We Think Snow Drafts The Wrong People. On Purpose

Imagine you had a job with zero accountability. You went in to work when you wanted to, you did whatever you wanted to all day, you reported all of the nothing you did to your boss and he approved, and you got paid.


You’re imagining the life Garth Snow leads.

A general manager of a team is a person who is supposed to want to assemble a team within their vision that ultimately wins some form of championship in that league. Snow operates under a different set of rules. To him, the Stanley Cup is completely off the radar. Snow’s championship involves finding ways to beat the NHL salary cap floor. And he’s the Wayne Gretzky of cap circumvention. Rookie bonuses, over 35 bonuses, inflated cap contracts, suspensions, and even trading for nonexistent players- if there is a way to short a dollar from the cap, Snow’s thought of it.


Back to shaping a team. The ways you can build an NHL roster are varied, but involve four parts- drafts trades, waiver wire, and free agency. For Snow, two of these are immediately ruled out as options- free agency, because no player is crazy enough to come here, and trades, because who would want losers from last place teams?


That leaves Snow the waiver wire and the draft. People rave about Snow’s waiver wire moves, but we’re not sure why. Yes, Matt Moulson was a great pick, hands down, but do you think that maybe John Tavares had any input into that? Because we do. And for Snow, MIihael Grabner’s first round pedigree made him an easy waiver pick. Just ask Rob Schremp, Jeff Finley and Thomas Hickey how the first round opens doors in Islander nation. Or Ty Wishart and Jeff Tambellini for that matter.


The other avenue for Snow to use to improve the team is the NHL entry draft. Snow has been drafting since 2007, and has done a fairly terrible job. The statistics are there- 7 first rounders, 7 second rounders, 8 third rounders producing 3 players, and only one a first liner despite five lottery picks. Not that they’re a good team, but Edmonton somehow turned 9 first round picks in that same span into a first line, a second line, and 2 defensemen.

What makes it even worse is that teams that are “lottery” teams, you know- bad- generally put players into their lineups basically within 15 months of drafting them, because they need help and draft specifically to meet those needs. Islander fans know the needs of this team are a second line center, a top pairing defenseman, and an elite wing for John Tavares to pass with. In the last three drafts, Snow has drafted an elite wing, a second line center, and a top pairing defenseman. NONE are on the team. And when the wing was put on the team, he suffered an injury and was subsequently buried on the fourth line. In fact, from the last three draft classes (2010-2012) NO ONE drafted by Snow is in the NHL. Not that every team has put players in the NHL from the draft classes listed above, but it’s a philosophy that was used by winning teams like Boston, Anaheim, Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles. Snow, however, knows better.


Looking at Snow’s overall drafting, here are the types of players he has chosen and “developed” thusfar as GM: a 4th line center, a 4th line winger, two third line wingers, a second pairing defenseman, a defenseman for another team, and John Tavares. Those are the ONLY players with resumes worth considering.


Nice guys finish…

The draft king produced nothing for the 2007 draft beyond 11 games of Mark Katic. His best of the 2008 draft are Travis Hamonic and Josh Bailey. Bailey’s a nice guy and all, but when you’re saying that this was a catch that’s played in his 300th NHL game recently- wow. You can argue that Matt Martin is a winner as well with his 13 career goals because he hits a lot of things, but I’m not sure who you’d argue that with, as any sane person would just feel bad for you fighting that fight. The same goes for the gifted goal scoring hands (6 career goals so far) of David Ullstrom. The 2009 draft? Tavares was a no brainer, so I’m shocked that Snow didn’t foul that up. Casey Cizikas also has looked good on the 4th line. We’ll give credit to Snow- he’s good at drafting for the 4th line. 2010 was Nino (see our piece: Ninogate) and nothing since.

46 draft picks and this is all that you have to show for it.

