People that read this blog generally have a complaint that we are overly negative. While those folks ignore their own Panglossian outlook in this assessment, they may have a point. We do tend to pick on the down side- even as we do recognize the good of this team, such as their playoff berth, John Tavares…uh…John Tavares…uh…oh, the newly monikered Metropolitan Division is the weaker of the two Eastern Conference divisions so the Islanders have a shot at repeating the 8th seed beating that they received this year. See? Positives!
But the negatives are an interesting discussion because we’re actually not being negative at all. We’re asking something very simple: that Garth Snow keep his word. So for this article, we’re going to show you the genesis of this blog: the words of Garth Snow himself. We’re going to pick quotes that are substantive to the team- after all, how many redundant quotes on Rick DiPietro do you want to read, anyway?- and then give a little analysis/ speculation on why Snow has failed at fulfilling the very sentiments he expressed openly. For example:
June 10, 2013- Garth Snow and a season ticket’s holder session:
“I’ll answer some questions, and some I’ll BS you.”
Absolutely the most honest thing Snow has ever said on public record. But let us dig through the years, shall we?
July 27, 2006- Garth Snow open letter introducing himself as general manager and sharing philosophy with fans regarding home grown talent:
“I believed this as a player and believe this as a manager: the Islanders are about the men wearing the orange and blue and the map of Long Island on their crest. As a sports fan like you, I love the home-grown guys. That’s why Jeter and Mernie are immortal Yankees, why David Wright and Jose Reyes are so dear to the hearts of Mets fans. Of course, we love all of our Islanders, but how can you not be excited about DiPietro…Robert Nilsson…Ryan O’Marra…Petteri Nokelainen…Jeremy Colliton…Kyle Okposo…Blake Comeau…Sean Bergenheim…Chris Campoli…and so many others.”
For those fans that consider everyone untouchable, start checking milk cartons for the likes of Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra, Petteri Nokelainen, Jeremy Colliton, and especially Rick DiPietro. Everyone doesn’t work out, we understand that, that is why you need make calls on players, move them, release them, trade them, use them, whatever, but don’t waste them. And don’t think everyone is going to be something special.
From November 29, 2009 in the New York Post:
A playoff berth for the Islanders will be the best advertising to attract support for a new arena on Long Island. To that end, general manager Garth Snow on Friday told Slap Shots via text that he has the authority from CEO Charles Wang to add payroll for a playoff berth.
As such, with the payroll currently hovering close to the league floor, the Islanders have both the space (up to $18 million including the bonus cushion) and the prospects to be major players in the rental market, while the people on Manhattan will be all but capped out barring the gumption to assign pricey ne’er do wells to the AHL.
In case you missed that date, it was 2009. Snow then was on record saying that he has no financial restrictions to the team, and is willing to add payroll to make the playoffs. 2009…hmmm…wasn’t the team rebuilding in 2009? Why would you be looking to make a playoff push in 2009, only to claim years later that you were rebuilding that year? We wonder if that has anything to do with a land grab in Uniondale and a public perception of not being losers. I’m sure we’re being overcritical, so lets look at what Snow had said just TWO DAYS BEFORE
November 27th 2009: Garth Snow said the following in an interview (available at Islander Fan Central):
Q: Is the success a sign, though, that your rebuilding strategy may be ahead of schedule?
Snow: “I don’t use that word rebuild. We’re trying to make the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup like every other team. We don’t go in with the mindset that losing is acceptable, and when that word is used, sometimes winning doesn’t matter. I don’t think I’ve used that word too much and if I have, it’s been very limited. We’re trying to win every hockey game we play in. The group that we have in that locker room, it may be young, but that doesn’t make it can’t have success.”
Islander Fan Central also noted a Garth Snow December 2010 ITV Interview With Chris King in which he started using the rebuild word. You may notice, 2010 is a year after Snow declared that this team was not in a rebuild. However…
On February 1, 2012 Garth Snow called into Gary Bettman on NHL Live and used the rebuilding word twice in an interview (6:54/12:40). Since we’re borrowing liberally from this site, we’ll let you see for yourself at the source here.
A January 26, 2011 “State of the Franchise” Interview with Howie Rose (via From Islanders Point Blank) Snow tells Rose:
“I have no financial restrictions in improving his hockey team.”
He continues to say this, fans continue to say otherwise, the roster absolutely shows that no financial restrictions means cap floor circumvention, and he continues to not spend.
On March 10, 2012 Dee Karl provided us with these gems:
Snow: “Well, obviously, I think we’d still like to find a top four defenseman.”
How’s that going for you Garth? Was that Lubomir Visnovsky? Fans should certainly assume so. He did play like one…when he finally got here. However, you just lost an Islander top 4 in Mark Streit. Yes, we know he leaves a lot to be desired as a top 4. Sadly for the Islanders, he was one, and now he is gone and no one has been added to replace him. Did Thomas Hickey’s offensive production production make Mark Streit expendable? Or Matt Carkner’s defensive prowess? Here’s a hint- you’re STILL looking for a top four defenseman. Here’s a solution- Griffin Reinhart. He was drafted two years ago for that exact spot, and as we’ve pointed out many times, lottery picks not in the NHL within 2 years of drafting tend to not be good. Sorry we forgot that Brian Streit played six games and obviously has proven to be a top 4. We stand sarcastically corrected.
