As been noted throughout hockey and Islanders media, the Islanders have made their version of a splash this past month, signing 4 NHL caliber free agents and last month agreeing to terms with a goalie that saw free agency looming and decided to not test the waters. Sounds awesome, right?
Well, it is and it isn’t. As we mentioned in our last piece, this offseason thus far is a C for taking care of the most glaring need, and a long term need. There are still two long term needs awaiting addressing: top pairing defenseman and top line wing. Not that we’re looking for Ryan Suter or Shea Weber to show up tomorrow, but a guy capable of logging 25 minutes and stopping others from scoring would be an overdue addition to the team.
But that’s not why we’re here. No, we’re here to defend a thesis that we put in February 2013 that was very controversial. In case you missed it here we postulated that Garth Snow fails in the NHL draft on purpose. People reacted with incredulity over such a comment. The Islanders made the playoffs that year, and people crowed that we were wrong, we suck, we’re blind, etc. And as the Islanders season ended 6 games later, we had these question:
Who were the key players on that team, and which were Garth Snow draft picks?
John Tavares was obviously the lynchpin to that team, and he was a consensus number one draft pick. There are rumors that Snow wanted Matt Duschene, but was overridden by Charles Wang in the 2009 draft. Regardless, Tavares was a consensus #1 overall pick 2 years before that draft class formed, so while he was chosen by Snow, it may have been the first case ever of a no brainer being a pick made under duress.
Kyle Okposo was a huge player in that series. He was a Neil Smith pick.
Evgeny Nabokov was the MVP for the Penguins. He is a Garth Snow pick, albeit not via draft, but by attrition. And on a contract offered by a different GM.
Frans Neilsen? A Mike Milbury leftover.
Josh Bailey made 3 passes to someone else who passed to Tavares to watch Tavares score. Not a goal on his own. So his impact was statistically equal to Keith Aucoin.
Travis Hamonic was busy watching his head spin when he wasn’t providing the Penguins a chance to use their lethal power play, the 7 goals in 6 games kind. He was -4 with 23 penalty minutes by the end of the series.
Jack Capuano showed his lack of courage by running Nabokov out between the pipes repeatedly despite the historic failing of Nabokov in the playoffs with San Jose, the superior numbers of Kevin Poulin in that playoff series, and the example set by Dan Blysma in benching his starter in games 5 and 6. Cappy is a Garth Snow kind of guy. From New England, and without much of a resume.
Still, at this point #IslesKoolAid was satisfied. The Islanders MADE the playoffs! That was surely enough! Plus, people have been raving about the Islanders prospect pool for years! Playoffs were a financial incentive for the owner to improve the team, and the team can promote from within to fill holes, especially with top 5 pick Ryan Strome and top 4 pick Griffin Reinhart waiting in the wings!
And with momentum from winning, and an allegedly deep prospect pool, Snow took a step backwards. A STEP BACKWARDS.
Rather than chase elite unrestricted free agents? Chase your own restricted free agents! Rather than improve in goal? Give the aging failing goalie a huge raise! 3 playoff assists for Keith Aucoin? Cut him. 3 playoff assists for Josh Bailey? A 300 percent raise! A top 5 offensively talented draft pick earned by failing for an entire season? Trade him for a 4th liner coming off of injuries…and give that guy a big raise! The July 2013 free agency period was an absolute debacle for Snow. Shameful management. The only way it could be outclassed? By adding shameful asset mismanagement into the mix.
As training camp approached for the 2013-2014 season, Ryan Strome was primed to make an NHL roster. A top 5 pick in the 2011 draft, he had seen most of his class on rosters the year before and was raring to go. Strome was averaging nearly 3 points a game in his last junior season, and the Islanders had a glaring need at second line center. And Ryan Strome was cut for the scary talent that was Peter Regin. Or maybe it was Pierre Marc Bouchard. We could understand if John Tavares was blocking your path to the NHL. But Bouchard? Regin?
If that’s not bad enough, top 4 pick in the 2012 draft Griffin Reinhart watched top 4 pick in the 2013 NHL draft Seth Jones walk right into the NHL, while Reinhart was held out of the league by the force that is Brian Strait, and the legend that is Radek Martinek.
These were two obvious and clear moves that would have improved the team, and they were totally overlooked by Snow, in one case even after injuries began to mount. Snow looked at his assets, saw they were NHL ready, and completely ignored that information in making decisions. By the way, when finally given 37 games, after a slow start Ryan Strome finished the NHL season at roughly .5 points per game. We wonder what may have been if Strome was on the team in the lockout year in place of Keith Aucoin, where he had those 37 games as a way to adapt to the league and play a full season in this past mess. We ask because Ryan Strome has the least amount of games played by any top ten pick in his draft.
We also wonder what would have been last season and for this upcoming season if Reinhart was on the last pair of the defense learning the game at an NHL pace, instead of winning awards playing amongst boys in the OHL and having to learn now.
Folks, there’s no point in developing a prospect pool if you’re afraid to use it.
