Snow vs. Torrey

Oh, no they didn’t. Yes, we did.

How could you compare Garth Snow against Bill Torrey?

 

How could you? Torrey was “the Architect” that put together 5 straight cup appearances and 4 wins, for a record across all major sports 19 consecutive playoff series wins. Better than the Jordan Bulls, or the DiMaggio – Mantle Yankees. After Torrey was “washed up” on Long Island, he presided over an expansion Florida Panthers team, leading them to their only Stanley Cup appearance as team president after only 3 seasons, one of which was lockout shortened.

 

How could you? Torrey’s Islanders have 5 hall of famers, including the greatest scoring wing to ever play hockey and one of the best defensemen of all time!

 

How could you? One guy forged our history and tradition and culture, and the other guy…well, has kept the flame of ineptitude that has been passed down in the Uniondale front offices ever since Torrey left the Island.

How could you?   One worked for a seemingly disinterested owner, with his hands tied due to money restrictions, had to build predominantly through the draft…and one was a back up goaltender.

 

Actually, here’s how we can.

 

Torrey’s Islanders were owned by…a broke entrepreneur named Roy Boe that often nearly missed meeting payroll. Those teams played in an arena that was lovingly referred to as out of date the day it opened, and actually had less seating capacity originally (meaning less sales) than it does today. Those teams played in an era without revenue sharing. And somehow they won four cups, and competed for a few more.

 

Snow’s Islanders actually made the NHL rewrite the salary cap floor circumvention rules, limit the length of professional contracts, and develop a revenue sharing system as to not field an embarrassing product that 29 other home teams can’t sell tickets for. And Snow’s leadership has been stewarding his vision to a sub 500 record.

 

But that’s not why we contemplated comparing these two. No, this is a special year for Garth Snow. This is his seventh year as general manager. Snow inherited a playoff team, and promptly dismantled it to begin his rebuild. So far, his rebuild is a success: he dismantled a first round playoff team to create a first round playoff team in his own image. He must be reliving his days as a Penguin. But that seventh year…why the benchmark?

 

Well, Bill Torrey took an expansion team- and the 1972-73 were historically awful- and within 7 years, the Islanders were hoisting the Stanley Cup. Does anyone think that this is the Islanders roster that will be hearing “John Tavares, come get your Stanley Cup!”?

 

With this said, there are obviously other factors that separate the two.  This year does not have to be the first year of four straight Stanley cups for Snow to be considered a success.  Improvement should be the goal for everyone.  Will the 2013-14 Islanders show improvement?   Though Torrey’s Islanders did indeed win 4 straight cups, with today’s free agency, high priced players and free spending owners, we can’t say for sure if he would have the same success today.  Torrey didn’t exactly excel in the mid to late 80’s.  One can also point to the fact the 70’s Islanders had Jim Devellano as head of scouting and the Panthers hired Brian Murray as GM.  Maybe Torrey is ultimately a team player. With the departure of Ryan Jankowski, we know Snow has nobody helping him.

Our first basis of comparison are trades. Here are three moves that separate Bill Torrey from Garth Snow:

1-) Mid-way through the 1975 season, sensing his team needed veteran leadership,  the Islanders acquired J.P Parise and Drew Drouin from the Minnesota North Stars.  The Islanders promptly secured their first playoff birth.  This is the type of move that Garth Snow needs to make.  He seemingly has no idea what the pulse of the team is.  If the Islanders had acquired Cal Clutterbuck at the deadline last year for Nino Niederreiter, it would have shown that Snow is looking to IMPROVE now, not just hope things fall in to place.  The only rumors of moves that came out around the deadline, was Snow trading Mark Streit and Frans Nielsen for Andrew Saad.  True or not, this is what was written about and what we have to go on.  And that not only would that have been a step backwards as it guarantees missing the playoffs, it also trades a “core” player, and trading for a rookie does not ensure veteran leadership.

