“Must be tough being Garth Snow right about now” NHL Source. And right they are. With a new regime possibly around the corner next season, GM Garth Snow has little time to show some success besides a deep prospect pool.
You need not look far to see the tenor and passion of NY Islanders fans this offseason. This season was one to forget. Any further analysis seems to cause a wave of the hand and the declaration that…
“Garth must go!”
“Wang must SELL!”
“Coaches need to be fired!!!”
All three sentiments are understandable this season… especially when you take the last 15-20 years of frustration, venue woes, ownership woes, Milbury woes, and god knows what else.
However, there are a few caveats:
GM & owner are not going anywhere, despite the attempts by cheerleaders to some factions seeking ownership pushing an agenda to some fans and writers. Don’t expect changes for a while.
In fact, as I broke on Twitter last night: There are now THREE competing for ownership of the Isles. THREE, not one or two, So this is not just about Andrew Barroway anymore. My suggestion to bloggers and fans is to keep cool and just let it ride out. Do not jump the gun.
That ownership items will take time to come to an agreements, plus be vetted & approved by the NHL. So anyone thinking anything changes into next season is either misinformed, misunderstanding or misconstruing.
RESULT: GM Garth Snow, feeling the pressure of a new ownership group perhaps being in power by the end of next season, will actually be far more aggressive to fill holes this summer. More on that in a bit.
ANALYSIS: Isles got a good look at their flaws and the kids/prospects, and made assessments to where they are in their development. Example: Anders Nilsson is likely to spend the season in Bridgeport next season. Nabokov will not be the #1 goaltender for the Isles next season, either. Instead: The Islanders will pursue a new #1 netminder.
COACHES: By feeling that this past season is due to his own mistakes, Garth Snow will NOT hang Jack Capuano or the current coaching staff out to dry. The mindset is that this team made the playoffs with them the season before. Therefore they get a corrected team and a short leash. However, Capuano will have to eradicate the multitude of blown 3rd period leads and unraveling if he wants to continue as coach past next October.
So, expect a SUMMER AGGRESSION and a SHORT LEASH on coaching next season. This means the Isles will indeed SPEND.
The GM will seek, besides a #1 goaltender, a vet defenseman and also a producing forward that can chip in on the top 6. If they fail to secure this, will NOT be due to not having the best $$$ on the table.
Ok… we have hit the big 7 items of note. Lets go a bit further into it, shall we?
I get that fans want a change. Between the Lighthouse Project going belly-up, the years of failure under Milbury, and the long-winding road of the rebuild that now will reach a 6 year with only one playoff round to show for it. 6 years? Yes, the rebuild did not begin in earnest until the 2008 NHL draft. This makes this coming draft in Philly the 6th year anniversary.
What needs to be understood is that Charles Wang is seeking a price to be met to sell this team. 3 competing groups will create competition and a chance for that price to be reached eventually. Then, even if an agreement is reached in principal, a whole vetting process needs to occur. It does not matter if the owner was vetted in the past. All investors will be scrutinized.
So don’t expect anything that will actually have any effect onto the product will take place until well into the next season… and again… only if Wang’s price is met.
However, what this HAS created is a pressure on Garth Snow to show better results and yield to the rebuild, especially after last season’s series of missteps. The Isles went into the season with serious deficiencies on defense, further exacerbated when Visnovsky went down to a concussion. When the thin defense was forced to do more, they did not just falter, they unraveled. This was further exemplified by a lackluster starting goalie in Nabakov, who played mediocre instead of steady, who then got hurt.
Another big item weighing into the Islander season was the 2nd line outage of scoring. No, the Vanek for Moulson deal DID NOT affect this team’s offense. In fact, the first line was more prolific. But the 2nd line, and Grabner’s outage left the team with only one working line that teams could focus on.
Some say that a different goalie OR no injury to Visnovsky could have been a huge difference to a tight Eastern conference for the Isles fortunes. This however misses a deeper item: the Eastern conference will not remain like this, with teams in flux. Instead, they will get better… and the Isles not only need to keep pace, they need to exceed in order to make up the difference.
So this again points to a need, not just in ownership possibilities down line, but the simple fact that just sitting back and passively waiting for kids to develop (an issue I cited last summer), would be a detriment. Lo and behold, it was, and now the passive must turn to aggressive without overcompensating/losing chips in the process.
What people tend to forget is a lot is going right.
You just need to look at the emergence of Calvin de Haan, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and Anders Lee to see that the deep prospect pool and secret sauce that the Islanders are using for their drafts/talent analysis is running a far better than average amount. But this cannot be the end-all. This alone, as we saw plainly last season, is simply not enough.
As one source told me: “Must be tough being Garth Snow right about now”. Damn straight. The walls are closing in where he does not have the time he thought to do a slow development and conservative budget in order to keep all the core pieces in the long haul. He has, suddenly, like any other GM in the business, some external factors: an irate & frustrated fanbase, a move to Brooklyn that requires an uptick of fortune, and now a good chance there will be a new regime in the future.