#SnowBlowers and #IslesKoolAid may say “well, what about Matt Donovan? Calvin de Haan? How did they make the NHL?” Donovan arrived because Streit was traded- and because Donovan made entry level money. de Haan appeared due to injuries – usually his specialty- to much of the defensive corps. If no one gets hurt, we don’t even see de Haan.
And what about Brock Nelson- the other first round pick in the 2010 draft? Nelson has a nice season- 14 g, 12a – for a guy that had no defined role. And that’s really the best way to develop prospects: don’t define their role. Anyone expecting the Islanders to make huge strides with one of the least successful yet longest tenured coaches in the NHL is going to be waiting a long time. And to develop rookie talent? An even longer wait.
Which brings us to our next question – if Garth Snow isn’t firing Jack Capuano, thereby taking the heat off of Jack Capuano by saying the awful 2013-2014 season is Snow’s fault, isn’t what he’s really saying is “I am admitting that I am not good at my job”? Let’s talk about the decision making process that allegedly happens in Snow’s head. The Islanders started the ’13-’14 season 4-4-3. That’s .500 hockey. Not world beating, but better than Capuano’s career average. So to shake up the team, Snow trades a fan favorite in Matt Moulson – who wasn’t a part of the teams plans going forward- for Thomas Vanek.
Understand that any GM looking at an annual 30 goal scorer that thinks “we have no need for this” is an absolute moron. What did Moulson want? $5 million a year, maybe less? What did Kulemin get to bring his 9 goals to the second line? Over $4 million. And Grabovski’s 20 goals are costing $5 million. We’re thinking a Strome – Moulson second line combo may have been more productive than Grabbo-Kules, but hey, anyone can armchair GM. Not everyone can think, however.
So, back to Vanek. Snow announced that the team needed to play better, and needed a change. And for the record, we were fine with trading for Vanek. Little did we know, and what Montreal showed us, is that to acquire a Vanek, you need not give up an NHL player. A weak prospect and a second round pick would have done just fine. And imagine having Vanek AND Moulson in the lineup? Instead, Snow ended up with neither. Moulson and Vanek even gave Snow second chances before signing in Buffalo and Minnesota, and Snow still shit the bed. To borrow from Geoff Tate, how many times must we live to see this tragedy?
If you look around sports, you’ll find that every league has a Garth Snow. Kind of. Let’s look at the NFL, NBA, and MLB to see who their Garth Snows are.
Martin Mayhew of the Detroit Lions started in 2008, and is the closest thing the NFL has to Garth Snow. Granted, when he started his rebuild it took 3 years to make the playoffs, which after 6 years Snow was still bumbling. Now, with 6 years into his management Detroit is starting to develop as an NFL contender, so if this is the closest comparison to Snow…well, Snow should have been fired.
In the NBA? Bryan Colangelo was named GM and President of the Toronto Raptors in 2006. In his first season they made the playoffs but lost in the first round. Colangelo was also named executive of the year in that season. Sound familiar? Where is he now? Unemployed. Fired in 2013.
Garth Snow’s most reliable sports GM matchup is ironically located in Kansas City, where a crowd of 3,000 wasn’t enough to sway Kate Murray to hand over the keys of the Lighthouse to Charles Wang’s threats to move the Islanders. Granted, you’d need a class 5 hurricane to sway Kate Murray’s fat ass. Dayton Moore, the general manager of the Kansas City Royals, was hired in 2006. Moore has led the Royals to this major achievement: the 2013 season, where the Royals finished with a winning record for the first time in a decade. A similarity with the Royals and the Islanders? Owners with very tight purse strings and a want to relocate that’s been hindered by their professional incompetence.
Now, the thing is, we don’t think Garth Snow is actually that stupid. We know. We’ve hung out with the guy. We’ve done shots with him. We’ve talked roster moves. We’ve seen the famous 3 blond harem picture. The guy can’t be a total dope, right? So if people are saying that he’s not stupid, and this is what he’s done to the Islanders, all we can surmise from this is that he’s doing it on purpose.
Reinforcing that point is that he’s FINALLY making a few moves now that the team is allegedly on the market in order to save his job. This means that he knew what moves he needed to make for this team, and has flat out refused to make them. Now, #SnowBlowers who excuse his poor performance by blaming Charles Wang? If that’s the case, Snow should have quit. Because maybe after his third year as GM, Snow had a shot at failing up to a better team. But now? Not a chance. He’s become a punchline to a joke around the NHL. He’s making people forget Mad Mike. Tire fire, folks, tire fire. At some point, even Daniel Friedman turned against Snow, which is like saying the reindeer turned on Santa.
So as we see Snow’s plan for the 2014-2015 season forming, we realize that he’s addressed some of the needs of his team, and that’s commendable. But Florida is going to have a fantastic defense this year to go along with their improved goaltending. Buffalo will be a harder team to play against thanks to their offseason moves, and maybe even the promotion of their Reinhart before the Islanders version. New Jersey has improved their offense, and were already better than us last year. The playoff teams from last year haven’t regressed much, and some got better. So if this is the best and last of Garth Snow’s off season movement, expect the usual end result- watching the playoffs of other cities teams on TV. Or as all but one anomaly season of Snow’s management has shown us, 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