Garth Snow takes a lot of heat. When he was hired, everyone instantly made him the punch-line to every joke. The Islanders’ back-up goalie during the previous season was suddenly dictating the Islanders’ transactions. Admittedly, it was a quick turn of events, as the Islanders fired General Manager Neil Smith after his short 40-day tenure with the team.
Snow’s first year as Islanders’ GM led to a playoff-berth, which also happens to be the last time we have seen the Islanders play in the postseason. Since, Snow has been part of the “circus” on Long Island, and Islanders’ fans have often called for his replacement at the helm of the New York Islanders’ organization.
Personally, I also don’t think Garth Snow has done a bad job with what he’s had to work with. Many Islanders’ fans are excited because of the prospect pool they have acquired since the Islanders’ rebuild began, and all of them have been selected by Garth himself.
Now, for all of Snow’s critics, how would this team be if Neil Smith was still at the helm. He did leave the Isles with some body of work, although very small. Let’s take a look, and you decide if the Islanders would be in better hands than the ones they’re in now.
Neil Smith selected 13 players for the New York Islanders in 2006. In comparison, Garth Snow has selected 47 players since 2007.
Neil’s draft in 2006 broken down by round:
1st Round: Kyle Okposo
2nd Round: Jesse Joensuu
3rd Round: Robin Figren
4th Round: Rhett Rakhshani, Jase Weslosky, Tomas Marcinko, Doug Rogers
5th Round: Shane Sims, Kim Johansson
6th Round: Andrew MacDonald, Brian Day, Stefan Ridderwall
7th Round: Troy Mattila
There are several familiar names here. The biggest names are obviously Kyle Okposo, who was selected 7th-overall in 2006, and Andrew MacDonald, who has blossomed into a solid defenseman alongside Travis Hamonic.
Jesse Joensuu, Rhett Rakhshani, and Shane Sims (one period) have all seen NHL action. Robin Figren and Tomas Marcinko have seen time in the AHL, but are no longer with the organization.
Okposo, MacDonald, and Joensuu are all signed with the Islanders with one-way deals, with KO and A-Mac signed for the long-haul.
The jury is still out on Kyle Okposo, who scored 24 goals last season. Kyle registered 52 points in 2009-10, but then suffered a shoulder injury that held him out of 44 games in 2010-11. Kyle did not seem like the same player until the final stretch of the 2011-12 season, where he scored 9 goals and 1 assist in the last 9 games. This season was expected to be a big one for Kyle, who was finally past his shoulder injury, but the lockout has prevented Kyle, and Islanders’ fans, from establishing any conclusions on the Islanders’ forward who is signed for the next five seasons.
Now, of the thirteen players drafted by Neil Smith, only three have seen significant time in the NHL. That’s a 23% rate. Smith only drafted two NHL players, and possibly a third if Joensuu pans out.
For comparison, we look at Garth’s 2008 draft, which was his first full draft (2007 didn’t have a 1st or 2nd round pick).
The 2008 draft, like Smith’s draft in 2006, also featured 13 draft picks. Nine of those picks have seen time in the NHL, and six of them have been in big roles for their NHL club. Josh Bailey (1st round, 9th overall) has played nearly 300 NHL games with the New York Islanders. Travis Hamonic has been one of the Islanders’ top defenseman for the past two seasons. Matt Martin recently signed a 3-year extension after breaking the NHL single-season hits record. Other notables are David Ullstrom, Aaron Ness, and Kevin Poulin.
Also, Jared Spurgeon, who was let go by the Islanders, would be Ryan Suter’s defensive partner in Minnesota. He’s done well for himself, and would be the one prospect the Islanders truly made the mistake of letting go.
Since 2008, Garth also drafted 7 players in 2009 (6 of them have seen NHL time, and Anders Lee will make it 7-for-7), 6 players in 2010 (only Nino has made it, but Brock Nelson and Kirill Kabanov figure to be there), 8 players in 2011, and 7 players in 2012. The players from 2010-2012 are still a work in progress, but seem to have real NHL potential. Two players are currently in the AHL.
If we focus on 2008 and 2009, because those allow time for development, Snow has seen 15 of his 20 draft picks play hockey in the NHL. Two of the five who haven’t are no longer with the organization (David Toews and Jyri Niemi), and the other three (Kirill Petrov, Anders Lee, and Corey Trivino) are all expected to make it within the next season or two.
Snow has found success in the NHL draft, with 2008 and 2009 pulling a combined 75% current success rate, which figures to improve as the remaining players continue on track to reach the NHL. Neil Smith’s only draft has pulled together a 23% success rate, and seems likely to improve ONLY if Rhett Rakhshani (7 NHL games over 4 seasons) can find his way on to an NHL roster.
With prospects such as Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart, Brendan Kichton, Johan Sundstrom, Scott Mayfield, and Robbie Russo, Garth’s track record in the early and late stages of the draft look to continue receiving high grades.
Neil Smith has brought the Islanders 523 NHL games over 13 players. Garth Snow brought the Islanders 608 NHL games in the 2008 draft, and 738 NHL games total (Jared Spurgeon has played 130 games for the Minnesota Wild).
For all the criticism Garth Snow receives, he’s done a great job at the draft every June. It only figures to get better; so, when many of us look back and still want to know what it could have been it Neil was never fired from the Islanders, just remember this: the Islanders’ arena situation would have remained the same. The Islanders may not have made the trade bringing in Ryan Smyth, which helped the Islanders to the playoffs in 2006-07, and the Islanders would have likely still lost Jason Blake, Alexei Yashin, and the others that bolted in the off-season. There’s also no guarantee the Islanders would have the same prospects they have now, including John Tavares, Ryan Strome, and all the difficult late round decisions Garth had to make, such as fan-favorite Matt Martin.
The Islanders are in good hands. Garth’s success in the NHL Draft will lead to success for the New York Islanders. There’s no arguing Neil Smith found a gem in Andrew MacDonald, and Kyle Okposo has been a productive NHL player, but 2 out of 13 are Mike Milbury-like numbers. The Islanders don’t need drafts for majority of the players fall into obscurity. The Islanders need players that can be successful in the NHL, and Garth’s philosophy of “pick the best player available” has given the Islanders the best chance to succeed in the long-run.
When the Islanders go back to the playoffs, fans will be watching household names that were called by Garth Snow (or Kevin Connolly) at the NHL Draft.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment.
Filed Under: New York Islanders
About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants