Garth Snow was a shocking choice when he was named the GM of the New York Islanders in 2006. Snow had recently retired from the NHL, finishing his career as a goaltender for the Islanders. Even though the team has struggled the past few seasons, Snow has actually done a phenomenal job. He has built a very strong foundation in what Islander fans hope will be a championship contender for years to come.
Lets start from the beginning.
In the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, one of Snow's first moves was trading up to get Travis Hamonic, which turned out to be a big one for the New York Islanders today. A promising prospect just a year ago, Hamonic now looks to be the centerpiece of the Islanders defense for years to come.
In 2008, Snow did some positive things as well as some things that ended up costing the team. He traded away the fifth overall pick and acquired a first-round draft pick for the next season. With the draft pick they acquired from the Islanders, the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Luke Schenn, a defenseman the Islanders would love to have right now. With their first-round pick the following season, the Islanders would take Josh Bailey--a center who has mostly struggled with the Islanders--and defenseman Aaron Ness. 2008 wasn't all bad for Snow though: he acquired David Ullstrom in the draft at the expense of a third-round pick.
In 2009, the draft pick that stands out is John Tavares. I won't give too much credit to Snow here, as Tavares was the obvious choice. Some credit, however, must be given because Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene were also available, and at this point it appears that Tavares was the right pick. Snow also traded up to acquire Tavares's teammate, Calvin De Haan, in exchange for defenseman Nick Leddy. Right now it is tough to make a judgement on this trade, as De Haan has yet to see significant ice time with the Islanders, and has struggled with injuries.
In the same year, Snow also took a chance by claiming forward Matt Moulson, who is now the first line left winger and looking at his third straight 30-goal season.
In 2010 and 2011, Snow started to make his mark.
In 2010, he traded for James Wisniewski, acquiring him from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a third-round pick. When the Islanders fell out of contention, Snow traded him to Montreal, acquiring a second and a fifth-round pick. Snow made an investment, turning a third-round pick into a second and fifth-round pick.
He also claimed Michael Grabner off of waivers, and while Grabner has struggled this season, he was the Islanders leading goal scorer during the 2010-2011 season, scoring 34 goals, including 19 in 31 games after the All-Star break.
In 2011, Snow may have made his best trade to date as the Islanders GM. When Islanders goaltenders continued to get hurt, he traded a sixth-round pick for Al Montoya, a former top prospect who had been struggling in the Phoenix Coyotes organization. Montoya has been phenomenal in an Islanders uniform, although he has struggled since returning from a concussion suffered earlier this season. In addition, Snow claimed Evgeni Nabokov off waivers, and although at first Nabokov refused to play for the Isles, he may be considered one of the most valuable players on the team.
So that is Garth Snow's resume. Snow usually gets a bad wrap from the Islanders' fans, but the fact of the matter is that he has done a pretty solid job since being named the GM. If it weren't for him, the Islanders would not have their current rock-solid foundation, led by guys like John Tavares, Travis Hamonic and Matt Moulson. At the very least, you have to give Garth Snow a "B" for the job he has done so far. His next challenge, which will be his biggest so far, is to convince and acquire a prolific talent to play alongside Tavares and the rest of the team.