How Garth Snow Single-Handedly Took A Team On The Rise, Back To The Bottom

Tyler Gildin

Started from the bottom, now we back to the bottom…

Islanders fans, remember how we felt when the buzzer went off as Brooks Oprick scored the series-winning goal in overtime to knock the Islanders out of the playoffs last May? While we obviously felt our hearts ripped from our chests, losing a series we had believed (and some of us still do) we could have won, we still felt pride and excitement for our boys. For once, we really felt like we took that next step, that things would be changed for years to come.

Never has there been so much hype for an Islanders season like there was coming into this year. They were coming off their first playoff appearance in five years, John Tavares was coming off a Hart Trophy finalist season, and even an outdoor game at Yankee Stadium against the Rangers was in the works. Finally, the Islanders were going to be real competition. Finally, the fans had something to truly be proud of. Finally, the “rebuild” was over and we were about to start a new chapter in Islanders history. Then the off-season came, and slowly we started to deteriorate, falling deeper and deeper into the abyss.

Free Agency

It started with our off-season moves, or lack thereof. I don’t care which way you cut it; Peter Regin and March Pierre Bouchard were NOT the guys to take the Islanders to the next level, not even close. I don’t care how many bubble baths or Danish cookies Frans Nielson and Regin shared together back in Denmark; there was no excuse for putting that guy on our roster. Classic Snow trying to find another diamond in the rough. Granted Snow has had some great moves finding the no-names/waiver wires in the past, this one was a total fail! What the team needed was some established players to skate alongside them, not another gamble.

Then it was Bouchard, another failure. Sure, he’s had good numbers before, but he’s very injury-prone and there was no guarantee he’d gel with JT and Moulson up front. Why were we once again gambling with our first line?! First we had PA, who we should have never let go. I get he was asking for a lot of money, but they should have restructured Moulson’s deal as well and kept him around. But fine. They didn’t and we moved on to Brad Boyes. Brad Boyes was actually GOOD! (Hence why he just signed a two-year deal with the Panthers.) We paid him nothing and he put up numbers. Yet again, for the second year in a row, instead of bringing back someone we knew already meshed with JT and Moulson, we took another gamble on a potential first-liner. If they were gonna take the risk on Bouchard, we should have just resigned Boyes.

And to top it off, we finally traded away these two guys for a womping fourth round pick! Way to go Garth, your entire off-season acquisitions turned into a fourth round pick. Congrats.

After how Nabokov played in the playoffs last season, it was evident to anyone who watched the Islanders that Nabby’s days were numbered. Granted, the Isles wouldn’t have made it to the playoffs without him; we may have been able to win the first round if it weren’t for him. Snow really should have made it a priority to pick up a goaltender on the offseason. I know Poulin and Nilson are both solid potential goaltenders, but they should have brought in some more depth. It was defense and goaltending that the Islanders desperately lacked, not more average forwards with little guarantee of success.

El Niño

Then there’s Nino Niddereiter, debatably one of Snow’s biggest FAILS. I understand he no longer wanted to be part of the organization, but why do you think that was? They played him for a whole year on a line with Jay Pandolfo and Marty Reasoner and then kept him in Bridgeport the entire following season. I wouldn’t want to be in this organization, either. And to not even invite him to training camp after the lockout, that was just a slap in his face. Yes, he may be a diva, but he was our fifth overall pick; that’s high value.

The Islanders should have had better internal control to make sure it never got to the case where he was publicly unhappy. Once he was unhappy, though, we should have done better damage control, or showcased him more to try and get more value for him. Trading him for a third-line player in Cal Clutterbuck was the worst possible move we could have made. If you can’t get better, keep him! Play him until his value increases or wait until a deal arises with the opportunity to package him in. I can’t believe an entire failed season where we ended up yet again in the bottom five, anticipating a big draft, was all wasted on Cal Clutterbuck. That is unacceptable. We should have drafted Jeff Skinner, anyway!

Strome and Nelson

I just discussed how poorly the Nino situation was handled, and I’m seeing similar trends with Strome and Nelson. Nelson makes the team out of training camp, yet was a constant healthy scratch, while Regin somehow saw ice time? Are you kidding me? I know this is technically Capuano’s decision, but I find it hard to believe Snow isn’t really pulling the strings behind him. Not to mention, what the hell took so long to bring Strome up? And then to send him down again? That was just ludicrous. Let’s just make all of our first-round picks hate us, why don’t we? Genius! Despite all the hootin’ and hollerin’ about the Islanders prospects and Snow’s draft picks, only one top pick has become a stud: John Tavares. Other teams, like the Penguins, Caps, Blackhawks and Kings, became playoff contenders and complete teams much quicker after multiple seasons of top draft picks.

Jack Capuano

I’m sorry, but how on earth does this guy still have a job? How can Garth Snow make a trade 12 games into the season when the team is .500 because it was “unacceptable,” but then keep a coach when they drop to 10 games under .500 and think that’s acceptable? I agree, Capuano was the right man for the job when they were an underdog team still growing, but now that they actually expected to win, he is totally not fit for the job.

