You would think there would never be a moment of peace for a manager of a professional hockey team. However, with a great deal of time between the last game of the season, and the first one for the season to come, there is an opportunity to take a spell and forget about the sport they are employed to manage. For Garth Snow, his hands are easily full.
“I have four boys, and the oldest is seven, so if I have to, I sneak out and make a call or two”, said Snow to me on a phone call the other day. ”During the off-season, when it gets a little slow, I get out of the office to spend as much time with the boys as I can.”
At the time of this call, he was in New England, spending time with his family, and we had a chance to spend some time, and reflect on some issues that took his efforts this summer.
“I think we addressed some needs that we had coming out of last season, signing Matt Carkner gives us some bite on the blue line, size, toughness, can make a great first pass out of the zone”, replied Garth. He just does not get enough credit for making plays, and being an effective player in this league.
Garth was also very pleased with his acquisition of Eric Boulton and Brad Boyes on the first day of free-agent acquisitions.
For Boulton he is comfortable of the fact that he has been around the league for a number of years and the toughness factor. He is comfortable that Boulton knows his role and likes the way that he ‘steps up for his teammates.’
As for Boyes, Garth feels that he is a “…strong player that has been able to score a lot of big goals in the past, and if he is give the right opportunity, he can recapture the touch that he has had in the past.”
From the conversation, you can hear the confidence in his voice, and it is evident that he is excited for the prospects.
On draft day, Garth also obtained the services of defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky from the Anaheim Ducks. On the surface, Snow feels that he acquired a Top 4 blueliner. However, he (Visnovsky) is still looking to see if he contract allows for this trade to happen. September 3rd is the date that there will be an arbitration hearing on the signing.
In addition, it was announced that Visnovsky was injured racing in Slovakia, when his Ferrari went out of control. Snow has talked to the backliner, and he is fine.
As of this week, there is only one Islander that is still not signed; and that player is Matt Martin. According to Garth, as of now, “he did not accept the qualifying offer from the team” (usually 10% over his previous contract value), and is hence still a restricted free agent. Snow feels that he will sign in time, and will return to the Islanders.
The last biggest concern on the Island, is in the net. With Evgeny Nabokov returning this season with his new contract, the big question, as it has been for the past few seasons, is if the curious case of Rick DiPietro will be back between the pipes this season. Again, listening to the tone of the answer, Snow is quite confident that his 15 year goaltender will not only be back, but will be strong.
“He is healthy. Rick does not get enough credit for the things that he does off the ice, especially with the goalie camp, on his own time”, said Snow. ”The one positive that we have, is that we have strength in the goalie position, with Nabby, Ricky, and (Kevin) Poulin and (Anders) Nilsson. There is definitely a lot of strength in the position. Mikko (Koskinen) will remain in Europe. He was qualified, and will remain in Europe to get some playing time during the season.”
For the immediate future, Snow is extremely happy about how Ryan Strome performed at the recent Canada-Russia challenge. ”Ryan played well over there, and our scouts were extremely happy at the way he played throughout the tournament. He is still young, and has a real good chance to come to camp and potentially make the team.”
As far as the CBA is concerned, he can not talk about what is going on. He is not directly involved in the negotiations, but is getting word as to what is going on. He feels comfortable that the talks are moving in the right direction, and feels now that the season will start as planned.
To many naysayers, we will hear that Snow did not do enough. Why has he not spent big money on the players that were available? What I can tell you, is that he is comfortable with his building from within for now. He has always said to me in the conversations that I have had with him, that if the right situation came up, he would pull the trigger. With the changes on the backline, the re-emergence of a 100% goaltender, and the additional maturation of the young forwards, I believe that he feels that he is improving without major additions.
Snow has always been honest and forthright with me – and it is my opinion that he has did some good work on his summer. Let’s wait until the middle of the season, to make the determination as to whether his moves made a difference in how this team has played, or not.
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