Snow is a fan of taking players in a draft that no one else would consider in that same position. For example, no one thought Josh Bailey would go 9th overall, Josh included. No one would have taken Calvin De haan 12th overall, Calvin included. Nino was a top ten pick, but top 5? Consider that Jeff Skinner, taken 2 picks later, has 118 more points in his NHL career thus far. But Snow also looks for “value” picks. No one wanted to waste a pick on Kiril Petrov because he had a long term contract signed in Russia. Snow took a chance. And when that KHL contract was done, Petrov looked at the Islanders…and promptly resigned a new contract in Russia. Cizikas was considered a first round talent who fell into Snow’s lap in the 4th round because he killed someone. Yes, actual manslaughter. Corey Trivino, the Boston University standout was hanging around in round two because of whispers of his partying were growing. They finally blew up into sexual assault charges recently. Aaron Ness was considered a first round talent but people feared he was too small, so Snow got him in the second round in 2008. We’re still awaiting his first round talent to take a regular shift. That Cody Rosen was drafted at all was a reach. Kirill Kabanov was another first round talent that fell due to whispers of his immaturity. That first round talent made his debut at 20 in the AHL, and aside from using his body to see how sharp skates really are, hasn’t done all that much. Snow used a 5th and a 7th round pick in 2012 on high school kids. When kids are good in high school, they tend to play for junior teams. When does Snow expect them to go pro? After prom?


Snow’s reaching (often in the first round) leads us to ask a question: does Snow screw up the draft on purpose?


You think that one was bad? Watch who I pick next…thinking third string college goalie

We’ve already seen him use the waiver wire to pick up the castoffs of others, and have theorized that he does such to hide his drafting deficiencies. But maybe there’s more to it. Maybe he drafts badly on purpose. But why would he do that, you ask? Job security. Here’s how:


Snow walks into his unaccountable job, having gone through three head coaches, assorted front office staff including former Islander legends, and 46 draft picks and counting. He looks his boss in the eye and says “This years (pick any year, really) draft class didn’t work out. But I hear that next year’s class is pretty awesome! I already made a plan. We need a (fill in the blank) so that’s what we’ll do in round one. Round two and three will be guys who are people think should have been in round one but fell because they had some kind of issue. Rounds 4 and 5 are key- this is where I find the future 4th liners that may blossom into third liners. I’m not sure about drafting defensemen, since only one out of the 22 that I’ve drafted plays here, and then I’ll try to trade my rounds 6 and 7 picks for a future 3rd round pick. Whats that? Why aren’t I calling any of my past draft picks up to the team? Pfft- that’s easy. They need development time. Plus, these waiver guys? WAY less expensive than paying first round picks, with all of the bonuses, high base salary and whatnot. I’m saving you millions! Oh, that reminds me- I need to see what teams have suspended players so I can get their cap hits and not improve our product one iota. See ya around the office, boss!”


Islander fans regard the 1995-2006 run of Mike Milbury as some of the worst GM work in the history of sports. However, Milbury is about to become useful here. His reign as GM is roughly twice as long as Snow’s, so we should be able to draw comparisons as to how bad they are by using a “twice as many” multiplier. Milbury, having twice as many seasons to run this team, should have twice as many NHL players developed in his time. Let’s take a peek, shall we?


What’s dumber- me or the hat? Trick question- it’s a tie!

As we did with Snow, we’re not going to count guys with under 40 NHL games played. With that standard, lets start with Milbury’s first draft- 1996- and go forward. One guy from that draft is still in the NHL – Zdeno Chara- and another guy played almost 900 games- J.P. Dumont. 1997? Roberto Luongo and Eric Brewer still play.  1998? Mike Rupp. 1999? Tim Connolly, Taylor Pyatt, Radek Martinek still play. 3 other players had over 150 NHL games played from that draft. 2000? Rick DiPietro and Raffi Torres. 2001? Awful. 2002? Sean Bergenheim and Frans Neilsen. 2003? Bruno Gervais. 2004? Blake Comeau and Chris Campoli still “play,” and Petteri Nokelainen put up almost 250 games played in the NHL. 2005? Awful.


Snow: 6 drafts- 1 star, 2 3rd liners, 2 4th liners, and 2 defensemen. Ironically, no goalies.

Milbury: 10 drafts- 2 stars (Chara and Luongo), 2 second liners, 6 3rd liners, 4 defensemen, and DiPietro- so also, no goalies. We know that Luongo is a goalie, but we counted him as a star. So there.

