The Jury is Still Out

Islander realists, your intrepid team is back with our analysis of the off season, so far. Going into the offseason, which typically starts in February for the Islanders in the Garth Snow regime, the Islanders had some pressing needs. These needs were in no particular order:

 

1st line offensive player

2nd line center

Top 2 defenseman

Starting goalie

Backup goalie

 

To give credit where credit is due, Snow addressed the goaltending situation very well. In Jaroslav Halak the Islanders get an average to above average starting goalie. The question we have is why was Halak so tradable? We get the idea that the St. Louis Blues saw Ryan Miller as an upgrade and made a move. We even get the Buffalo jumpstarted their rebuild by acquiring assets along with Halak and then traded Halak again for more assets.

 

But the Washington Capitals? Braden Holtby has split every year of his career in the AHL as well as the NHL until this past season. We get that the Caps had a plan that led to them toward the cap ceiling for the offseason that maybe made them consider saving money at goal in order to shore up their defense. Maybe the concern was that Halak asked out of a game against his old team, which may have been a gut check himself, and a head check for the management. We wonder how he’ll fit into Jack Capuano’s coaching style- where battle level means everything!

As per the backup, Chad Johnson has been an adequate behind a fantastic defense. We’ll see how he does when he’s facing 30 shots from 8 to 10 feet away 30 times a year.

pissed family

Here we go again!

 

Looking at the forward situation, Snow’s acquisition of Mikhail Grabovski to play as a second line center was about a year to late, as we suggested this same move here last seasonGranted last year Grabovski came at a discounted $3 million, but we were encouraged to hear Alexander Ovechkin complain publicly about losing Grabovski, and we’re expecting about 50 points and 20 goals from the second slot. What’s more, this puts Frans Neilsen in the spot where he belongs- third line center.

In conclusion, in the 8th year of being a general manager, Snow figured out that he needs a second line center.

 

As far as the first line wing, Snow signed a 3rd liner to play second line minutes because once, Nikolai Kulemin had a good season playing with Grabovski, putting up 30 goals. This is the usual Garth Snow flyer, trying to capture the PA Parenteau-Michael Grabner- Matt Moulson lighting in an under market value contract jar. If Kulemin returns to 30 goals form, his contract is a bargain. And Snow best hope for such, because at the present moment that contract looks absurd. $4.1 million for a 9 goal scorer? Wow. You think Snow would have learned after the Bailey contract that you don’t pay people based on potential.

less points than okposo

In short, Snow tried to address some of the shortcomings of the team. He has yet to find that elite winger for John Tavares, and we’re not sold on Brock Nelson having 30 goal hands, or if Ryan Strome is best suited for wing. Drafting a forward in 2014 and having to wait at least 3 years to see him develop just goes to show how bad the Nino Neiderreiter trade truly was. Which gets us to the very important question:

 

What is Garth Snow’s philosophy in building a team?

Snow's philosophy, as per the hockey media

Snow’s philosophy, as per the hockey media

Here’s the answer- there isn’t one. It’s painfully obvious, except to #IslesKoolAid, #SnowBlowers and #WangSuckers that Snow’s philosophy has been cap floor circumvention. The Yashin deal gave Snow a $2.2 million head start at being a bad GM. Tricks like unpaid bonuses counting toward the cap, trading for frontloaded contracts for the cap hit without the salary, and the famous Tim Thomas flexibility deal show the players the lack of commitment to winning. Not just the players on the team, but in the entire league.

But we know that cheapness has been the fault of Charles Wang, even if Garth Snow says that there aren’t restrictions, or no stones unturned, or tires kicked, or whatever the excuse is this season. It seems that this year the cheapness is subsiding a little, for whatever reason. Maybe the TV revenues we’ve spoken about in the past coming in at over $40 million dollars a year will let Wang drop $15 million in ticket sales, parking revenues, food concessions, advertising, and merchandising on his own team? So what came from the imagination of Snow with a budget? Not a lot.

Did you wonder why didn’t Dan Boyle want to come here? Why didn’t Brad Richards? Why didn’t Matt Niskanen? Why did Snow offer 4 year deals to two players that were afterthoughts to the rest of the league? And a goalie coming off of 3 trades in 2014? Why did Snow offer Jerome Iginla a 4 year deal? When did Snow become Oprah- you get a four year deal, you get a four year deal, everyone gets a 4 year deal!

