Aug 8, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow speaks at a press conference at Yankee Stadium. Two outdoor regular-season NHL games will be played at Yankee Stadium during the 2013-14 season as part of the 2014 Stadium Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Garth Snow and the Islanders Free Agency Flop

Aug 8, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow speaks at a press conference at Yankee Stadium. Two outdoor regular-season NHL games will be played at Yankee Stadium during the 2013-14 season as part of the 2014 Stadium Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

July 1st came and went like a hurricane and when it was all said and done, over $400 million in guaranteed money was thrown around as general managers made it rain across the league.  The exception of course (which should come as no surprise), was once again Garth Snow and the New York Islanders who decided that a team with no playoff appearances in six of the last seven years and straight off another bottom-five finish was in good enough shape to let the day come and go with no impact moves.

To be fair, we’ll get this out of the way up front: the team did trade for and sign Jaroslav Halak prior to July 1st, thus upgrading the biggest weakness the Islanders have had the last few seasons in net.  Sure Halak probably understood the landscape of goalies and knew there wasn’t much out there for him.  But the Islanders signed him, so kudos.  Now that we got the warm and fuzzy stuff out of the way, back to the real issues at hand.

Go re-read that first paragraph again.  This is a team that has made one playoff appearance since 2007.  They haven’t won a playoff series since 1993.  They have been a fixture of the draft lottery in recent years.  They currently sit $24 million below the salary cap, or as Islander fans interpret it, $6 million below the cap floor.  The payroll has been in the bottom five of the league the last seven seasons.  Yet on day one of free agency, when teams like Florida, Edmonton, and Buffalo made significant efforts to improve their on-ice product, the Islanders added a backup goaltender and AHL fodder.

The team has been a circus with its two ringleaders- owner Charles Wang and general manager Garth Snow- running the show.  Not only have they continually sold a poor product to their fanbase, they actually have the audactiy to say they have our best interests in minds.  Whether it’s Garth Snow telling season ticket holders that he won’t waste their money, or even as recently after the entry draft where Snow had the gall to say the only thing they care about is the fans.  Really?  If their actions are considered “caring”, I don’t even want to think about what they would do if they didn’t think about us fans.

Each year it’s the same routine with this team: tout the first round pick drafted as part of the “core”, tell everyone how aggressive you will be in free agency, watch from the sidelines as players get snatched up left and right, tell the media how you tried really hard and no one wants our money because of the building or some nonsense like that.

A few tips for Garth Snow: (1) you don’t get points for trying…you either add players or you don’t, and (2) did you ever think the reason why no one wants your money is because you and Wang have been a disgrace?  I mean, do you blame guys like Thomas Vanek or Dan Boyle for not wanting to join this circus?

So what are we left with as fans?  Garth Snow telling us that he is satisfied with this “core” (you know, the one with 2 playoff wins under their belts) and that we aren’t going to overpay for free agents.  So what exactly are we selling them on?  The beaches?  Proximity to New York City?  The wineries?  I’d love to be a fly on the wall during one of his contract negotiations: “listen, we haven’t won a playoff series in over 20 years, we operate on a shoestring budget, and we’re the butt of jokes for all other teams.  But hey, how about Jones Beach?  Oh, and we’ll be in Brooklyn next year, so come on down!”  Players want to win and get paid, and not necessarily in that order.  If you aren’t offering them a chance to win or the most money by a significant margin, why even bother?

The even more perplexing thing about yesterday’s inactivity? It’s not like the Islanders have a first round pick to fall back on next year if things go south with the team since they traded it to Buffalo last year.  So the happiest guy yesterday in hockey?  No doubt Sabre general manager Tim Murray.

But the excuse machine comes from not only management, but even some fans: “Matt Niskanen isn’t worth that money, we dodged one there,” “he isn’t worth that extra half million bucks for two seasons, thank God we didn’t get him,” etc.  It’s like fans have their own perverse Stockholm syndrome dealing with the team.  No player is ever good enough, no contract ever wise enough.  “Sure, the Capitals landed Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, but look at those contracts…I’m sure glad we didn’t sign them.”  Hey, great.  Let’s enjoy more Brian Strait and Thomas Hickey instead.  Having cap space and not using it doesn’t make you some brilliant organization…it makes you cheap and not willing to put a better product on the ice for the fans you claim to so sorely care about.  You don’t think players notice these things either?