Snow: “The one strength coming into this season we thought we had was scoring, as it turns out we’re the third lowest scoring team in the league this season. So if we can find a way to help our secondary scoring, we’ll definitely take a look at that in the summer.”
Snow has been looking for secondary scoring- read as a second line center- since he drafted Josh Bailey. How long can you fail at the same task before someone points it out? Well, Snow answered that a month before the Karl interview with the following announcement.
February 7, 2012 via Newsday:
“Frans is a perfect example of what we’re building on Long Island,” Snow said. “Our organization has set the goal to build through the draft, develop our prospects and have them become a part of the young core of talented players we have. He is one of those core players that has become one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL.”
Frans Nielsen was drafted by Mike Milbury. Also, develop our prospects and have them become part of the core? Umm…develop who exactly? Nino Niederreiter? Anders Lee? Jared Spurgeon? Unless your core includes draftees by other GM’s (Neil Smith with Kyle Okposo and Andrew MacDonald, Milbury with Nielsen and DiPietro (whom was also extended by Snow)) or waiver wire pickups, your core is awful small.
Early June, 2012:
At a question and answer with fans, Snow was asked about an opening at second line center, noting that Bailey and Nielsen were better served in other roles as well as the need of a top 4 d-man.
“I do want to measure my answer, because I love Frans as a player, and love what he brings to the team. I was very glad to lock him up with the deal we did (this drew a large cheer from the previously somewhat subdued crowd, 51 is a fan favorite). That said, if we can pick up a dynamic offensive talent and lessen his minutes, we will do that. As for your other point, we need a top 4. They are hard to acquire, but as noted we do finally have the assets to acquire one of those players.”
Snow did acquire Lubo in that offseason. Guess assets is a second round pick and cap space for an under cap hit contract. The second line center? Still vacant.
February 20, 2013 edition of Newsday:
“As I’ve said many times, if there’s an opportunity to upgrade our roster and make the team better, we’ll do it, but not at the expense of our young guys or prospects,” Snow told Newsday here on Wednesday, a day off for the Islanders before Thursday night’s game with the Canadiens. “We’re not going to mortgage our future to make a quick fix. That’s not our plan.”
This was mere days after Snow chose to not promote some of his prospects, and instead raid the waiver wire for Keith Aucoin, Thomas Hickey, Joe Finley, and Brian Strait. Snow has drafted over 20 defensemen, yet none were ready for the call. Snow has also drafted many centers, but none could outwork Keith Aucoin. Also, isn’t a waiver wire player a quick fix? Aucoin is no longer Islanders property. Sadly, Finley still is.
In a Newsday article from May 13, 2013, Snow brings up some points about his team after their first round elimination from the playoffs:
“We want to stick with the plan of building from within,” Snow said. “If there’s an opportunity to improve the club through trade or free agency, we’ll leave no stone unturned. We know we need to get better and we’re going to address it.”
Ah yes, the annual “kicking tires” statement, phrased this year as no stones unturned. We’re a little curious what stones he’s turning over, because we can assure you that he has never turned over a stone and found a productive 25 year old player under contract with another team to trade for, nor has he ever found the make a competitive (read not backloaded or under market value, which folks call “Snow terms”) offer for an unrestricted or restricted free agent stone. His stones often have AHL castoffs, 35+ contracts, and waiver wire claims under them. No stone unturned? Show us.
It seems that Garth wants to build through the draft by not promoting any of his drafted players. There are six on this team. An all-star center that never had a second of minor league development by the Islanders organization, a tweener 2nd/3rd liner, two fourth liners, the Hammer and a backup goalie. Way to stick to the plan. We understand that the majority of the Islanders are home grown, those players just weren’t planted by Garth Snow or grown on Islanders ranch.
“I don’t think there will be too many changes,” Snow said. “We want to continue down the road we started. We’re just as excited about the prospects we have as the team that played this season. We’ve had some really good drafts and we have a prospect pool we like, not just some of the players at Bridgeport. It bodes well for the future.”
For those expecting an influx of talent from other teams or from Bridgeport or other lesser leagues, read that quote. Digest it. Tell us how this team is going to make a move out of the 8th playoff spot that it snuck into this year by replacing Boyes with Bouchard, Aucoin with Clutterbuck, and Reasoner with Regin. We’re fans of incremental change, but replacing 20 goals with 21? That’s awfully small increments.
June 10, 2013 from a meeting with the Islanders Booster Club (Booster Club? Nothing says high school sports in the 1950′s like a booster club):
Snow: Anytime I’ve ever went to Charles and asked him for money I’ve never had a stop sign. One of the reasons our payroll is so low is because we’re such a young team.
THAT’S the reason? It’s not the waiver wire claims, the castoffs from other teams, the career AHL signings? We know it’s not because you signed a star free agent, or even drafted more than one star. So I guess you don’t ask for much, or you just completely lack creativity.
