Islanders Snow With First Round Draft Pick Dilemma


Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

With the New York Islanders season coming to a merciful conclusion over the course of the next 22 games, it will be the 10 days after the re-opening of the NHL’s trade window on February 24 that will ultimately tell the story of general manager Garth Snow‘s tenure as the rebuild marches on.

There has to be a point where this team truly turns the corner and becomes a perennial playoff contender and the man at the top of the hockey operations food chain has come under fire lately for not accomplishing that task.

Snow has done a good job re-stocking the Islanders farm system with outstanding young talent like Ryan Strome, Anders Lee,  Ryan Pulock, Griffin Reinhart, Scott Mayfield, Matt Donovan and Calvin deHaan (both on the big club) just to name a few. There is little doubt that Bridgeport is one of the top feeder clubs in the entire league.

But those prospects have to work out at the National Hockey League level and that is where it has become dicey for Snow over the past couple of seasons. Josh Bailey, unquestionably talented, just cannot seem to get over the hump. Michael Grabner, arguably the fastest skater in the league, cannot get over his breakaway yips and become consistent. Kevin Poulin, in his first extended look this season has not commanded confidence he can take over the reigns for Evgeni Nabokov.

On the flip side of that coin, Brock Nelson has developed wonderfully and Donovan and deHaan have been the Islanders best defensive pair since the former was recalled on January 2. Strome showed glimpses of what he could offer but was under-utilized in his first run with the senior squad.

Of course, Snow took a gamble that fans have clamored for (trade for Thomas Vanek), spoke out when fans were screaming for him to do so (whether right or wrong on the topic of Tavares’ Olympics injury) and gets vilified either way. Today, the mainstream media around the league continued to pile on with column after column on Snow’s outburst from yesterday morning.

The fans have every right to be disappointed with the way the season has turned out for the Islanders and Snow’s perceived lack of attention to what was truly needed in the summer of 2013 (namely a replacement for departed Mark Streit and goaltending). The only counter-argument that could be given is that the talent level on both of those levels was suspect at best and Snow counted on players that were expected to step up actually doing so and performing at NHL levels.

Whether you believe in him or not, this is a very crucial summer coming up for an organization still looking to regain its identity and forge upwards in the league instead of just spinning its wheels season after season.

Snow wisely built a little known (at the time) hedge into the trade that sent Matt Moulson plus 1st and 2nd round picks to the Buffalo Sabres for Thomas Vanek. The 1st round choice can be deferred from 2014 to 2015 if it falls within the top 10 selections. And all indications are it will most certainly meet that criteria this season, even more so with the injury to Tavares putting him on the shelf until September.

The big question is, what does Snow choose to do? Some think the Islanders could finish as low as 29th in the 30 team league after the season standings are locked after the 82nd game for each club. Currently, they sit only 5 points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers for that distinction. It is almost a certainty that Buffalo will finish dead last and choose first in the 2014 entry draft.

Most pundits and ‘experts’ believe the 2015 draft class is the deepest in a decade, with talent that could define and change a franchise for years to come. This summer’s class looks to be about 4 deep with that élite of a distinction. Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett and Michael Dal Colle might fit.

Let’s say for argument’s sake the Islanders pick this season at 2 or 3, does he keep it and select Reinhart or Bennett to complement an offense still needing consistent secondary scoring? Or does he let Buffalo perhaps select two back to back franchise players and set his sights on that extraordinary 2015 class?

The answer is not certain to be an easy one, but could lie in what Snow obtains for Vanek prior to or at the March 5 deadline this year. If he can recoup a mid-level or shall I say top 10 selection in the 1st round for 2014, the decision to allow Buffalo to have the pick could be made.

Of course, the flip side of the coin suggests a prediction for the Islanders 2014-15 season as well. If they finally take that next step, which fans have waited seemingly forever for, the pick could be 15 or worse, as it was last year. That could make passing up on Reinhart for instance, very costly in the end game.