Listen, I get it that it’s a long summer and there will be plenty of player movement before the season starts.  But it’s disheartening as a fan to watch the last week transpire and feel like your best chances of improving the team this year have come and gone.  I was hopeful they would make a move at the draft to acquire an established player.  Hell, Garth Snow even went so far as to say he was looking in that direction.  And while the kids they took may one day be good players, they aren’t helping the team this year.  It’s more of the same: “hope” and “patience” being shoved down our throats by the team.  Enough is enough.  Actually, enough was two years ago.

We fans deserve better.  We don’t deserve to be ridiculed, spit on, crapped on, and have to endure losing season upon losing season.  The organization has failed and it has no one to blame but itself.  When ownership doesn’t want to spend money to help the problem, this is the result you get.  When management doesn’t make wise decisions with the money they have, this is the result you get.  It’s a perpetual cycle of garbage that just never seems to end.

People will say that things look great on the farm…that the kids are going to be special and help build the next great team. And while these youngsters may turn out to be deserving of such praise, they aren’t there yet and they won’t get there without proper support.  Look at the Blackhawks and Penguins.  Yes, they had a handful of high draft picks to rebuild, but they also spent money on acquiring veteran help.  They just didn’t expect a team of all 20-somethings to wake up one day and be great.  Management recognized they needed a blend of youth and veterans if they wanted to contend.  Garth Snow still hasn’t learned that, or even worse, has learned it and has completely failed in addressing it.

It’s funny, but this is the one piece I publish that I pray I have to eat crow on.  Nothing would make me happier a month from now, a week from now, hell, even later today, for the team to swing a big trade and land a big time forward or defensemen and have someone throw this back in my face.  I’d welcome it and even take back 20% of the bad things I’ve spewed about the team the last few seasons.  But does any fan truly believe that will be the case?  I’m already prepping for a cap dump for the equivalent of this year’s Brian Rolston in August and then Garth Snow telling us how we really believe in this team and just need some players to elevate their play to make the playoffs (oh, he already said something like that last night?  Damnit…)

The sad reality for us Islander fans is that we’re stuck in limbo right now and there’s nothing we can do about it.  We’re hopeful the rumored sale of the team will take place this summer, but as an Islander fan, how optimistic  can we really be until it occurs?  We’ve been trained to think that anything that could go wrong with this team probably will.  Until then we have endure more Garth Snow arrogance and Charles Wang penny-pinching.  I’m pretty confident that if Dante were around today he’d add another circle of hell: being an Islander fan.

Garth Snow caused an uproar at the draft last week when he cursed on live television, telling the world that he’s been crapped on as general manager.  Garth, you made your bed and now you have to lay in it.  You think you’re the smartest guy in the room so I’m sure you can figure out why you’re the butt of jokes.  But let’s make one thing clear: the people who have been crapped on the most by the league, media, and even our own team are the Islander fans and that won’t change with you in charge.



Tags: Garth Snow New York Islanders

  • Justin Linoleum Belfi

    Are you winning a cup, hell even making the playoffs with the addition of Niskanen, or Orpik. The penguins had both and couldnt beat the Rangers. We labeled as Stockholm Syndrome patients because we are glad we dodged a contract that would have bogged us down in a few years when we have higher contracts for reinhart, dehaan, JT again, KO, etc. 2 years at players like that might be worth it, but to sign people based off of zero experience in scouting because twitter says you should is typical arm chair GMing, and it does nothing. This is coming from the same people who wanted Vanek(who sleeps in the neutral zone) or Moulson, who is clearly on the decline, to come back. We need a 1-2 dman and a depth dman. Scoring is not the problem, or not at the core of the problem. We gave up the most most amount of 2 goal leads last year and finished only 14 pts out of a playoff spot. By the middle of December they had already blown NINE(9) 3rd period leads. That lies on the coache(s) as much as the players. Not on the UFAS that do not exist this year. But remember they also had a dozen or so comebacks this year which was the most in the league since Vancouver a few years ago, and they had an above 500 road record. All is not lost and terrible.

