The New York Islanders live in the past of the team’s successes but dwell, too, in past failures. Garth Snow still has to learn the balance of what makes a winning team.
For too many years, the Islanders roster resembled the revolving door at the Plaza. Through the Milbury years especially, young talent was shipped out for what would turn out to be very little return. There have been too many years of longingly watching the likes of Zdeno Chara, Bryan McCabe, Eric Brewer, and Todd Bertuzzi find success in colors not blue and orange.
Fortunately, Garth Snow isn’t Mike Milbury, nor is he Don Maloney and those two facts have to go a long way in endearing him to a fanbase. But, if nothing else, he drafted John Tavares (no brainer that it was) and that in itself was a game changer after the mess he inherited. He committed to building around Tavares and while it’s taken time, it’s been done the right way.
Young players have been given the opportunity to develop, mature, and get better. An actual core was built and assets weren’t sold off for has beens. We’ve been there, we’ve done that and I’d rather live through the frustration of Josh Bailey’s inability to reach his full potential than see these boys develop on other teams.
Snow has shown some pretty surprising savvy when it comes to the draft, especially last year when the Islanders went into the first round with no picks and walked away with Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. He really upped the bar for himself when he pulled off the Leddy and Boychuk trades and the team virtually flew to a one hundred plus point season.
That growth put Snow in uncharted territory and what seems like a pretty precarious position now, after what felt like an under-achieving performance this season. This is especially true with new ownership taking control and the growing pains at Barclays. There are higher expectations from every direction and it’s a much bigger fall now. Snow’s penchant for waiting and relying on the development of youth worked before the success of the 2014-2015 season.
It didn’t work this past season and now the team is faced with more changes than it’s seen in years. The core Snow built is on the verge of undergoing the true beginning stages of disassembly with the likely loss of Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin and the possible departure of Frans Nielsen. John Tavares’s next contract looms large and what the Islanders do between now and then has to factor in to any decision he might make.
This isn’t a simple fix and Snow will more than likely have quite a few holes to fill. Expecting the youth to step in and perform back to – or better – than the previous two seasons isn’t going to, nor should it, appease anyone.
The Islanders have turned a corner and made the team and organization a more appealing place to play. With the exception of Thomas Vanek, it’s becoming a place to which players come and want to stay and Boychuk was a coup in that respect.
Snow has been filling holes for years. It’s not about filling holes anymore. The time to upgrade is now. Snow has to change his mode of thinking ahead and do some thinking for now.