When it comes to the Islanders, there are two storied histories. One is the epic run including 19 consecutive playoff series wins, something not done by the likes of Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Terry Bradshaw, or whatever teams you associate with winners. Speaking of associating with winners, one team that is universally not associated with winning are the Islanders. Four straight cups aside, this team has not won a playoff series in a generation. The ownership has either been interested in the land instead of the team, or been scammers, or both. The team’s history resembles that of Metallica- they were good, got better, peaked, and have been consistently awful…pretty much since the Islanders last won a playoff series.
Part One: Make a trade. Or actually, don’t.
The problem with this current Brooklyn bound incarnation falls solely on management. For purpose of argument, ownership gets a pass today. Today we focus on the vision set forth by the general manager, Garth Snow. And when we say vision, we’re using the term loosely. Snow’s first job after retirement was the general manager of a major league sports organization. Maybe he interned there once, we don’t know. What we do know is that in his first season, Snow used to assets acquired by Mike Milbury and Neil Smith, made his only big time hockey trade, and made the playoffs. And learned NOTHING from it.
In Snow’s first season as general manager, he was named Sports Illustrated NHL Executive of the Year. And why not? He made a bold move, turning bad draft picks into Captain Canada, Ryan Smyth. He brought in defensive scoring via Marc-Andre Bergeron’s oversized slap shot. He brought in Richard Zednik, who at the time still had an unscathed external carotid artery. Long story short, he made hockey moves that pushed his team into the playoffs. Then something happened. Yes, the Islanders got beat up in the first round of the playoffs. A GM has to look at the playoff team and say “Can I make this better, or do I blow it up?” The answer for a successful organization would be “make it better.” The Red Wings do that. The Devils do that. The Flyers do that.
Yet Snow took it in a different direction. He CHOSE to be a loser. He chose to ignore what brought him success and instead dismantled what was a marginal playoff team into a perennial pile of pittances. He chose the path of least resistance- lose without accountability, spend as little as possible, and wonder why Nassau County doesn’t want to build you a fancy new arena to attract talent. Lets take a look at Snow’s track record regarding NHL talent.
Snow’s first team (albeit inherited) found success via trade. Makes sense. Snow knew who was lighting him up a few months ago, and brought those aforementioned guys in. But look at the trades since: Wisniewski for a third round pick. Visnovsky for a second round pick. Montoya for a sixth round pick. Guerin for a third round pick. Bergeron for a third round pick. The rights to talk to Christian Ehrhoff for a third round pick. We’re sensing a trend. Does Snow not trust his scouts? Or does he not trust his instincts in pulling an NHL trade trigger?
Lets look at trades requiring actual bodies: Alexei Zhitnik for Freddy Meyer. Mike York for Randy Robitallie. Dwayne Roloson for Ty Wishart. Denis Grebeshkov for Marc-Andre Bergeron. These trades are underwhelming in talent, and upon some inspection, reek of salary dumps. Hooray for cap flexibility and all that, especially now that you can trade cap hits, but how about actually using that flexibility? And if you want real cap flexibility, where’s the buyout on Mr. TenPercentofCapUsingaWalkerbyAge39?
Sure, Snow has traded draft pick positions for other draft pick positions, but what does that really mean? That you could take Brenden Kitchon with a 5th round pick because you moved up three slots? Great, except you pissed away an almost first round position pick (31st overall) with Mikko Koskinen in 2009. A player that may actually be a roster ready player today. Swapping draft position is good and all if you make a pick that works. If not, does it matter that when you went off of the board trading down to take Josh Bailey you could have kept trading down and had one of Colin Wilson, Michael Del Zotto, Cody Hodgson, Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson, Luca Sbisa, Jordan Eberle or Tyler Ennis?
So, regarding actual NHL personnel, what should Snow do? How should he proceed? The answer to this riveting question will be in part four of this monologue. We bet you can’t wait! Well, suck it up, you’re going to wait.
Filed Under: Anaheim Ducks • Buffalo Sabres • Detroit Red Wings • Edmonton Oilers • New Jersey Devils • New York Islanders • New York Rangers • NHL • NHL Teams • Ottawa Senators • Philadelphia Flyers • Phoenix Coyotes • Pittsburgh Penguins • Tampa Bay Lightning • Vancouver Canucks • Washington Capitals
About the Author: We are two long time hockey fans who certainly have our own opinions and points of view. Feel free to share yours. Follow on twitter @joshbarely