With the New York Islanders on the cusp of the playoffs and in first place in the Metropolitan division, how much credit does former GM Garth Snow get? None.
Cyrgalis’ argument rests on the notion that most of this team was drafted by the Isles former general manager. Specifically the defensive core of Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech.
And that’s fair, Garth Snow was responsible for drafting all four of them between 2011 and 2013. But there’s a reason that these four defensemen (and others on the team) have taken big strides in their game, and it has nothing to do with Garth Snow.
The most important factor to the Islanders success this season is head coach Barry Trotz. The way he sets up the New York Islanders defensively and offensively has put the team in a winning position. There’s a reason they’ve conceded a league-low 173 goals against compared to the 296 from last season.
Barry Trotz’s structure has allowed this team to be successful almost in spite of the lack of talent on the roster. Because let’s be honest this team, the team that Snow built is bereft of talent.
Outside of Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Ryan Pulock, where’s the talent on this team? Garth Snow had twelve years to assemble this team and this is what we have.
When GMs draft players they get an unfinished product. Garth Snow drafted players with promise, sure. But these players need coaching to reach their potential in the NHL. Garth Snow failed at developing his young players because of his coaching hires.
Ted Nolan was the first coach to work under GM Garth Snow. But Nolan was famously hired by the then majority owner Charles Wang and not by the GM. By 2008 philosophical differences caused Snow to fire Nolan.
Interestingly enough, goalie Rick DiPietro had the following opinion on what the Islanders needed from their next head coach after Nolan left.
"“We have a lot of exciting guys coming in. We need somebody that is going to be able to grow and teach those guys to become NHL players.”"
Snow hired Scott Gordon, the current Philadelphia Flyers head coach got his NHL start with the Islanders. Gordon might have been more willing to play the kids, being from the AHL just prior to his gig with the Islanders, but he couldn’t coach at the NHL level. After 181 games he was fired with a poor 64-94-23 record.
Next was Jack Capuano. Jack Capuano was never one to play youth. He famously put fifth overall draft pick Nino Niederreiter next to Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo on the fourth line. A move that alienated Niedereitter so much that he’d ask to be traded.
Niederreiter is now a 50+ point player out in Carolina. Capuano just wasn’t the guy to mold the youth into being better hockey players. Cause frankly he hardly played them.
Next up was Garth Snow and Jack Capuano’s second in command, Doug Weight. Weight was a former New York Islanders captain but he had never been a head coach at any level of hockey. After the Isles made a surprising run for the playoffs in his first half-season, his inexperience was revealed as the Islanders missed the playoffs by 17 points in his second year.
Credit? For What?
So what does Garth Snow get credit for? Picking those aforementioned four players? Ok. What about the guys Snow drafted that didn’t work out? And not just any players, what about the ones in the top five of the draft?
How about Ryan Strome. Or Nino Niederreiter. Or even Michael Dal Colle, who’s a healthy scratch on most nights at the moment. That’s three top five picks that haven’t worked out as planned.
The four players mentioned by Cyrgalis (Pulock, Pelech, Mayfield, and Toews) have taken great strides this season, but so have other players that have played almost exclusively under a Garth Snow structure.
Brock Nelson is a totally different player since Barry Trotz arrived. In 72 games this season he’s proven to be an effective two-way center in the NHL and has become one of Barry Trotz’s most trusted players. Something we never would have said about Brock Nelson just nine months ago.
This team isn’t successful because of what Garth Snow might have done a few years ago. This team is successful because of what Barry Trotz has been able to do with what he was given within mere months. Coaching was something Snow grossly overlooked, to his detriment.