And if you’re building a team around any kind of general philosophy, like acquiring hitter Cal Clutterbuck at a crazy contract and at the expense of an elite scoring prospect to go along with Matt Martin, who is also a hitter, what kind of player would you acquire to keep philosophically consistent? 6’4” 250 pound Dustin Penner? Or the 5’10” 180 pound Conacher? And who did Snow acquire? And as per a resume, wasn’t Penner on a cup wnning team? And Conacher is..on his 4th team in 3 years.

tire fire two

Here’s a hint-assuming no management changes, because, remember, this is the land of no accountability, expect rebuild 2.0 to begin in 4 years, aka JT91’s walk year.  And players around the league have seen the lack of commitment to winning from the Islanders organization, and avoid this place at any possibility. It’s the land of first chances and last chances. Strait? McDonald? Staios? Reasoner? Parenteau? Hickey? Finley? Conacher?

 

Back to the roster issues, if Snow needed to address the defense- which by making offers to some of the top available defensive UFA’s, that’s what he’s saying- when that route failed, why not use the glut of low priced NHL 4th line and entry level contracts to make a deal with a cap strapped team? Currently Chicago is over the cap, Philly is over, and 5 other teams have less than $3 million worth of cap room.  Yet Snow has said that he will not trade his assets for a player that can help this team now. Then again, this is the same guy that defends turning Matt Moulson, Thomas Vanek, a top 10 draft pick and a 5th round pick into Sebastian Collberg and a second round pick…a pick that was playoff contingent. Amazing.

wiz blows

What the defense still does

 

As for addressing the wing issue for Tavares, since Snow has become general manager of the Islanders, he has drafted a total of 9 wings. 8 drafts, 9 wings. We understand that centers can be converted to wing- and we see how well it’s working out with Josh Bailey and the Islanders win-loss record. People can move positions, but generally when you learn a game at a position, it’s what you learn and do, and how you react in game situations. To have to relearn a role after doing it for 15 or more years it a reach, having to do the job at the NHL level is too much.

And here’s what we’ll close with regarding no philosophy. Based on the current batch of forwards, here’s what the lines may look like:

Line 1

Nelson

Tavares

Okposo

Line 2

Kulemin

Grabovski

Strome

Line 3

Bailey

Neilsen

Grabner

Line 4

Clutterbuck

Cizikas

Conacher

Aside from each line having someone playing out of position, you may notice Matt Martin, Colin McDonald, Dr. Anders Lee, and Eric Boulton are scratches. That’s not even pointing out the defense and its hot steamy mess.

steam steam shit demotivational poster

So how do we grade this offseason? It’s not an F because they managed to pull off a goalie and second line center. But it’s not an A or B because they have two glaring, unaddressed holes that aren’t filled by castaway Cory Conacher. Until they address the needs of the first line and the first pair, this offseason earns a solid C. How do we figure, even with these additions?

First off, Griffin Reinhart, based on his draft position, should be a top pairing guy. To expect a 21 year old to log 25 minutes a night is possible, but it’s a steep learning curve. If only they had used him last year in a third pairing role to get used to the NHL…but hey, we can’t take shifts away from the scary talents of Brian Strait, Matt Carkner, or Dino Radja, er, Radek Martinek, right?

By the way, while the Islanders don’t want to rush Reinhart into the NHL, another 18 year old defenseman taken in the top 5 of the draft will debut in a few weeks. This time it’s Aaron Ekblad, who is joining Ryan Murray, Morgan Reilly, Hampus Lindholm, Mathew Dumda, Jacob Trouba, Cody Cici, Olli Maatta, Jake McCabe, Connor Carrick, Seth Jones, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Nikita Zadorov as defensemen drafted within 2 picks or after Reinhart that have debuted or are taking regular shifts in the NHL.

Secondly, since the Vanek trade, Snow knew what he had to accomplish for JT, and still hasn’t. That’s both season and offseason where an issue has lingered.

Third, Garth has a decade as an NHL goaltender and not drafted ONE REAL GOALIE PROSPECT IN 9 YEARS OF BEING A GM. FAIL.  Especially when you consider that Garth’s three “top” goalie draftees won’t even be in the NHL next year.

Fourthly, Kulemin is already written into the second line? Grabner scored 35 goals once and lives in a doghouse. Kulemin hasn’t gotten back to even being a 20 goal scorer after his outburst.

