabres general manager John Muckler, who got the boot in Buffalo in 1997, shortly before Nolan was given an offer he felt he had to refuse.

Nolan is particularly sensitive to the claim that he is a GM-killer and was the reason Muckler was fired, a claim be battled for nearly 10 years after a bad turn of events in Buffalo that left him out of the NHL for nearly a decade.

"I didn't have any problems with Neil, but I guess Charles did," he said.

Wang said in a press conference Tuesday that it was his decision to replace Smith and to hire Snow as his replacement. He spoke as if LaFontaine was still on board, but reports started circulating Tuesday evening that LaFontaine had tendered his resignation. That could not immediately be confirmed nor could rumors that Wang had asked the Hall of Fame forward to reconsider.

Nolan said that he expects to meet with Snow shortly and to go forward from there. He said he also expected to have an at-length meeting with Wang regarding where the franchise goes next.

"Everyone knew coming in that this (Wang's decisions to hire people separately and report directly to him) was different," Nolan said. "I thought it was different, but felt I could work in a setup like that. I still do.
 
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