You are on the clock, Garth. Choose wisely… but most of ALL… now effectively. This summer and next season will be magnified. Judgment time is coming.
1 Veteran Defenseman. With Donovan and de Haan entering their second year and Griffin Reinhart to be a rookie next season, there is a serious need for a veteran and even mentoring puckmover. This vet will also need to fill an offensive need for assists. No defensive only.
1 offensive forward. We will only know if the Vanek for Moulson trade was worth it IF Collberg becomes the top 6 that the Islanders think he will be. Expect him in Bridgeport next season. In the meantime, the Islanders are still starving for a wing that can produce in the .6 – .8 a game range, if not more.
Starting goaltender: This team can only step forward with a goaltender who can be more than just mediocre. A goalie that rises and gets better with the pressure. Because with young teams, this will simply be the reality.
So lets examine who might fill these just from a UFA standpoint…
WHY?: Well, despite being playoff/cup experienced, there is little offensive upside, which is also a need.
Andrei Markov – at 35, very experienced and can play an elite level when he is healthy. Isles could take a shot here because between him and Vis healthy could create some solid offensive dmen who are 40pts capable. Style and skills make him a suspected target
Dan Boyle – yes, 37 but offensively sharp. Lots of experience.
Matt Niskanen – offensively sharp and bloomed this season, but of course, it was for offensive powerhouse, Pittsburgh. Has all the tools, so could be one of the more offensively powerful dmen who is below peak at a young 27.
Under The Radar
Tom Gilbert – big experienced guy who can move the puck. Not an offensive wunderkind, but might be an alternative for depth.
David Legwand: Speedy and good on FaceOffs…and can be in the .5 a .65 pt range per game point wise. However, prone to injury and his age might be deterrent. Plus, Frans Nielsen is better. Why add less?
Mike Cammelleri: when healthy, can range in the .6-.7 range. 31 years old, but injuries make him more an chancy alternative than a target.
Dustin Penner: big guy who can push himself in front of the net. Not always consistent, but still gets to the .5 pt a game range that makes him capable for Isles top lines. If right fit, could even produce .6 a .7 a game range on a team that needs scrappy large forward who can clean up.
POSSIBLE KEY TARGETS:
Radim Vrbata: could produce for Isles giving time for kids to develop to take over on top line. Good wheels. Better version of Grabner, who might be dangled in a trade showing once again this season that he is expendable. Vrbata be good for .6-.8 pts per game which makes him capable on the top two lines.
Jussi Jokinen: productive at .7pts per game. Skilled forward that can work on either of the two top lines in any position that is needed.
Derek Roy: if there is a template for how the isles want to have their forward play to a style it would be to this physical workhorse. Also makes players around him better. Almost .5 pts per game last season make him a better version of Josh Bailey, with a sharper edge, work ethic, and consistency. 30 years old at his peak, but might lend himself an excellent mentor for kids by his game/character.
Ryan Callahan: leadership, good hands, all around player who can be productive and play the Isles style of play. At 29 years, near peak. Most of all, it would piss NY Rangers fans off who moved him and future draft picks for a 38 year old.
Milan Michalek – like Brad Boyes, but a better skater and skills. Natural talent, and could really do some damage for Isles. Question is if the Ottawa Senators try to resign him as all cost.
Paul Stansky – .85 pt per game make him one of the better forwards available below Vanek. Playmaker, skilled, and could be the Isles key target as Vanek garners the more attention.
Under The Radar:
Mason Raymond: an under-the-radar player who is productive at .55 pt per game, and at 28 years old, has some more upside. Might have the skill-sets/style the Isles covet that they think will thrive on a team who provides opportunity.
Ryan Miller: 33 years old, an elite net minder who will command top dollars and interest. Would likely want a cup running team.
POSSIBLE KEY TARGETS:
Jaroslav Halak: only 28 years old and is a good pressure goalie that held himself well during fighting Carey Price for the #1 slot in MTL. Has shared time constantly, might really like a true shot to be the #1 which he would on Long Island. Halak’s agent, NHLPA mouthpiece Allan Walsh, has a good relationship with Garth Snow.
Jonas Hiller: 32 years old, also a good pressure goaltender who has shown ability to be a starting goaltender. Like Halak, holds and raises his game under pressure. Covets a starting goalie spot, which Isles could provide. Also whose frame is a lot like isles prospect Andrei Nilsson. Could this be the guy offered a 2-3 year deal who tutors the Isles own large-framed goalie down the line?
Brian Elliott: can string together some great streaks. Has had success in St. Louis and Ottawa. 29 years old butterfly style goalie. Much like Hiller, has same frame and size that might lend a stylistic tutorage down the line for Nilsson, who is a butterfly style goalie as well. 30 win capable.
Under The Radar:
Chad. Johnson: had a great year as Rask’s backup in Boston, big size, but not shown he can be a starter.
About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.