And for an added slap of reality- Don Maloney: 3 drafts- 2 stars (Bryan McCabe and Todd Bertuzzi), 1 3rd liner, 2 4th liners, 4 defensemen, and 1 goalie- Tommy Salo. 3 guys w over 1,000 NHL games (2 more than Milbury, 3 more than Snow obviously)

You’d think guys who played a position would be good at drafting that position. Milbury was a defenseman that promoted Chris Campoli, Bruno Gervais, and Evgeny Korolev into the NHL. Snow was a goalie that promoted…no goalies, really, but traded for Al Montoya, signed Yann Danis, and drafted Cody Rosen. Is there a difference in production between these two guys? If fans chanted “Mike Must Go,” what’s the chant for Garth? Snow job? For all of his shortcomings, at least Milbury wasn’t afraid to make a trade! Milbury also put himself back behind the bench to deal with his own mess.  Snow could actually earn respect by trying to right his own wrongfully directed ship by doing the same.  Not saying he would do well, however he would be in close range of heckling.

Snow apologists will say “you can’t judge Snow because no one from the last 3 drafts are here yet.” Actually, that’s one way to judge Snow – specifically because no one he’s recently drafted is on a team needing immediate help at every and all positions. Not every bad team’s GM immediately puts first round picks on teams within 3 months of being drafted, but it has happened on teams like Columbus, Colorado, Edmonton, Florida (after a rare playoff run even!), Tampa Bay, Atlanta/Winnipeg, Carolina, Minnesota, Buffalo, and Montreal. And just as a reminder, the following teams have players drafted in the years 2010-2012 on their rosters right now: Boston, Anaheim, Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles. Maybe we should call him Snowbury?


Bailey’s toilet…ironically also where his career is headed.

Here is another reason you can judge Snow- he drew up his rebuild like a Jackson Pollack painting.  Instead of having a plan, you know, like drafting based on need and actually utilizing said draft picks, Master Mind Garth decided to give potential draft picks psychology tests.  Maybe he’s trying to build a team based on Harvard’s model?  Who knows.  We do know this- how many Richie Cunningham’s play hockey? Here’s an idea- draft Fonzies. Draft hockey players, not nice guys with a good head on their shoulders like Josh Bailey.  While good teams draft based on talent, Garth drafts based on….. actually,  we don’t know what the hell he bases his drafts on.  He literally throws, presumably his own, feces at the wall.  What names it hits is who drafts.   Most teams you know have a system, like drafting from the goal out, taking best player available, filling an organizational need. Nope, not Garth.  Not when he can trade all of his draft picks for the assumed SECOND best player- not the first- THE SECOND best player in the draft. And when an even dumber GM said no? Snow drafts seven defenseman to equal that one player he couldn’t get.  What is this – Voltron?

Of all of the former Islander players who are now GM’s in the NHL, did we get the worst? Maybe we should give Marty McInnis a shot at choosing the players in our next draft.

To sum it up, as long as Charles Wang runs this team on a sub cap floor budget and has a guy willing to be shady like that, Snow isn’t going anywhere. And as long as Snow has this job, based on his past practices and generally terrible record for drafting and developing, expect more of the same.

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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

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  1. Daniel says:

    You do know that not every first round pick plays in the NHL within 15 months after their draft day, right?

    You also make the classic Monday morning quarterback point by bringing up Jeff Skinner. I’m sure you knew he was going to be a stud back on draft day and didn’t wait until after the fact to bring this up for the first time.

    Never mind the fact that you’re judging Niederreiter after one NHL season, that’s besides the point.

    Also, you conveniently leave out Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart and Kevin Poulin. I’m sure that wasn’t intentional…or, maybe it was because mentioning those guys wouldn’t make your argument sound nearly as good.

    In terms of waiver-wire pickups, you also did not mention Brian Strait, who has been a nice addition and was arguably the team’s best defenseman this season before he got hurt.

    You also make no mention of his trade for Lubomir Visnovsky. But once again, surely that was just a mental lapse, right?

