When Nick Foster signed on to coach the New York Night this offseason, it was widely assumed that he had a mandate to make changes, potentially sweeping ones, in order to mold the team into a contender. With the team mired in the Eastern basement with an unsightly 3-7-0 record, Foster held a press conference on Friday to suggest that those changes might be coming sooner rather than later.
“I’m not the kind of guy to beat around the bush,” said Foster. “And right now, I’m looking at a team that’s not built to compete, and a team that’s not as good as they think they are.”
These statements were a major departure for Foster, who has responded to most personnel questions so far by saying that he’s “still evaluating.” But he hasn’t been shy about making moves, and sources close to the coach say that he’s fed up with the team and weighing a major housecleaning, possibly including trades of some of the team’s biggest names.
“Nick was hoping that this was a champion in the rough, one that just needed a few tweaks and a new voice in charge,” said the source. “But he’s quickly figured out that he’s got a team full of lazy, undisciplined egomaniacs, and that the best solution might be to take a fire hose and clean out the locker room. The hard part will be getting ownership on board.”
It took Foster all of four games to decide the Night needed a kick in the pants. After getting shut out by Quebec 1-0 last Wednesday to fall to 0-4-0, Foster called for an unscheduled practice on their off day Thursday. RW Daniel Bellanger and D Teddy Morrison skipped the practice, and Foster responded by benching both of them for the next day’s game, in which the Night finally recorded a win in an 8-5 romp over Hamilton.
As New York continued to struggle in Week 2, Foster continued tinkering with his lineup. He booted D Tuomas Nurmi and RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson off the top line, while promoting RW Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek and D Shane Gladchuk up to that line. He benched D Jean-Luc Aubin for a couple of games as well.
After Friday’s 4-3 loss to Hershey, Foster finally sounded off publicly for the first time. He didn’t call out any players by name, but team sources say that the coach is especially disenchanted with Nelson, Bellanger, and goaltending duo of Jesse Clarkson and “Jersey Mike” Ross, who have been roughly equally ineffective.
Foster is reportedly weighing benching Nelson and demoting Bellanger and either Clarkson or Ross to the minors. “We’re not going to get anywhere unless we try something different,” the coach said at his Friday press conference. “We’ve been trying the status quo for two seasons, and it’s gotten us nothing but mediocrity.”
The grand plans of Foster may meet resistance, however, from owner Marvin Kingman. Kingman is eager for a Vandy, but he reportedly believes that the Night can get there with the current roster. “He spent a lot of money on these guys,” said the team source, “and he want to keep them around.”
Asked on Friday if he expect Kingman to object to his planned shakeup, Foster responded, “Ownership wants to win, same as I do. We’re all looking for results, and I’m going to keep making moves until we get there.”
Assistant coach Biff Lombardi, who was a finalist for the head job, thinks Foster is on the right track. “Let me tell you, Nick’s not afraid of nobody,” said Lombardi. He’s not about talk; he’s all about action. Everyone’s going to need to get with the program, or they won’t be around long.”