Does anyone want to tell me how easy it is to be a general manager of an NHL club again?


Tags: Draft Garth Snow New York Islanders Trade

  • Strawsome

    If you have a top 5 pick I think it’s a no brained to keep it.

    • Brian Delaney

      Next year’s Draft is deeper and more talented by far though.
      Go all in for next year’s draft. Hopefully spin Vanek and A mac into 2 1st rounders this year anyways. Buffalo can have our 1st rounder this year.
      If we are bad next year and get a top 2 pick we could be set for a while with McDavid or the other kid (forget his name off hand).

      • Killez

        Keep the pick this year if top 5.
        Isles moving to brooklyn 2015.
        So they will be able to spend more salary on their needs.

        • Brian Delaney

          Wang has all the money in the world. He can spend money. He would much rather put his money towards real estate than on the Islanders.

  • fnfelon

    I have no doubt that if the pick is in the top 5 that Snow will keep it. Snow has to; this fanbase needs success now. I’ve read what all the pundits say about 2015, but in all honesty a lot can happen in a year and who really knows where anyone will be next year. Isles fans, after waiting almost 7 years for a run finally got one last year. What all Isles fans believed was that last year’s playoff series would be built upon with a run further and deeper into the playoffs. It is now sadly apparent that this was not to be. Management incorrectly believed that the rather fully stocked minors would supply ready replacements for departed and later injured players. This franchise needs to win now; it would be a mistake to postpone that day. More importantly management will have to finally supply elite talent to supplement these promising kids if the Isles are expecting to make a playoff run. Finally, an experienced Coach like Ron Wilson would go a long way in helping these kids get to the next level.

  • Pivot

    The Vanek trade was very unlike Snow. He usually doesn’t jump after big name player towards the end of their primes. In Moulson he had a bargain contract at $3 mil per and a 30 goal scorer. If he wanted to shake things up, Bailey would’ve been the guy to move. He had a hot start and would’ve brought a high return. Now not only did Snow lose Moulson and Vanek won’t resign but he traded 2 top 3-5 picks in the 1st & 2nd rounds. I would pick this season since it’s such a high pick. They could have a great season next year and pick in the 20′s. Snow missed out on a few very good goalies like Scrivens, Thomas, to name a couple. He has to upgrade on Defense and in goal to contend for a playoff spot.

    • Steve

      Snow has done this before with Ryan Smyth. Vanek is not near the end of his prime. Moulson’s baragain contract was not going to be a baragain after this season considering he was a ufa. Now that we can see hes a 20 goal scorer away from Tavares that contract wouldnt be worth it. Tim Thomas is past his prime, hadnt olayed in a full year and wasnt the amswer. Scrivens was also acquired only a month ago and is also a ufa. And bailey wouldnt have brought anything back in a trade.

      • Pivot

        Thomas might be a quick fix but if he can win games in Fla then imagine what he could do with a team that can score. NYI just can’t keep the puck out. They could have resigned Scrivens. He’s still an unproven goalie so I think he may come at a bargain for the Oilers. Until now he’s been a backup in Toronto and in LA they played their 21 year old Martin over him. The Islanders could have made a play at Bernier before the Leafs got him. Nabakov isn’t getting the Islanders anywhere. Poulin isn’t ready.
        Snow traded away 2 draft picks in the top 35 picks and Moulson for Vanek. They got fleeced.

        • Steve

          Thomas and Nabakov have posted very similar numbers this season. Would not have made a difference. You can argue he couldve helped in a backup role which i would agree with, but Snow chose to give the younger player Poulin his chance to see what we have in him. Yes the Oilers may be able to resign Scrivens, but he and his wife hae already had some choice words about being traded again. Id suspect he tests the free agent market. The isles did make a play at Bernier. LA took a shitty offer from Toronto bc they included an NHL level backup goalie that the isles didnt have. Snow should be able to recoup those assets back by trading vanek at the deadline. Nobody was fleeced here.