“For us, we need to create space for the Matt Donovan’s of the organization, who’s earned a right. We have to create an opportunity for younger players that deserve it in Bridgeport.” And he also flat out said, when the question was followed up, “We need to create a roster spot for Matt Donovan to make our team”
Some people believe that Snow is looking to create a competitive training camp where people will be pushing for jobs. Some people believe that merit will be used in determining who makes it onto the final Islanders roster. Based on this quote, some people are just flat wrong. As of 7/19/2013, 21 roster spots are on one way contracts, per Arthur Staple of Newsday.
Also, if Matt Donovan deserves to be here, why bother trying to resign Mark Streit in the first place?
July 8, 2013, again from Newsday:
This week’s announcements that goalie Evgeni Nabokov, 37, and defenseman Travis Hamonic, 22, were among those signing up for the team’s future contribute to what Snow called an “extremely tight-knit locker room. That’s one of the things our team has going for us.”
“When you have a core, with most of the guys drafted here or given an opportunity here, we have a tight-knit group,” Snow said. With Nabokov and Hamonic, Snow said, “The team wanted them and they wanted to remain Islanders.”
If these were the dynasty Islanders, I see where you make that kind of commitment. Same for the dynasty Oilers, or the late 90′s early 2000 Avalanche or Red Wings. But to commit to a team that made it into the playoffs by 4 points in a shortened season? A team that a freshly amnestied and promptly resigned unlike DiPietro Daniel Briere said that in a full season would have fallen apart? If tight knit is all you got going for you, go into the fashion industry. If Nabokov wanted to remain an Islander, why wasn’t he signed in the exclusive period of time that the Islanders had to negotiate with him? Maybe he tested the waters, saw that no one wanted him, and came back for a RAISE? After those playoffs? Lack of accountability must roll downhill, along with the other stuff. We guess tight knit would not have mattered if someone actually took DP in a trade for another goalie.
But at least someone gets it:
The two converse regularly about player talent, Capuano said, but he leaves the business of negotiating contracts strictly to Snow. “I’d be a little less patient than Garth,” he said.
Look at Capuano advocating for Snow signing RFA’s during the RFA period, and not the UFA period. I guess someone in the organization has a wish list AND a functioning calendar!
You may have noticed that Garth Snow can say and do anything he wants. Ever wonder why? Because Charles Wang does not care about winning. Garth Snow has shown that he is adept at running a sub cap floor team in the NHL. Running, not winning with. That is why it’s inaccurate to tell fans that Snow is inventing hockey’s version of Moneyball. The A’s win frequently. The Isles do not. What Snow does is simply self preservation with the added benefit of no accountability.
If our memory serves us, despite Charles Wang’s bravado on Mike and the Mad Dog one day, Mike Milbury resigned his position- he was NOT fired. In fact, Milbury was kept on the payroll at least a year after leaving the GM position and asked to help – get this- pick a new GM. If that’s a firing, it’s the firing equivalent of turning a sumo wrestler into a goaltender. Snow has pretty much followed the Milbury plan of missing playoffs and entered the world of first round exits, but without the pizzazz or the actual labor of making a trade. He’s also shown, like Milbury, that he will do whatever he is told by his boss. Survivalist sure, but also spineless. Just as Milbury was going to sell Ziggy Palffy to the Rangers, Snow smiled as he attended the Rick DiPietro 15 year contract press conference.
You may also be point to us that Snow finally exceeded the salary cap floor, as if that’s some kind of achievement or a commitment to winning instead of a contractually obligated version of quality control by the NHL. That’s a partially factual statement- the Islanders are actually without phantom cap hits or bonuses that never get paid a team that’s actually over the cap floor. Except, dear friends, they aren’t. We were all so glad to get hockey back after the lockout, and especially amped by the Islanders making the playoffs, that we all forgot one thing- in the new CBA, the Islanders receive $5 million this year of revenue sharing cash. What are they doing with it? Paying off the Alexei Yashin buyout. They’re still $2.2 million south of the floor, on ice wise, and ignoring backloaded deals.
Besides, how can you take that cap floor foolishness that Snow pulled this off season seriously? Inflated contracts to both Josh Bailey and Evgeny Nabokov? Really? Can anyone attempt justifying a half million dollar RAISE to Nabokov after that playoff performance? The Bailey deal is an even bigger stinker. Bailey pulled his career long 4 weeks of hockey in the Spring routine, except in a shortened season it looks like he “turned a corner,” whatever that means. Guess he’s no longer a rushed prospect and we can have real NHL expectations of him? Still, a 300% raise for RFA that no GM in their right mind would offer sheet (and none did) Josh Bailey’s requires a gerrymandering of hockey statistics and reality. Here’s a stat- ZERO goals in the playoffs. That speaks volumes to “compete level,” especially playing next to Tavares.
Now, for those who think that we’re being overly critical, all we ask is that you take our position for a moment. What if someone made you some predictions and promises and never lived up to them? What if you could not take a person for their word? What if that person openly boasted about their lying, then asked you to take them seriously? We think you’d be disappointed. God knows we are. So take Garth for his word, and also take into consideration that with 21 of 23 roster spots already promised to players walking into camp after declaring his expectations of a competitive training camp? Expect more of the same.
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