    This article is a joke, and so is your cynical “sky is falling” attitude. If it’s not a conspiracy theory, then according to you it can’t be what’s really happening.

    Get a clue.

    • MattandDan says:


      It says in other pieces of ours here that not everybody picked in the first round even plays in the NHL. However, there is roughly a 15 month window on lottery picks- if they aren’t in by then., something is wrong. The same usually goes for the first player taken at a position – first C, first D, etc- in a draft. The only exception since the last lockout now plays for the Islanders- Thomas Hickey.

      At the time of the Nino draft, we wanted Fowler. And because Snow tooled it up w de Haan as his offensive defenseman, he missed out on a way better version…who was in the NHL 3 months after he was drafted.

      Reinhart and Strome are left out because they lack NHL resumes. Are you saying they belong here? That’s what we’re saying. Why aren’t they? And Poulin? Drafted 5 years ago and can’t crack a line up led by DiPietro? Scary.

      Re: Streit and Viz, go back and read all of our blogs. We don’t want to repeat ourselves ad infinitum by bringing up every point we’ve ever made, but in short- if Strait was so good and on the Isles radar for so long, why not trade for him 2 years ago? And Lubo- traded for a draft pick- a Snow special. Because nothing on this roster can fetch anything.

      Also, isn’t it sad that our defense, assembled by Snow, is so bad that a waiver guy can walk in and be our #1?

      Thanks for reading the piece. I’m sure you were swiggin on that big ol glass of kool aid as you did.

      p.s. Here’s a clue- 5 straight lotteries, headed for 6.

      • Daniel says:

        Funny, because last I checked the Isles were TWO POINTS OUT OF A PLAYOFF SPOT.

        • MattandDan says:

          I re-read that like three times just so I made sure I understood your point. This team is OUT OF A PLAYOFF SPOT and YOU’RE BRAGGING ABOUT IT.

          Bragging about losing. Bragging about being almost something.

          Is this how low the fanbase has gone? Is this your expectations for a team? Were you alive when they were winning cups? Or is this more D sipping in hoping for something but eventually ending up with more of the same?

        • Matt says:

          “Funny, because last I checked the Isles were TWO POINTS OUT OF A PLAYOFF SPOT.”

          Maybe true. However, last I checked, the Isles were also sixth worst in the league, or is that 24th best?

          • Daniel says:

            You can look at it either way you want. If you choose to constantly be negative that’s your prerogative.

        • KO21 says:

          Be positive? Its like getting pissed on by a Wang and imagining its just raining.

  2. Daniel says:

    Oh and also, bringing up Edmonton? They’ve had the FIRST OVERALL PICK three years in a row! The ones who go first are usually the ones who make it to the NHL right away.

    • MattandDan says:

      Edmonton is almost as bad as our team, but their awful GM throws his guys right into the lineup. Those guys are learning hhow to play in the NHL. Our guys? OHL, CHL, AHL…what’s Snow afraid of?


    • MattandDan says:

      Hey guy, be easy. Just asking the same you are- to be open minded to a different point of view. I mean, you’re saying all of those reaches dont look fishy? Glad you replied w such passion. Keep the faith in your way, as we do in ours.

  3. LFBIV says:

    Strome and Reinhart are brought up when they talk about the last 3 drafts…second line center and top pairing Dman.

    Everyone knows Strome should be here now on the second line with Nielsen on the 3rd or traded for a productive winger or established defenseman. Nielsen can play a solid shutdown center but that’s really it, unless you count shootouts but you’d first have to not lose the game before regulation to get there (a problem on the island). Since I know you’ll ask who can replace Nielsen I respond with Brock Nelson or David Ullsttom. Give the kids a chance to prove themselves (for bettor worse) and we’ll see a team with hunger and passion.

    Perhaps Reinhart shouldn’t be here now and we should look to next year for his arrival and that’s fine and dandy, but would he really be worse than Joe Finley!? Why isn’t Donovan or Ness on the team proving they belong or that they don’t before ever given a fair chance.