    • MH

      Yes, Niskanen is a top pairing D and that’s what this team sorely lacks right now. Of course there’s no guarantee but Niskanen is a heck of a D

  • joepro2112

    Exactly. Regardless of whether (or not) Snow truly doesn’t give a s&%@ about what anyone else says, hopefully Snow reads your column and honestly (at least to himself) considers the valid and legitimate things you point out. And yes, kudos to him for getting bargains in the past (likely due to Wang’s insistence). But maybe that is just wishful thinking and too much to hope for.
    However, the worrisome issue with Isles fans is knowing how Snow (and Wang) has been, and not believing the genuineness of what Snow has been saying year after year after year, as you have pointed out. The fans see through the charade and the nonsense. But I guess that Snow’s strange, warped way of “caring” for the fans is not giving a damn about what they say or how they feel about taking effective steps to improve the team in a meaningful way.
    Snow’s repeated hollow words, in essence, only serve to send a message that he cares about the fans in the sense that he makes sure that he says whatever needs to be said to try to get tickets sold in order to ultimately appease Wang, despite the sub-par on-ice product that they have been trying to pass off, which does not justify the erroneous expectation for fans to spend their hard earned money on, regardless of whether or not Snow or Wang cares or wishes to acknowledge or believe that fact.
    So, despite all the rhetoric, it is AT the point of walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. And Snow knows it. The question is what is he (hopefully) going to ensure doing about it? Obviously, only time will tell. We’ll know soon enough.
    Maybe the Isles could hand out asbestos outfits at the home opener since it looks like another year living in hell.
    Or, maybe hazmat suits since fans will be dealing with another year of being crapped on.

  • newyorkislanderfancentral

    Wang offered huge money and Snow offered more term to every top free agent, they did their job. This is one of the better road teams and worst home teams by a mile because since 1989 the building has been empty.

    Fans that only show opening night and for playoff games don’t deserve a team.

    You have been outdrawn by countless losing franchises every single year, even Atlanta and Florida. even going to the playoffs four of six years.

    No one wants to come play in front of 7,000 people. Wang offered big money, our fans refuse to buy tickets for any owner, Torrey or Arbour and you don’t support Tavares.

  • justin

    even if Snow is able to swing a trade to bring in players to help out now (1) do you have confidence that he wlll make a good trade? And (2) the team will have to give up young assets and whatever depth may have been accumulated over last few years in order to do it. If they were able to do it AFTER signing a key free agent or two to make the roster deeper then we would have a chance for real improvement. Any move now would most likely be robbing peter to pay paul or severe over payment. It also would have helped if he could have swung a trade BEFORE free agency in order to show potential targets the team was turning a corner.

    • MH

      After Grabovski and Kulemin signings (which I think help team) they pretty much have no choice but to make a trade. How I see it they have 16 forwards for the big club. Only logical 1 or 2 moved for defenseman. We’ll see. Hopefully it’ll help both sides when they do make a deal

  • LIslanders

    Wang & Snow have unfortunately, over the years, successfully created a stigma that is now hard to overcome. Despite the shenangans of Town of Hempstead, along with the mishandling of the entire situation by Nassau County gov’t over the years, Snow, and primarily Wang, only have themselves to blame for how the Islanders organization is viewed around the league with respect to not being able to sign top free agents.
    Despite Snow’s attempts to offer more money and term than what players actually wound up settling for with other teams, the fact is that because of HOW the Islanders organization is perceived by others IS the reason why Snow & Wang must come to terms with needing to do even better than what they had offered already in order to try to entice top free agents.
    Snow’s unwillingness/stubbornness to do so, along with his apparent thought process of seemingly accepting things as is, as if he somehow thinks it is OK (when in fact it’s not OK), is troubling, as exhibited in his own words.
    “I think the core of our team is set,” he said. “It’s up to our players to improve from last season. We have a few guys who need to have better seasons for us to have success.”

    Gee, thanks for telling us the obvious, as if the fans weren’t already aware of this and needed to have this pointed out.
    What kind of ridiculous answer is that? What a typical load of garbage.
    The fans are tired of the same old, same old line of nonsense and are not drinking the kool-aid any more.
    Enough already.
    With the areas of need that this team still has, combined with the fact that they (supposedly) want to increase the value of the team heading into Barclays, not to mention the fact that Snow knows that he needs to ensure that they do not wind up in the bottom of the standings as that would only help the draft position of Buffalo’s 1st round pick that they acquired in the Vanek deal, and with the (alleged) pending sale (which means that Wang won’t be the one “losing” money in future years), there should be no reason why they are not able to or can’t spend within reason as necessary to acquire what they know is needed to improve and be competitive.

