Snow Redirects Blame And Sits Tight As Islanders Continue To Mire In Mediocrity

This Islanders season was supposed to be a departure from the team’s monotonous poor play. It hasn’t.

From the outset, it has seemed as if the Isles had most of the pieces needed to make a decent run, and perhaps even a birth into the playoffs.

The Islanders brought in some new veteran players, had two very capable goal tenders in Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss.

They had a bit of very potent scoring, with Tavares, Eberle, Lee and Bailey, on top of some up and coming prospects, with Barzal expected to make his first full NHL debut, some extra leadership and a few extra men on defense coming into the system, it looked like a recipe for success.

None of this came to fruition. Instead the fans were treated to most of the same as we saw last year. This year we have seen some infrequent glimmers of hope, a few good road trips, a couple of wins in a row every so often, and some excellent play here and there.

Islanders fans have grown impatient, tired, and generally hurt by the performance of this team. A few years ago, we saw a new owner come in willing to spend money and work with this team to make them win.

Almost a decade later and a mere six playoff runs, a move perhaps looming in the future, most fans have turned off their televisions and most importantly their wallets to the games.

I’m going to level with you, reader. I didn’t write any of the first five paragraphs above. That was written by Mike Blazowski for Bleacher Report. I used this article because it was published on January 9, 2012. With a few updated names and numbers, a story from over six years ago nearly perfectly describes exactly what the Islanders are going through in 2018.

The Islanders have been in somewhat of a holding pattern for over half a decade now. The formula is very simple. Here’s the simple Garth Snow routine for eternal job security.

  1. Have a bad season
  2. Improve marginally, enough to make the playoffs, but not enough to actually contend
  3. Get knocked out of the playoffs, make little to no improvements to the roster
  4. Complain about the circumstances as if they’re not your fault
  5. Repeat for life, Charles gave you a 100-year contract anyway.

Since the Isles made their return to the postseason in 2013, Snow has basically followed that plan to the letter. He built a fringe contender of waiver pickups and misfits in the lockout shortened 2013 season that snuck into the postseason but was dispatched in the first round. The offseason featured Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin. The Islanders were abysmal the next season.

After a terrible 2014–15, Garth made the team better again. Jaroslav Halak, Nikolay Kulemin, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk were all acquired. The Islanders had their best year in Snow’s tenure, hitting 101 points but getting knocked out of the playoffs in seven games by Washington. The team looked like it was finally one or two pieces away from serious contention, so Snow sat on his hands and entered the 2015–16 season with the same roster. That season had similar results, 100 points, a first round playoff victory, but a knockout blow from Tampa in five games in round two.

After that year, Snow lost a few key players and tried to fill the holes. Martin, Okposo and Nielsen went out, Ladd and Chimera came in. Far from a perfect fix. The Isles missed the playoffs last season but were able to make enough excuses to avoid major moves this offseason. Snow swapped Ryan Strome for Jordan Eberle, but he and Doug Weight coasted on a late year surge that they were sure would translate into success this season.

It hasn’t. The Islanders are mediocre at best and give up more goals than any team in a decade. Snow meanwhile has fallen back into his holding pattern. The Isles GM has said on numerous occasions now that his club is not in the market to buy at the trade deadline. He explains it as almost a cosmic certainty, that the Islanders were doomed to mediocrity regardless of injuries, roster moves or management decisions. The Islanders are 10th in the Eastern Conference because, well, they just are, Garth Snow implied.

In a vacuum, he’s correct. The Islanders are currently not good enough to justify diving into the rental market at the deadline. Any big move could put the franchise in jeopardy, depleting the system of prospects and picks that could be vital should John Tavares and Josh Bailey choose to leave in free agency. On the flip side, not making a move and either missing the playoffs or getting shelled in them could equally push Tavares and Bailey out the door. It’s an unfortunate situation, but not one that the cosmos doomed unto the Islanders.

Garth Snow got us in this hole, but he’s quick to point fingers and make excuses. The reason the Islanders are not competitive enough to be active at the trade deadline is actually very simple: Garth Snow did not build a competitive enough team. Yes, the team has dealt with injuries. Instead of patching holes with cheap NHL-caliber talent though, Snow has opted to commit to Jason Chimera and Dennis Seidenberg in depth roles. There have been players that Snow could have gotten for free off waivers that would have made the Islanders better that he passed on in favor of who he already had.

Sebastian Aho has been decent, but the Islanders could benefit from a consistent veteran in their bottom four, especially as Adam Pelech struggles with an increased role. Before Ross Johnston’s surprising stint in the NHL, Snow cobbled together a bottom six regularly featuring Chimera, Tanner Fritz, Shane Prince and Alan Quine and wondered why his team couldn’t win games. You know that uncle or grandparent you have that puts duct tape on everything, even serious structural damage? That’s Garth Snow, but instead of duct tape he uses subpar NHL players.

Cody Franson, Jussi Jokinen or any number of players that have been placed on waivers this season are not saviors. Nobody was asking for depth acquisitions to save the season. But when the Islanders consistently put out the worst bottom six in hockey and can hardly field a defense of four NHL quality players — let alone six—it’s mind boggling that the general manager would not pounce on potential improvements. Remember, Snow built a competent team in 2013 almost entirely through the waiver wire. Now, he’s seemingly too good for it, but not good enough for actual deals.

Garth Snow went full Dr. Frankenstein on the Islanders roster and then tried to wash his hands of the mess. He created the monster, and wants no responsibility for the chaos it creates. It’s time for the excuses to end.

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