Mike Milbury no longer will be part of NBC’s hockey coverage, the network said on Monday as it revealed its announcing roster for the upcoming NHL season.
Executive producer Sam Flood declined to go into detail about Milbury’s departure when asked twice about it on a conference call promoting NBC’s NHL plans.
"I think it’s pretty simple," Flood said. "It’s an unfortunate situation. He’s a friend. He’s a unique talent, done a lot of great things through the years.
"Sometimes you have to separate. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions."
The former Islanders general manager and coach left the playoff bubble in Toronto last August and skipped the rest of the 2019-20 playoffs.
That decision came a day after he made remarks about women during an Islanders-Capitals game that the NHL condemned as "insensitive and insulting."
"In light of the attention caused by my recent remark, I have decided to step away from my role at NBC Sports for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs," Milbury said then in a statement released by the network. "I do not want my presence to interfere with the athletes as they try to win the greatest trophy in sports."
Milbury, 68, joined NBC in 2007, about a year after the end of his time as the Islanders’ GM, and has a history of controversial remarks.
NBC did not name a lead play-by-play man to succeed the retired Mike "Doc" Emrick, rather listing Rangers radio announcer Kenny Albert, Islanders TV voice Brendan Burke and John Forslund as "headline" play-by-play men.
Flood said the network will use a variety of announcing pairs to stay flexible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will cause some games to be called on site and others remotely.
"We’re going to keep people mixed and matched so we’re ready for anything," Flood said.
Emrick still will contribute to NBC; he will voice a season-opening tease on Wednesday.
Ed Olczyk, Brian Boucher, Pierre McGuire and MSG Islanders studio analyst AJ Mleczko lead the analyst group.
Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Babcock will contribute to studio coverage, as will recently retired former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan.
This is the last season of NBC’s contract with the NHL, and a new deal likely will cost far more and could attract other bidders.
The analysts on the call generally agreed that the Eastern Division — which includes the Islanders and Rangers — "is just going to be hellacious," as McGuire put it.
Mleczko praised the Islanders’ culture change that raised expectations under team president Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz over the past two seasons.
"Do I think they can take another deep run? Absolutely," she said. "Fans of the Islanders, or NHL fans, will always say, ‘Look at what a great run that they had last year.’
"You talk to people in the Islanders camp, they say, ‘We aren’t happy. We didn’t win the Cup.’ "
McGuire said, "I think they can go on a prolonged run, and I will tell you one thing: They aren’t going to be a ton of fun to play against. Whether they go for a long run or not, they’re not going to be a fun team to play against."
Boucher said he believes the Rangers "could be a sleeper team."
"I know no [Henrik] Lundqvist is a big story, but this is a heck of a tandem, I feel, with [Alexandar] Georgiev and [Igor] Shesterkin," he said. "I know it’s going to be different with no Henrik Lundqvist, but I feel this Rangers team is starting to trend in the right direction."
Said Olczyk, who won a Cup with the Rangers in 1994: "They’re on the come. They are moving in the right direction."