    • MattandDan says:

      Donovan or Ness won’t be here because they’d expose the Snow plan- screw the pooch with the draft, blame kids, blame coaches, blame the building…just don’t blame me! I need the gig!

      • Daniel says:

        That is seriously the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I can’t even believe that you believe that.

        • MattandDan says:

          Have you read any of the stuff above or in other posts, or do you just come here to spew your ignorance.

          We aren’t making this stuff up. This is all researched. You have any to refute this, other than that kool aid that you’re sipping out of the Wang?

          • Daniel says:

            I read the entire article. You’re just an idiot.

          • Daniel says:

            And the fact is, I have done plenty of research. No matter what I respond with, you’ll just call it Kool-Aid, so it doesn’t really matter whether I did research then, does it?

  4. Scott says:

    1- The TEAM is not 2 points out of a playoff spot, Tavares and Nabokov are 2 points out of a playoff spot.

    2- Take away Tavares and what do you have? An expansion team roster. THAT’S what we get in year 6 of the supposed “rebuild”? This isn’t even a young team, it’s not like there are many kids in key positions where you can right off the struggles as “growing pains”.

    3- 2 of the team’s better players, Moulson and Grabner, were castoffs from other teams, not draft picks or “pieces to the rebuild”. Snow lucked out.

    4- Year 6 of the supposed “rebuild” and there is NOTHING to show for it on lines 2 and 3? WORST 2nd and 3rd lines in hockey which leads to the worst 5 on 5 play in the NHL.

    5-In a proper rebuild, teams are not only IN the playoffs but contending at this point. The Isles have been treading water for 5 years. WHY? because it’s not a rebuild, it’s simply running things the cheapest way possible. Just accumulating prospects is not a rebuild.

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    • MattandDan says:

      Thanks Legends! Hopefully you’ll come back and comment on some of our other stuff as well.

  6. BDGallof says:

    NHL between 1996 and 2006

    NY Islanders – 10yrs – 97 draft picks – 20 NHL Players = 20.6 % success rate which was 19th in NHL.

    2006 started the new Isles system & analysis. 2007 was Snow’s first draft which had no picks till 3rd round.

    2008-2012 has already 6 as NHL regulars and 14-15 considered NHL bound chips in prospect pool or at Bridgeport.

    Here is the biggest item here: in talking to scouts, NHL folks, draft gurus, etc outside the team: NY Islanders are considered to have one of the BEST prospect pools in the entire NHL. This has been written by more than just me. Mark Edwards of HockeyProspects, Cory Pronman of ESPN/Hockey Prospectus, David Burstyn of McKeen’s hockey, and more.

    Now… development of those prospects? Another story. But the idea of a draft is to find NHL-level regular players. Now has Isles gotten transcendental stars outside of Tavares at #1? Not really.

    But I think the argument made here is fraught with some flaws.

    in citing 2008: you also have Matt Martin who is a NHL regular. Ullstrom who will be at least a 3rd line regular. Then Donovan/Poulin as surefire NHL bound guys. plus Spurgeon plays elsewhere: NHLer also.

    So lets look at 2008 via that percentage…

    13 total picks – 5 are regular NHLers already. 2 more potentially with Donovan/Poulin. Lets also consider that Petrov if he was over here is NHL-level, even if 3rd line quality arguably.

    Thats an incredible rate that blows the old % out of the water.

    And thats just one example.

    • MattandDan says:

      I think that the most accurate part of your reply is “drafts are well rated; wait for development.” Fact is, aside of strome, name an nhl 25 goal scorer in our system in year 6 of a rebuild. By year 6 pittsburgh, boston, chicago, la, had cups. We lack multiple ite prospects on O, D, and G except for strome. Even Reinhart isnt considered anything better than adam larsson.

      We like being hit. Just know we hit back. And i get ppl project things. We dont. We use data and reality to speak truth to power.

      • BDGallof says:

        Well here is another item: Rebuild began with the draft of 2008. So post-season at this years draft would equal year 5. You are a year off.

        Chicagos rebuild was well over a decade with stuttering starts.

