Islanders History vs. Garth Snow: The Ugly
By Ryan Grosso
In the first two installments of this series, I looked at both the good and the bad of Garth Snow’s executive career. Today, we’ll be looking at the ugly, Garth’s worst two moves as the general manager of the New York Islanders.
I initially got the idea for this series when I discovered that next year would’ve been the final season on Rick DiPietro’s 15-year, $67.5 million contract. The decision was much maligned by New York Islanders fans and pundits alike back in September of 2006.
Still, I couldn’t do a Garth Snow series and not talk about the 2018 John Tavares free agency debacle. I would give both of these topics their own articles, but that would be overkill. So this’ll have to do.
The Rick DiPietro Contract
Garth Snow had been general manager of the New York Islanders for less than two months when he signed 24-year-old Rick DiPietro to a 15-year, $67.5 million contract.
Back in 2006 ESPN called the Islanders a “three-ring circus”, in reference to the deal, the firing of Neil Smith, and Snow’s transition from backup goalie to general manager. That estimation was painfully accurate both at the time and in hindsight.
DiPietro was coming off a high-water season when he signed his ludicrous new deal. He would have two more healthy seasons with the Islanders. A hip injury sustained in the 2007-08 NHL All-Star Game shut him down in March with the Islanders out of the playoff race.
From 2008-09 to the end of his Islanders career in 2012-13, DiPietro played in 50 NHL games.
I can’t help but place all the fault on this at Garth’s feet. Even though the Islanders’ executive landscape at the time preached the idea of decisions by committee. Neil Smith, I don’t think, signs anyone to a 15-year contract. We all know Lou Lamoriello wouldn’t.
The inherent risk of signing any player to a deal that long should’ve been enough to dissuade the decision. You can’t blame DiPietro. He signed a sweetheart of a deal that was handed to him for two seasons as an NHL starter. Even he said 15 years was a long time, back when he signed the contract.
John Tavares, and the Summer of 2018
John Tavares said he didn’t want to play anywhere but Long Island. He then left Long Island for the glistening shores of Toronto. We all remember what happened.
There are many ways to tackle this topic. My opinion is that by July of 2018 there was nothing the Islanders or Lou Lamoriello could’ve done differently. Tavares felt he was owed time to make his decision, and he was. At the time I’m sure he did what he felt was best for him and his career.
The organizational ineptitude under Snow’s watch should be blamed here. Sure, the franchise had just taken on Lou Lamoriello as the President of Hockey Operations, and had hired Barry Trotz as the team’s new coach.
But for years Garth never surrounded Tavares with the level of talent he deserved. For most of his career Tavares had to elevate guys like Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau to strong seasons in Crosby-esque fashion.
I may catch flak for this, but I’m not mad at John Tavares anymore. He gave this organization a lot of his prime years, and the Islanders waited too long to show him any return on that investment.
Look at the Tampa Bay Lightning and Steven Stamkos. They gave their star center every opportunity to leave as well, and he signed two days prior to the opening of free agency in 2016. Not because he owed it to them, or their fans, but because management had put the pieces in place for him and his team to be successful.
To this day Garth is the only NHL GM I can recall whose lost a player picked first overall in the entry draft to free agency.
Garth Snow made many horrible decisions in his time at the helm. These two are what I consider the worst. Any GM can sign a bad contract, or put the wrong coach behind the bench. These moves are indicative of organizational incompetence. Particularly, the kind of incompetence that has come to define Garth’s executive career.
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Next week we’ll close the book on this series. I’ll be looking at how Garth’s tenure will affect the Islanders in the present and beyond.