2-) Trading J.P Parise for Wayne Merrick.  Here is a move that is rarely spoken about.  Midway through the 1978 season, Torrey took the player he acquired two and half years earlier and moved him for at the time a second line center. Oddly enough a trade we can surely use today. Merrick went on to center Bobby Nystrom and John Tonelli and win four cups with the Islanders.  In the past 6 years, how many times has Garth Snow been able to make a move using players he acquired?  One thing Snow is great at is not only NOT trading his players, but releasing them to see them on other team’s rosters shortly thereafter. Jeff Tambellini, Rob Schremp, Blake Comeau, Nate Thompson, not an all star team, but replaced with players like Marty Reasoner? Jay Pandolfo? Peter Regin? Sheesh. Snow may not have gotten his asking price for any of those guys (or other guys he let walk at the end of contracts that were tradable like Sean Bergenheim or Richard Park), but to get absolutely nothing for your assets shows Snow’s inability to manage assets.

3-) Trading for Butch Goring.  Bill Torrey traded his first ever draft pick, Billy Harris and Dave Lewis to the Los Angeles Kings for Robert “Butch” Goring and the Islanders became the force they were known for.  Torrey knew his team, full of all stars and goal scorers, needed something more.  He added a veteran who was accustomed to scoring goals to help his young team win.  After winning the Stanley Cup that year, the 80-81 Islanders dominated the standings and the score sheet.  Many writers and players look to the Goring move as the lynch pin in the Isles success.  Is there a Goring available today? Mike Riberio comes to mind, and all that was needed to acquire him was a check. But say you were targeting a player on a roster- think of who you’d love to see on this team- do you think Garth could or would swing a deal for him?  Nope.

 

We applaud Garth Snow for the Ryan Smyth trade.  This was a trade that said, “I want us to win.”  Well, they lost, Ryan left, and Snow has been gun shy ever since.

 

One of the excuses Islander fans, writers, announcers etc…make about Snow is that he has financial restraints that limit his ability to build a team. If Snow has constraints, then Bill Torrey was locked up in stocks. Believe it or not- and of course that depends on whether or not you think Snow should perform his job with the accountability that a burger flipper at White Castle gets- Snow is in a position that Torrey prayed to be in. Since the prior land grabbers that owned the Islanders before the current one- the gang of four, pigs at the trough, royal douchebags, or whatever you want to call them- they cut salary so much that the league instituted a salary cap floor in order to be able to sell their product in other markets.

Also, understand that the last Islander team to compete for a cup and actually win a playoff series was a team put together by Bill Torrey, although Snow has been GM for 7 years. And finances forced Torrey to trade his best player in Pat LaFontaine (despite Mike Milbury’s excuse for getting less than market value for Ziggy Palffy by saying everyone knew he had to be traded so the offers weren’t there, Torrey got a nice package for Pat)- who still lives in Long Island despite what Charles Wang thinks. Imagine if Torrey got revenue sharing money like Snow does?

Actually, the Islanders are responsible for quite a few changes in the way that the NHL does business. Milstein, Gluckstern and the rest of that trash set the stage for a cap floor. The Yashin contract led to a limit on how long a contract can be signed for. The DiPietro contract led to the amnesty buyout provision. The Snow bonus hocus pocus led to the league changing how contract bonus structures affect the cap- in the case of Nino Niederreiter that came 3 years too late. Basically, if there is a criminal owner behavior that needs to get fixed in a collective bargaining agreement, it originates in Uniondale.

But back to money. Mike Milbury had to book his team flights in coach sitting next to you and me. Bill Torrey had to pay for hotels in cash because Roy Boe’s team had no credit. Snow? Other than contemplating charging players for sticks (to be fair, other teams did as well), he’s had charter flights. Thanks to the Islanders inspired cap floor, he’s always had money to spend. His uses of that resource are soundly suspect, such as overpaying average players to reach the floor just to field a team (sorry Evgeny Nabokov, but you just didn’t deserve a raise, nor did Josh Bailey earn a TRIPLING of his salary, especially after seeing the Grabovski and Johanssen deals), creating unattainable bonuses (we’re sure Mike Halmo is pissed that he’ll never see that $2.5 million bonus package ever become an opportunity now that it doesn’t count against the cap), or giving bad free agents fancy contracts ($1.5 million per for Marty “One Goal” Reasoner? Or Matt “Toughness Means Missing Half a Season” Carkner, which was TWICE the size of Carkner’s other offer? Booooo).

