In the past couple of weeks, Islander fans and the media have already begun the downward fall of the Islanders season though the calendar is just into November. Fans on blogs and boards are calling for the termination of Scott Gordon, speculating as to who should replace him, “because we need a real coach.” And along with pointing the finger at Scott Gordon, they also find themselves looking to Garth Snow as well as Charles Wang. We can sit here for weeks and debate the issues with the Islanders as they are currently constructed, the coach, GM and owner — but what I am about to say may surprise; Garth Snow is the right GM for the NY Islanders and Scott Gordon is the right coach — regardless of what goes down in the remaining 70 games. As for the owner — well, it might be best if he just sits in the background and allow hockey people to manage his on-ice entity, but even if new ownership came in — I would like to see Snow and Gordon remain in their current positions.
The current players on the Islanders are the same players who got off to a hot start and were atop the Eastern Conference. So can the players suddenly all be so poor as to warrant a declaration that the rebuilding Garth Snow has done is a failure and the players potential has not been reached? Should he blow up the current team and its youth and attempt to build through free agency and trade the way his predecessor did in the late 1990s and early 2000′s? Can he come out now and suggest that Scott Gordon has done a terrible job and will be replaced immediately after just 2 seasons behind the bench? And how about Charles Wang — should he announce that Snow failed as a GM and will be terminated?
I’m sure the frustration of watching our boys in blue lose the last 7 games does little to prevent you from answering affirmatively to the above questions, but I have a different view.
While I am just as frustrated, and changes are indeed needed, this is exactly the time where we need a GM with a calm, cool, and steady approach. Fortunately we have that in Garth Snow. Another GM would have induced a panic trade — and a bad one for his franchise. The only real assets the Islanders have are essentially personnel tagged as core players. Any impact move Snow will make would involve the trading of players such as Frans Neilsen, Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, and John Tavares. If could, and more then likely could include one of Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, Nino Neiderreiter, Brock Nelson, Kirill Petrov or Kirill Kabanov. It may include Matt Martin of Kevin Poulin. Are you ready to part company with these players? If you are we can simply disagree — but I am not ready to make a trade of any of these players unless I am wildly over paid.
Snow has done what he could to this point to build a team through the draft and with smart acquisitions. For those who argue that he has done a good job in free agency because he failed to lure the big fish to Long Island — I would make the counter argument that neither Bill Torrey nor Scotty Bowman would have been able to make an impact signing when you are faced with the uncertainty of the franchise. Players who are looking to sign a 5-6 year deal want to know that not only will they have an opportunity to compete and win, but also that they will be playing where they sign for the duration of the contract. The NY Islanders are in a cloud of uncertainty thanks in large part to Kate Murray and her Hooples of Hempstead. Until the long term viability of the NY Islanders playing on Long Island, or Queens or where ever it is settled — the franchise will find it very difficult to land that impact free agent. As such — Snow has bought the team time by building through the draft — which was desperately needed — and is killing two birds with one stone.
Scott Gordon has done the right thing as coach to build an identity for the Islanders. He was the correct choice for Snow 2 seasons ago — and he remains the correct choice now. While not the Islanders policy, it continues to be an error of Wang to not offer Gordon and extension. Sending the message to players up and down the roster that there is faith in the coach to produce would go a long way toward maintaining some stability within the franchise. Part of what Snow and Gordon have done is maintain a longer relationship then the Islanders have seen between coach and GM for a long time. The team has built an identity around that relationship. Making a change now would be detrimental to the franchise — as much as a panic trade would be. Gordon’s systems work when they are executed. The same could be said for Al Arbor or any other NHL coach or for that matter coach of any sport. Making a change only serves to further unsettle and disrupt the growth the team has seen.
There is no question that injuries over what is now three seasons have not helped. Losing Andy Sutton for the better part of the 3 seasons he was here, Radek Martinek has missed huge chunks of time. Kyle Okposo has also missed significant time since he became and Islander. Mark Streit this season is a big blow. Now heap on that Milan Jurcina, Andy MacDonald long term, and it begins to pile up. While not an excuse, the reality is the team has significantly more depth then in years past. Gordon has seldom had a full roster to put on the ice.
Moving forward, Snow should remain patient. He has thus far, and I would hope that he continue to move ahead in a reasonable way. A trade should not be out of the question by any means. As I said at the top — moving a younger player for an upgrade would make some sense if it can be a long term deal. However, before we all look to grab a bad defenseman and injury prone Sheldon Souray off waivers, or pine for an injury prone no trade claused Marc Savard in a salary dump move we need to realize the long term impact. My gut tells me that retaining players like Tavares, Bailey, Neilsen, Okposo, De Haan, Hamonic, MacDonald, Streit, Neiderreiter, Nelson, the Kirills are necessary. Perhaps before a trade is engineered — what could be a better option would be to take a look at Jesse Joensuu, David Ulstrom and Dustin Kohn. If Snow can engineer another Wisniewskiesque deal — by all means, the Islander GM should take advantage.
As for the players — simply put — and I don’t know why — they do not seem interested in moving their bodies and skating. That is the biggest difference with the team as a whole. They are getting beaten to the loose pucks and chasing more often then not. Secondly — they are deciding to pass rather then shooting. This goes for nearly everyone. The only player who seems to have not changed is Matt Moulson. Even in the past game, Tavares — deadly from the face off dots in — chose to pass rather then shoot. Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey have also stopped shooting. When they shoot, the shots are going wide much to often. The boys need to keep working on shooting, and accuracy — and with Gordon’s system and in this NHL — you must skate. It won’t matter if it Gordon or someone else, skating is the new NHL.
I am not in favor of a crazy wild trade. Im sure 29 other GMs are salivating at what is happening to the Islanders in the hope that history will repeat itself as it did in the late 1990s when a young and struggling Islander team began to trade away the likes of young unproven players like Eric Brewer, Roberto Luongo, Zdeno Chara, Todd Bertuzzi, Olli Jokenin, Tim Connolly and decided to pass on Jasson Spezza, and Dany Heatley in favor of “proven” talent. We must not make the same errors again. The coach and GM are doing what needs to be done — and while there was talk of the rebuild being “over” we should all know better. They are still a season or two from contending — but only if they stay on course.
Filed Under: New York Islanders
About the Author: A graphic designer who loves the game....and knows that age has slowed him down — but the passion is there. Islanders fan since the 70s, Dad, Husband and Coach of the Flying Tiger's Email: email@example.com Twitter: http://twitter.com/FilamentDesigns