Who you trading now, mofo?

WHO are you trading? Fat chance.

Fifth, both Buffalo and Montreal fleeced you for Vanek. Why do we say such? Snow COULD HAVE offer sheeted PK Subban. $10 million a year, 7 years. The Islanders have the cap space, and they’re even losing $7 million in defensive salaries after the season in Carkner, Strait, and Lubomir Visnovsky (plus $2.2 million in Yashin money). Which means starting next year, Subban plays for a cap hit of $800,000. Yes, it’s a lot of draft picks to give, but would you trade Bailey, Calvin DeHaan, Brock Nelson, and Josh Ho-Sang for Subban? Yes, yes you would make a deal like that for a Norris Trophy winner. And if Montreal matches? That’s an awful big knot in their cap management for the next 7 years. And plus, what scary talented RFA’s would they do the same for? $10 million offer for Reinhart? OK, we’ll take your next batch of first round picks, and you can tie up $20 million in your top pair defense!

But this can’t happen. Why? Because Snow gave away next year’s first round pick, protecting a high pick in a weak draft rather than have a high pick- or movable pick- in next years draft. By not having the original first round pick of the Islanders, EVERY RFA is out of the Islanders reach. EVERY SINGLE SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM THAT CAN BE FIXED BY THE ISLANDERS ONE ASSET – CAP SPACE – IS NOT AVAILABLE BECAUSE SNOW IS SHORSIGHTED.

You want to avoid other teams taking shots at your RFA’s?  Sign them before they get there.  Like the Islanders did with Tavares and Hamonic.  And the whole “they will come after our guys” is BS anyway.  The Rangers, Flyers and Ducks are three teams to come to mind that recently went after other teams RFA’s?  Any retaliation against them?  Nope.  Much like draft day deal and the trade deadline, its more fodder that creates useless buzz around the league.  All talk and no action.

Not what hockey media does to Snow, but what Snow does on Isles fans.

Not what hockey media does to Snow, but what Snow does on Isles fans.

Now, the off-season certainly isn’t over.  I mean Jack Capuano said nobody would be handed a job.  So I suppose reports eluding to Tavares asking for Brock Nelson on his wing, Grabovski and Kulemin demanding they play together and we know who the fourth liners are leaves Super Frans, Ryan Strome, Michael Grabner and Josh “please be the last time we write about him on this team” Bailey fighting for a second line wing spot. #IslesKoolAid will say, “Hey, we have depth!” or “Maybe this is the year the NHL allows 36 man rosters.”  We would prefer talent and production. How about this? Forgo any competition and trade for Evander Kane, and make a move for the previously mentioned Subban… or even a Dmitry Kulikov.  No more competition, plus talented players.  Hmmm…if only our GM thought that way.

Rushing into a brick wall as usual

Rushing into a brick wall. As usual.

As this roster stands now, this is maybe a playoff team, assuming Okposo plays the same as last year and not from two years ago. But don’t forget, EVERY TEAM got better or stood their ground. Unless Snow finds the courage to make at least a major move on defense, and ideally one for a wing for JT91, this season is going to look a lot like last season, just a little closer to missing the playoffs. Which means the Buffalo Sabres will be very pleased with the usual Garth Snow 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. b_olton says:

    Isles can’t offer sheet Subban…they gave up that option when they gave Buffalo next year’s 1st rounder

  2. Chris Martin says:

    Im glad you mentioned Cappy because it leads me to this….I read an interview with Cappy today, telling the press that during the blue and white scrimmage/prospect camp, he “isn’t interested in how they play”, but more interested in “getting to know them”……
    This is another reason the isles will be looking up in the standings this year…a head coach who won’t spend a week evaluating the talent he has been given, but is interested in such things as personal interests and their favorite color…..

    • MattandDan says:

      If Capuano isn’t interested in their talent, it seems that camp is going to be another country club.

      And why would Capuano be interested in talent? He can’t develop it, anyway

  3. Chris Martin says:

    Listen to Julien, Babcock, Quennville….then Cappy. He doesn’t even speak like a professional coach. That is enough evidence. If this were a different organization there would be riots in the street calling for his ouster.
    Look at Pittsburgh; They get to the third round and both the GM and the coach get pink slips. If we got to the third round those asshole koolaid drinkers would demand that snow and cappy were canonized as saints!!!