Part Two: Does it feel drafty in here?
Snow inherited a team that made the playoffs with regularity, and had a polarizing but successful head coach. Theorizing that the playoff team handed to him was underwhelming, Snow started what is lovingly referred to as a rebuild by fans, and a disaster by anybody else’s standard. Let us try to analyze the direction of this rebuild, and how maybe there is a better way.
Snow’s Islanders have finished 5th in the Atlantic. Every year. Out of five teams. Snow’s reluctance to trade for NHL quality and ability to blame an arena for free agency failings means that the only way the Islanders will improve is via the entry draft and the waiver wire. And Snow has a home run in the draft in John Tavares- the best player this team has produced since Ziggy Palffy. He also drafted Josh Bailey, who is most famous for the Islanders being able to trade for a lower draft pick TWICE to take him because there wasn’t much consensus that Bailey was a top ten draft pick. For every Travis Hamonic Snow chose, he has a few Cody Rosen’s and Jyri Nyemi’s. For a team SO dependent on a draft, that’s a hard hand to play. Snow has moved players and picks enough to have had seven first round picks in the last five years, but only two are on the roster, and half that many are effective. Of course the jury is still out on some of the more recent picks, but the selection of Calvin de Haan may be the most frustrating one of all for Islander fans. By trading up in the first round in 2009 to choose de Haan, the Islanders passed on a defenseman in the 2010 draft with similar skills that was available- Cam Fowler- and chose a forward in 2010- Nino Niederreiter And based on present evidence, its entirely feasible that available picks Cam Fowler – Sean Couturier will have superior careers compared to what the Islanders took in their stead, Calvin de Haan – Nino Niederreiter. I assume this because Fowler has 69 points over two seasons compared to ONE NHL GAME for de Haan, and Couturier had a 27 point rookie season compared to Nino’s 3 points over 2 seasons.
Everybody is high on Ryan Strome – authors included – and Griffin Reinhart looks like a solid choice as well. It’s also interesting that Snow is drafting the children of hockey pedigree (Brock Nelson!), but when you look at the head coach the Islanders employ, you need as many professional hands on deck as possible. In fact, we wouldn’t be shocked if the father-son games add a bench spot once those guys make the team.
Counterintuitively, if your believe that the best and only true route to build a team is to use the entry draft, why would you offer your entire draft for one player? Luckily there’s a GM dumber than Snow that said no to the move. Would we move an entire draft for Wayne Gretzky in his prime? Yup. Would we move it for a guy who is already nursing an injury? deHaan part deux?
Teams go through rebuilds. Teams like Pittsburgh. Chicago. Boston. And they’ve got the cups to prove that its a viable route to success. Their turnaround was five years. Here we sit in year six of the Snow legacy, in a shortened season where most pundits mention contention and Islanders in the same breath- for the first overall pick in the entry draft. Seth Jones or Nathan Mackinnon?
But there is hope. Despite bungling most of what he touches, Snow has put together the bones of a competitive team. He needs to add muscle. Parts three and four will tie this all together.
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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