Garth Snow’s Last Stand
The grace period on the New York Islanders GM is over.
You know that one ex-boyfriend/girlfriend you have, the one that you keep coming back to despite all the horrible shit they put you through? You can imagine the examples of your toxic relationship. Did they set your stuff on fire after a bad fight? Maybe embarrass you at parties in front of friends and family, or do something like give $7 million worth of contracts to fourth liners? Over and over you tell yourself that this is the last time, and you’re finally moving on. For me, Garth Snow is that ex.
For over a decade, Snow has been at the helm of the Islanders, steering them to as many last place finishes as playoff series victories. He’s had his successes, namely acquiring Jordan Eberle, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, but these seem more like glints of competence in an otherwise bumbling nightmare. Without continually fleecing Peter Chiarelli, Snow would have virtually no wins on the trade market in his stint. He traded Matt Moulson and picks for Thomas Vanek with no plan in place to convince the pending-UFA to resign in New York. He then flipped Vanek to Montreal for Sebastian Collberg, who is no longer in the organization, and a second round pick that he used to trade up to get Josh Ho-Sang. He allowed Kyle Okposo to walk without even negotiating a contract, and then stepped up to pay Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas each over $3 million a year. He declined a Travis Hamonic for Taylor Hall swap last year, and turned down Hamonic for James van Reimsdyk and a 2018 first this year before shipping Hamonic to Calgary for three picks.
I wrote before the expansion draft that for once, although he doesn’t deserve it, Snow deserved some slack. The grace period is over. The Islanders need to make a deal between now and September for a forward or else this off-season was nothing but a slightly more theatric than usual failure. Snow made a great move by getting Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, but that can’t excuse how he’s gambling with the Hamonic deal. By turning down a trade for a forward and moving Hamonic strictly for picks, Snow made the Isles worse in a year they seem to hope to be competitive. JVR will become a UFA next summer, which likely caused Garth to flinch at the idea of acquiring him, figuring he’d rather not wager on van Reimsdyk staying in Brooklyn any longer than he’d be contractually obligated to. So instead of a first and JVR, the Isles got a first and two seconds, leaving them down a defenseman and still missing a piece on offense.
No matter what he did, Snow needed to take a risk. But he’s on the wrong side of the odds and is overplaying his hand. Instead of banking on JVR to resign to make the deal favorable in the long term, he now needs to bank on Joe Sakic emerging from whatever cloud of delusion he’s been stuck on for the past four months and actually trading Matt Duchene when his demands are met. As a gambling man, give me the forward in the hand versus the forward in the bush that’s been taken hostage by a Hall of Famer.
Otherwise, he can try his luck with the rest of the league without Hamonic, his most valuable trade asset. But without the allure of a contract-controlled, younger defenseman with upside, Snow can only dangle the picks he’s acquired, since he’s made it clear in negotiations with Colorado that Barzal and Pulock are here to stay. It’s hard to tell if a 2018 first and a pair of seconds can earn a second line center on the open market.
So here we are, without van Reimsdyk, Duchene, or Hamonic. Snow needs to make another move without his best trade chip, and unless the picks he got from Calgary can be flipped for a forward, the trade was a failure and the off-season left the team in limbo, which is a great risk to take when your franchise player is a year away from free agency with no imminent extension. His track record is shaky at best, and there’s no logical reason to have faith that he can pull anything off. This is it Garth, one last try and then we are done.
I have no doubt Garth Snow has a plan, I only doubt the prospective success of that plan.