Today, we begin a four-part examination of the executive career of former New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow. His triumphs, his shortcomings, and their effects on the present and future of this franchise.
It occurred to me recently that next year would’ve been the final year on Rick DiPietro‘s ludicrous 15-year contract. So began my look back at one of the most universally scorned regimes in New York Islanders history. The Garth Snow years were sometimes good, sometimes bad, and always fascinating.
To add some more depth than would be possible in one post, I’ve decided to break this into four different segments. Volume one will look at Garth’s best moments at the helm of the New York Islanders. By the time we get to the fourth volume, I’ll have descended far enough down the rabbit hole to likely make me regret this idea.
Garth Snow’s playing career officially ended on July 18, 2006. That same day, he was named the sixth general manager in New York Islanders history.
Snow possessed multiple degrees in administration from the University of Maine. He put those degrees to work in his first year, wheeling and dealing often, to debatable degrees of success. See what I did there? But, for his efforts, Garth was named the 2006-07 NHL Executive of the Year by Sports Illustrated. Admittedly, this doesn’t really represent his magnum opus.
The best move Garth ever made as GM was drafting John Tavares, the pajama boy. Tavares was a slam dunk to go number one overall in 2009, and Garth made the pick. Ignore whatever fans think of him today, as it isn’t pertinent to the 2009 draft selection. But don’t fret, we’ll circle back on John Tavares later in this series.
The darkest days of the Islanders’ late 2000’s/early 2010’s rebuild were littered with solid on-ice personnel moves by Snow. He drafted Travis Hamonic, Josh Bailey, Calvin de Haan, Casey Cizikas, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and more. He even drafted Jared Spurgeon, though he elected not to sign the undersized defenseman.
He hilariously fleeced Peter Chiarelli twice more after the Boychuk trade. Swapping Griffin Reinhart for two 2016 draft picks that would become Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. In summer 2017, he would trade the underachieving Ryan Strome to Edmonton for Jordan Eberle. A decisive win in a one-for-one player swap.
For me, a mid-90’s baby, there are few moments of sports-related elation that ring louder than game six of the 2016 first round versus Florida. I’d waited literally my entire life to see a playoff series win to that point. In spite of happenings since then, it still holds a very dear place in my Islander fandom.
In total, 16 of the Islanders’ current 21-man active roster were either signed, drafted, or traded for by Garth Snow. Jordan Eberle, Matt Martin, and Andrew Ladd are currently injured, bringing the total to 19 players Garth had a hand in bringing to the organization. Plus, many others in the minors and under the organizational banner playing abroad.
Garth Snow can be lauded by Islanders fans for a lot of things, but there’s plenty of time for that. As dark as things appeared in summer 2018, Lou Lamoriello, Barry Trotz, and Mitch Korn inherited a team of players mostly put together by Snow. Last year, that team defied everyone’s expectations. It’s been more of the same this season.
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I’m not saying he deserves the credit for this team’s success. But I am saying that he was instrumental in putting a lot of pieces in place for a roster with potential. A potential that is being fully met, if not exceeded right now.