        Most rebuild take 6 years before seeing even playoffs. You can cite Pitt, but it also helped that they were able to grab at top of draft twice TWO generational players. That means… better than Tavares who is not considered, even by the Isles, a generational player.

        Reinhart vs Larsson statement is fraught with a few items:
        completely different draft class. you need to gauge the entire draft class, not go apples for apples. Larsson vs Reinhart & Strome is really what you should be also adding with your line of thought.

        Oh and the biggest one of all here: NJ chose Larson before the Isles could pick. Think you mean Hamilton.

        Then also equate what do the Isles value in a DMAN: bruiser/leader with ability to score as well with top dman protential (Pronger-like) or a smooth skater (streit/Vis/many others all around NHL).

        Your analysis ignores traits and just sticks to notions of “top prospects”

        You can’t use data and reality to have an opinion on the Isles prospects in system or loosely attribute them and draft pieces from different years and scenarios. That doesn’t make any logical sense.

        As for the need for top players, heres a little article about the accidental Pittsburgh model and how it happened:

        Ask Tampa how those top players all worked out? Its about depth/maximizing your draft classes to fill needs, and that 6 years is THE MININUM for the rebuild not some alarm clock.

        • BDGallof says:

          one last thing: Pitt won the cup in the 2008-09 season. They traded Jagr in 2001 to begin a rebuild process.

          A little longer than 6 yrs till a cup, sparky!

          so lets review:

          2001-02: Pitt last in division
          02-03: same
          03-04: same
          04-05: same
          05-06: same
          06-07: 2nd in Div
          07-08: 1st in Div
          08-09: 2nd in Div

          • ChrisTriants says:

            LA also won the Cup in year 9…..with year 9 being their worst season of their 3 playoff appearances…happens. They got hot, but no one saw LA winning anything.

          • KO21 says:

            By year 6 they were more they made a big leap from basement to 2nd place in their div.

        • RobJ74 says:

          Why isnt JT a generational talent? I beg to differ

          • BDGallof says:

            Tavs is a star and talent…let there be NO doubt. BUT generational player is far different. They are the type of players who come along once in like 20 yr span. just relaying what i am told.

  7. Scott says:

    A 4th liner in Martin (although an excellent one), a possible 3rd liner in Ullstrom, a potentially nice but likely nothing special defensman in Donovan…

    That’s what we should use to applaud Snow’s draft history?

    Yes, the Islanders do have a nice prospect pool but that’s not the point. The point is that after 5+ years of “rebuilding” this is still an expansion roster. The top line consists of Tavares, an absolute no brainer, and 2 reclamation projects. The 2nd and 3rd lines are possibly THE worst in the NHL. Ullstrom and Bailey are Snow picks. Josh is a failure and Ullstrom just came off of 3 games in the pressbox. On defense we have Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald. Hamonic is the real deal while A-MAc, while good, looks a lot better on a bad team. He is expendable.

    So what’s going to happen, will they suddenly throw 5 or 6 prospects into the lineup next year with the assumption that every one of them will fill key roles? People get overly excited about Islander prospects for a simple reason, that’s all we have to be excited about. When you are poor, that orange you get for Christmas tastes a whole lot sweeter…or at least you think it does.

  8. Scott says:

    Actually, Andrew MacDonald was a Neil Smith pick, so even less credit for Snow and his “rebuild”.

    Bottom line. No Tavares and this is an expansion team roster. And John Tavares is NOT part of a “rebuild”, he is the result of sucking, the result of being the worst team in the NHL. You don’t have to be the worst team in the NHL to rebuild. After 5+ years, this team should be better without John Tavares then they are now with him.

  9. BDGallof says:

    Neil Smith never chose anyone. Might want to read up on that.

    Garth employs same people who did that draft who still work it now. The Isles system they use was installed and ran that draft in question.

    Dismissing Ullstrom is just plain idiocy.

  10. MattandDan says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Instead of answering them all here, coming soon will be an article discussing the valid points that were brought up here.

  11. BDGallof says:

    It was a good hot debate.

    Also… Matt & Dan… also look at the Pitt drafts within their “rebuild” time and look at top players (only very few) and all the depth guys they got that really got them over the hump in the end.