  • Steve

    So many people complain about how we’ve been rebuilding forever and we’ve been bad forever. Technically speaking, the rebuild began in the 2007-2008 season after the failed attempt at signing Ryan Smyth. He started the rebuild with virtually zero assets either on the roster or in the system. We had top prospect kyle okposo, frans nielsen and i believe amac who was in the system. Outside of that there was nothing of value. Not to mention the burden of yashin and dipietros contracts, a laughingstock franchise, a quirky owner, a dicrepit building and money constraints. The main aspect of rebuilding is to be bad. The point of drafting high for several years is imperative. Last year, which was year 5 of the rebuild we made the playoffs albeit a shortened season. Despite not being able to address goaltending issue more was expected from the team this year from simple growth from within. Like you wrote earlier many people were on board with this as well. Now that things have gone south everyone wants to jump back on the “everything the isles do is wrong bandwagon”. People clamored for a star player and snow acquired that player in Vanek. Its ignorance for people not to see the clear differences between vanek and fan favorite moulson. Moulson’s production has dipped severely since leaving Tavares’ side and Vanek helped form one of the leagues top lines. This is Snows stage now to make his legacy as GM. The team failed to meet expectations and we shall see how he reacts. Theres no doubt things havent gone according to plan this year and maye the actual plan was never necessarily a good one, but these next few weeks and this offseason will be the real test. Success is never a straight arrrow path. Look no further to the dynasty team. Ill reserve jusgement on Garth until October of 2014. It will be the most crucial spot this team bas been in during his tenure thus far.

    • Pivot

      All I’m saying is Snow has had years to address the goaltending situation. Had he done so the Islanders are a perennial playoff team. I’m a Ranger fan but watch the Islanders terrible defense. I think they need a big 4th liner. A top pair stay at home defenseman and a goalie. Bernier is young and could have grown with the young team. Snow trading for Vanek was unlike him. He made a bad trade giving up too much. True Moulson has not had a great year without JT but no one in Buffalo is scoring much. Now the Islanders will lose a year of that rebuilding through the draft. Top 5 players this years draft are franchise players. I just feel Snow has been patient for so long doing it the right way. The core of his team has 6 games of playoff experience. It takes a few more series for a team to learn playoff hockey. Now was not the time for Snow to make that Vanek trade. He doesn’t have the D or goaltending for a long playoff run. Or the playoff experience.

      • Brian Delaney

        Top 5 players in this year’s Draft are franchise players???
        Please explain. .
        I am all ears..
        2015 Draft maybe.. Not next year

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  • Þorsteinn Halldórsson

    Let´s see what a rag tag renegade rookie team can do out there – remember stranger things have happened and playoffs even far off are still inreach???? I for one want to see bridgeport suit up in the islanders jerseys what the f#$k why not…just saying.

  • markp

    The GM cannot say “I will pass on a top 5 pick this year- because we plan on sucking again next year”. look at how Lou handled the choice of when to lose his #1 in NJ.
    I like the idea of requiring a mid round pick (Ottawa’s via Anaheim in a Vanak trade) (with Gibson I hope) but I don’t buffalo has to take that pick…..the deal likely relates to islander sourced pick only, so buffalo would have to “trade” our 2015 back to us.
    I don’t think Lafontaine will make it easy on the Islanders-

  • B_Olton

    Only a tough decision if Snow already knows he will fail miserably improving this team yet again this summer. Let Buffalo have the pick next
    year…Use what WILL BE a top 5 pick this year. Have a good summer of free agent
    signings FOR ONCE. Field a much better team next season and plan on not
    just making the playoffs…but winning a round or two. If he doesn’t
    defer the pick….plan on next year sucking too. Because that’s a red
    flag IMO that we won’t likely see the dramatic improvements we deserve
    next year…and he’s already looking at picking top 10 in the 2015