    But I guess that makes too much sense. Considering that it is the Isles that we are talking about – all logic goes out the window.

    • newyorkislanderfancentral

      There are more people in the stands now than for Torrey and Arbour, you made your own stigma by staying home better than anyone.

      • LIslanders

        Not clear what your reply about staying home has to do with anything I stated as I never said anything about not going to games nor raised issues about attendance – you did.

        • newyorkislanderfancentral

          the players who are here are tired of playing in front on empty seats for 40 games unless opposing fans fill the place after being one of the best road teams in the NHL the last two year. free agents see the empty seats and want no part of being the road team in their own building or playing in front of an AHL audience.

          the players have nothing to feed off here, the crowd gives them nothing, they are far better in front of 18,000 fans anywhere else.

          You want the problem solved? Fill the building even Atlanta, Nashville, Columbus, Florida did it better than here to see playoff teams in 02,03,04,06.

          • MH

            Want more fans at games? Put a better product on the ice. Simple as that. Win games and the place will be packed

          • newyorkislanderfancentral

            Again I just told you non-playoff teams that have never won a thing outdrew the four playoff teams here from 2002-2006. You don’t support this team from October to April win or lose since 1988.

            You make your own stigma by staying home better than any team anywhere.

          • MH

            Actually you’re wrong. They outdrew Nashville or had higher percentage of capacity pre-lockout. Same with Atlanta and Florida where Isles had higher percentage filled pre lockout. Columbus has outdrawn them. Oh well. 1 out of 4 ain’t bad.

          • MH

            Atlanta packed the joint so much they had to move the team. Guess it was too much demand for them to handle?

  • EV

    Please tell me no one paid you to write this uninformed drivel. It’s pretty much a known fact to everyone (except for you, apparently) that Garth Snow was aggressive as hell and didn’t get anyone because of the losing pedigree of the team. Thankfully Halak, Grabovski and Kulemin were smart enough to ignore the past and look at the AMAZING young core this team is building. 2 years, and it’s on.

    • MH

      And why do they have a losing pedigree?

    • MH

      7 years into a rebuild and we’re still 2 years away? Rome was built quicker…

      • jl9830a

        Actually, LA, Chicago, and Pittsburgh all took this long. Have some f*cking patience or go root for another team. This rebuild, however painful, was seriously what this franchise needed. Do you even remember the state of the organization when Snow took over? We had one of the most barren farm systems in the league, the team was full of garbage vets, and we had zero hope for any bright future.

        Fast forward to now. We’ve been one of the best-drafting teams in the league, so we have one of the deepest farm systems in the game. Our NHL team currently has more depth up front than the vast majority of other teams, and they now have good goaltending. Stop whining for 5 minutes, you’re embarrassing the rest of your teams’ fans.

        • MH

          Pittsburgh had 4 seasons where they missed the playoffs and then were in a SCF 2 seasons later. Hawks had 5 PO-less seasons before making Conference finals and then a Cup victory the following year. Kings only 1 which took as long as of Isles experiencing…6 PO-less seasons, then won a Cup 3 seasons later. Can only pray that happens with us. But being bad for a long time doesn’t guarantee success. Go ask an Edmonton or Florida fan their thoughts on that.

          Don’t preach patience to a fan base that hasn’t won a playoff series in 21 years, hasn’t played in a playoff game with a chance to advance in 12 years.

          If you want to accept mediocrity or worse, that’s fine. I’m not going to change your mind nor care to. There are plenty of fans that choose to set the bar higher for the organization, including having it run in a competent fashion. You want to pat Snow on the back for being bad and accumulating high draft picks? Good for you. When you draft as many players as they have, they are bound to hit on some.

          I was happy with the Halak acquisition and think Grabvoski and Kulemin will be solid additions. But I stand by every word I wrote above and will continue to do so until competent behavior/maneuvers are the norm, not the exception with this team.

          Thanks for reading and your comments.

  • jl9830a

    Hahahahahaah how wrong, knee jerk, and impulsive this article looks now.

  • newyorkislanderfancentral

    Donovan, Reinhart, Czuczman, Pulock, Ness, Pokka, Leduc, Mayfield, Pedan, Pelech, Jesse Graham and now Brennan and that does not even include deHaan, Hamonic or losing an NHL defender in Spurgeon, they look fine with what they have on defense, someone’s going to step up.

  • topkek