Fact is, Snow found ways to not spend money in order to please his boss and preserve his job, at the expense of Islander fans getting to watch entertaining and competitive hockey, and for good young players to lose years off of their careers. Anyone not understanding that needs to head themselves back to 4th grade to pick up where they left off regarding educating themselves, or just look at the draft order in the Garth Snow era. Which brings us to the next point:

Drafting. What did Torrey do with elite draft picks? And what did Snow do with elite draft picks acquired from years of losing as fans watched? Let’s take a gander, shall we? Snow has 7 years of picks at this point, so let us go first round head on match ups:

 

First Round Pick Snow Torrey
First Year (what spot) Traded the pick for Ryan Smyth Billy Harris (1)
Second Year Josh Bailey (9) Denis Potvin (1)
Third Year John Tavares (1), Calvin de Haan (12) Clark Gillies (4)
Fourth Year Nino Niederreiter (5), Brock Nelson (30) Pat Price (11)
Fifth Year Ryan Strome (5) Alex McKendry (14)
Sixth Year Griffin Reinhart (4) Mike Bossy (15)
Seventh Year Ryan Pulock (15) Steve Tambellini (15)
Eighth Year ??? Duane Sutter (17)

 

So John Tavares looks like a slam dunk. Then there’s three hall of famers on the Torrey side, one arguably the best defenseman ever, and another taken three picks after Snow got Calvin de Haan. Additionally, Snow has only picked at 15 once via win loss record (he traded up for de Haan and Nelson), while Torrey has only had three lottery picks. WITH A BROKE ASS EXPANSION TEAM. COMPETING FOR PLAYERS AGAINST THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE AND THE WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION. NOT DRAFING PLAYERS FROM EASTERN EUROPE. WITHOUT THE INTERNET.

Want some more fun? Look at this:

Second Round Pick Snow Torrey
First Year No pick Lorne Henning, Billy Smith (exp)
Second Year Corey Trivino, Aaron Ness, Travis Hamonic No pick
Third Year Mikko Koskinen Bryan Trottier
Fourth Year No pick Dave Salvain
Fifth Year Scott Mayfield, Johan Sundstrom Mike Kaszycki
Sixth Year Ville Pokka John Tonelli
Seventh Year No pick Randy Johnston
Eighth Year ??? Tomas Jonnson

 

We know what you’re thinking: Mike Kaszycki? That’s a reach, right? In 226 career games, Kaszycki had 122 points. In 329 career games, Josh Bailey has 139 points. Just saying.

Maybe you can argue that Travis Hamonic is Snow’s version of Torrey’s Tonelli. The argument we prefer to make is who is Snow’s version of Hall of Fame 6 cup as player winning Bryan Trottier?

Also, we’re waiting for Snow, a former goalie, to recognize and develop some goaltending talent. Torrey eyeballed Billy Smith from the Los Angeles Kings with a second round expansion draft pick, and Smith also ended up in the Hall of Fame. Imagine, drafting two Hall of Famers in the SECOND ROUND? A pick Snow has traded away 3 times?

Snow does seem to have some success in later round picks. So we’re going to compare the highlights of the later round guys as well, as sometimes late bloomers have a contributing career:

Best of Round Snow Torrey (round in parenthesis)
Third Mark Katic, Anders Nilsson Bobby Nystrom
Fourth Casey Cizikas Kenny Morrow, Andre St. Lauret
Fifth Matt Martin Marcus Mattson
Sixth Jared Spurgeon, Anders Lee Yvon Vatour
Seventh Nobody Dave Langevin
Misc Cody Rosen Gary Howatt (10), Stefan Persson (14)

 

Are you depressed yet? We are.