Snow needs to either promote Weight or bring back Peter Laviolette. One guy shows some passion, becomes close with the team and has a head for hockey; the other is a proven winner.

Thomas Vanek

Then there was Thomas Vanek, a deal that will arguably go down as one of the worst Islanders debacles since Rick DiPietro’s 15-year contract. This deal was an unnecessary risk and it totally failed. I’m a big fan of Vanek, don’t get me wrong. The guy is a stud, but Moulson was already doing a pretty good job. If we were going to make a move that early in the season (which is crazy, by the way), it should have been at a position that needed more help. Why would we give up so much for a position that NO ONE has complained about for the past three years?

Yes, Vanek is definitely better than Moulson, but that’s not the wing we were worried about! We wanted someone else to play with JT and Moulson, not replace Moulson. Moulson was about as close to a sure thing as Tavares. Sure thing in the fact that he never missed games and he consistently put up numbers. Yes, a lot of it was due to JT, but so what?? He got the job done. Not to mention he is JT, our first-year captain’s best friend. The two guys on the team JT has spoken publicly about being positive role-models for him were Mark Streit and Moulson, so why would you, in his first year as captain, take away two of his most important teammates? Overall, I like that Snow was aggressive, but he was aggressive in the wrong position. The best thing to come of this was the rise of Kyle Okposo — thank God for that.

I often hear this talk of some players we let go “not being a core player” or not a “key part of the future” and I think it is one of the biggest loads of crap I’ve ever heard. How is Matt Moulson, a 30-year-old, three-time 30-goal scorer, team leader and active community member not a key part of our future??? A top player who WANTS to be on the Islanders, and they trade him for someone on the last year of his contract who’s made it known he wants to test free agency? Shame on the Islanders for trading him away. And of course, the trade totally backfired. With one of the top LWs in the league at the approach of the deadline, Snow only managed to get back a second-round pick and a prospect in Sebastian Collberg — are you kidding me?? The best part is, if the Montreal Canadians don’t make the playoffs, the Islanders send back that second-round pick and it’s just straight Vanek for Collberg. THAT might be the most horrific trade of all time. Even Mike Milbury had to have been shaking his head over that one! Knowing the Isles’ luck, the Canadians have a big losing streak coming their way.

The same fool who made the most outrageous statements after John Tavares went down in the Sochi Olympics, asking if “the [International Ice Hockey Federation or International Olympic Committee] were going to reimburse our season-ticket-holders?” would, of course, once again come up looking like the biggest loser at the trade deadline. The end result of Snow’s trade: Moulson a first-round pick and a second-round pick, for Sebastian Collberg and maybe a second-round pick, and oh yeah, a failed season and embarrassment. So Garth, will you now reimburse all of us season-ticket-holders?

The worst part of all of this? Garth Snow won’t get fired. The Islanders are such a circus with so much chaos and loyalty to the wrong people, owner Charles Wang will never pull the trigger on Snow. If Knicks fans are planning a rally outside MSG to protest James Dolan’s ownership of the Knicks, why can’t us Islanders fans do the same thing against Wang and Snow? If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that this is a pretty lousy time to be a New York sports fan. While I’ve noted that rooting for a losing sports team makes you a stronger person, there’s only so much bullsh*t a fan can take.

My suggestion for the team: Turn a new leaf this off-season. Before begging new talent by over-paying for them (we have the most cap space because we are the most frugal team in the history of sports), we fix the management. We admit the rebuild was a fail and we shake things up. By bringing in a top-caliber GM and coach, they can be our biggest assets in recruiting higher level talent. With John Tavares still a world-class talent, and Brooklyn just a year away, the Islanders should do everything this off-season to fix their current woes; to assure, come Barclays, they are ready to go.

Now, I fully acknowledge I am not a sports writer or beat writer for the Islanders, or any team, for that matter. No, I don’t have all of the inside facts and knowledge about the team. I admit, this is a bit of a rant, but hey, I’m fortunate enough to write for an online publication that can provide me with the opportunity to write an editorial when I feel the need, and having been as frustrated as I was and still am with Garth Snow after yesterday’s debacle, I felt the need to express myself. I’m a JIM Fan (Jets, Islanders, Mets fan) and was one of the biggest proponents for voters of Nassau County to vote yes on the 2011 referendum.

All I can say is, I’m a die-hard fan who has watched and followed this team day in and day out, and the results I’m seeing are, in Garth’s words, “unacceptable” and I believe they could have been avoided with better general management. I understand that Snow is a bit handcuffed by Charles Wang’s wallet, but regardless, the internal decisions fall on him. I think Snow has made some great moves in his tenure as GM, but ever since the Isles and Pens shook hands after game six, he has pushed the team downhill. Free the Islanders! Snow must go! We, the fans, deserve better.

Tyler Gildin

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