Islanders Fire Butch Goring

Monday, March 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Butch Goring's fate as New York Islanders coach was sealed with a drubbing by the NHL's worst team.

The Islanders took over that distinction Saturday night when Tampa Bay beat them 6-0 at home. Goring then became the seventh NHL coach to lose his job this season.

``For those of you who were here, you witnessed a team that lost its way,'' said general manager Mike Milbury, whose job for next season was guaranteed last month by team owners. ``I've always felt that the measure of a team is whether they are disciplined and motivated.

``That was probably the worst performance we've had to date.''

Goring was replaced on an interim basis by assistant and former teammate Lorne Henning, who coached the Islanders during the lockout season of 1994-95.

``Butch is a good friend, good person and a good coach,'' Henning said. ``He's an Islander. It's a sad time for everyone, but you have to move forward. I've been in the business 30 years. I have Islander blood. We have to right the ship and get things going.''

Goring was dismissed with 17 games remaining in another lost season. He appeared to be on shaky ground after owner Charles Wang endorsed Milbury for next season and not Goring.

At that time, Milbury also didn't promise Goring's return to the Islanders (17-40-5-3), who have not reached the postseason since 1994.

Milbury didn't let the players off the hook, either.

``We feel at this point that we can't play out the string,'' he said. ``I spoke with the players, and this is not the easy way out for them. I told them that we win as an organization and lose as an organization.

``I have failed the coach and so have they.''

Milbury said it would have been easier to fire himself rather than Goring. But he dismissed the coach in a morning meeting at Nassau Coliseum and then addressed the team.

``The guy certainly cares as much as anybody about the Islanders organization,'' Milbury said. ``The guy deserved a better fate and a better effort from his players.''

Henning said he spoke briefly to Goring and said he was ``shook up.''

The Islanders have a league-low 42 points — one fewer than Tampa Bay.

``We recognize that we have not had anywhere near the type of season we expected to have,'' Milbury said. ``Each one of those individuals in that room had some measure of responsibility with the decision that was made.''

Henning will be behind the bench Monday night at the New York Rangers.

``Hopefully, we can win some games, get some passion and energy going again and have some fun in these last 17 games,'' said Henning, who will work with assistants Greg Cronin and Steve Stirling.

Henning takes over a team that has lost four straight.

Goring was 41-89-14-4 with New York since taking the job at the start of the 1999-00 season, when he inherited the youngest team in the league.

``It's sad,'' said Mariusz Czerkawski, the team's top scorer with 23 goals and 47 points. ``You never want to see this happen.''

With 11 new faces in the lineup this season, and after a 6-4-2 start, they endured eight- and seven-game losing streaks. The troubles were compounded by injuries to key players.

``It's really disappointing,'' said Brad Isbister, New York's fifth-leading scorer who has been limited to 49 games. ``Butch is a great guy and a great coach. I feel that the team is to blame as a whole. The coach is the one who usually pays the price in instances like this.''

Isbister hurt his knee in Saturday's loss and will most likely been sidelined for the season.

Goring and Henning were teammates for parts of two seasons from 1980-81, when the Islanders won the first two of four straight Stanley Cups. Goring was on the club for the last two championships as well, while Henning was an assistant coach to Al Arbour.

Henning served as an Islanders assistant from 1981-84, and 1989-94. He was the head coach in the lockout season before becoming an assistant with Chicago for three seasons. He returned as an Islanders assistant in 1998.

Milbury has fired five coaches, including himself twice, during the 5 1/2 years he has been Islanders general manager.