One thing we noticed is that Snow seems to like to rid himself of second round picks. Torrey seems to disagree, but what would a GM/team president that went to 6 Cup finals with two different teams know, anyway. Which brings us to another point that Islander fans should be asking themselves: Who is going to hire Garth Snow if Charles Wang sells the team and new ownership looks at his accomplishments and do what’s right?

With all this said-  we are not being ignorant.  We understand that in today’s drafts some of the second round talent would not be there. However, take away the names and look at how Torrey drafted needs and set out to improve every season. Notice how the Islanders had lottery picks for their first three years, and then done? Snow managed to string together a 5 year run of lottery picks, and has to this writing kept three in the minors, which was first mentioned by us  here and repeated frequently for months, or Lighthouse Hockey here this week  here.

Most GM’s that get a new job as GM in a new city happens because that GM won something important in his previous city. Glen Sather of the disgusting Rangers had success before coming to the Rangers. Brian Burke has a cup. Dave Tallon set up Chicago’s two cup wins. Darcy Reiger (acquired by Bill Torrey with Wayne Merrick) put together a lot of winning teams, even as he’s on the chopping block.

That brings us to Snow. Aside of winning the Cap Circumvention Cup (which has a hole in the bottom, to be consistent), there is NOT A TEAM IN THE NHL THAT WOULD MAKE HIM A GENERAL MANAGER. How sure are we of this? If Snow was fired after this season and another team hired him within two months of the blessed event, we’d perform oral sex on a grizzly bear. (though we always say WE, because we are in fact two people, Dan is on his own on this one.  Not because I, Matt, think Snow would get a job, but because I saw The Great Outdoors, bears are scary.) Oh, BTW, what does Snow do with the Islanders piece of revenue sharing money? That’s right, circumvent the salary cap. Islanders on ice payroll is $49 million. The cap floor is $45 million. The Islanders have $5 million in revenue sharing and $2.2 million on the Alexei Yashin buyout counting in the equation, meaning that the $49 million payroll- the lowest in the NHL by 13% less than the nearest team- is really a $42 million payroll. Cap floor is $45 million- for those reading, 45>42.

But Torrey? After being moved to team president in 1989, Torrey was part of the last Islander team to win a playoff series.  He was then hired by the expansion Florida Panthers and put together a cup finalist roster for that organization as well. In Garth’s defense, this team has no president, just a bunch of Governors and alternate Governors.  I am sure Wang circumvents his tax bracket the same way he circumvents the payroll. Hey, maybe Bill is looking for job?!

So as we look at round two of the GM wars involving Garth Snow versus first Mike Milbury and now Bill Torrey, Snow really isn’t looking a whole lot like a professional general manager. And the problem with a bad GM is that their teams lose, which Snow has done in spades. Until there is a regime change on two levels- Charles Wang needs to let it go, and Snow needs to be let go of- the best you can expect is more of the same.

 

Sorry about the lack of video and pictures- wordpress was acting up

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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. D in Big D says:

    We are all aware of Wangs interest in the land grab that never happened.W/ that said why is he still holding onto the Isles?I agree Garth(never should have been named GM) should’ve been gone 2-3yrs ago maybe even earlier than that but we all know Wang has no intentions of putting together a proven staff of “hockey people” to manage his team.Garth will remain as long as Wang is owner IMO.All fans can do is hope for an immediate sale & I don’t see that happening just yet.Wang will want to make millions on the sale & the value is not there.Even w/ the move to Brooklyn.All that has done is create more doubt about this franchise.Oh & for the record Garths drafts have been absolutely brutal.No true scoring wings in the system yet he still drafts D year after year.This will be a full season & Isles will be exposed again.I do like the addition of Clutterbuck but not at the cost of a top 5 pick.Surely another prospect could’ve gotten that deal done.All in all agree 100% w/ your opinion on Garth.

  2. MattandDan says:

    D,

    As usual, you make sense. Understand that when Wang is in the paper saying that the team is a year behind schedule but he’s ok with it, he’s saying that winning is not a priority.

    And I’m not sure about where you work, but if I was a year behind on my paperwork, I would be promptly fired.

    Keep reading amigo. New stuff coming soon.