I'm masquerading today as a reporter. I made my way to the morning skate and Garth Snow's press conference at 10:30 a.m.
I felt I needed to be there. I haven't seen Snow in weeks, so I wanted to see how he was fairing during these troubled times. Trade deadline time is always stressful for everyone. But even more so for the general managers who have to make these deals and the men who have to pack quickly.
"The last week to ten days, there have been lots of conversations and lots of talk, Snow said. "I compare it to fishing. You drop your lines in the water and see what unfolds. We're obviously in a situation where we're going with younger players and giving them an opportunity to play significant minutes. Our younger players have made great strides. But I don't think that happens without the proper leadership."
It had been mentioned that Chris Campoli had asked for a trade. As a gentleman, Snow was reluctant to give the details of those closed door conversations. He reiterated his admiration for Campoli as both a player and a person. If nothing else, the Islanders are a room full of quality, character players.
"Chris Campoli is a good, young defenseman and a great skater, he can move the puck and he has an element of offense. We gave up a good young player for a first round draft pick," Snow said. Snow was sincere and quiet in his tone. I'm sure this wasn't the easiest thing for him to do.
"We have a significant amount of draft picks in the first and second round and we're going to build this the right way." His determination to stick to the plan is apparent.
"A first round draft pick is big. As you see around the league, teams are holding onto those draft picks. It's a situation that falls into our criteria of what we have planned for the future and it's up to us to draft a good hockey player" (You hear that, Ryan Jankowski? Make it so). This draft will be huge for the Islanders.
Snow continued, "We need to build this team through the draft, and then once we draft the players we have to develop them. That's the way I see us at getting to where we want to be."
Speaking of developing young players, the development of Jack Hillen may have factored into the equation of being able to part with the likes of Campoli.
"He's come up and played extremely well, in his own right, he's a good puck moving defenseman and he can skate," Snow said. "(He is) a very smart defenseman who is a couple of years younger (than Campoli)."
Hillen will certainly get his chances to continue his development on this team.
In return for Mike Comrie and Campoli, Bryan Murray (who was the first to make a trade LAST season) sends Dean McAmmond. Basically he's a fourth-line, 15-year veteran center who has been said to have blinding speed and a propensity for injury. Wow! Could there be a better fit for the Islanders? Additionally, what is left on his contract is only a drop in the bucket compared to what the Islanders dispensed by trading off Mike Comrie.
"We're happy to have Dean in our locker room and we hope he will be a great influence on our young players," Snow said smiling.
When asked, Snow did not hesitate to praise Comrie and his time on the Islanders. "He's been first and foremost a great person. Very productive, especially last year, until he got injured. It's a situation where it will be good (for him) to go to Ottawa. It's familiar to him and we wish Mike all the best. He's a first class person."
Of course, in today's economy, we were wondering how reluctant teams would be to trade for the higher-salaried players. The Islanders don't seem to be in that boat right now to worry about salary considerations.
"The number one priority for me is to make this a championship caliber team. Any deal we make in the future will have that mindset. We know where we're going and we have a plan to get there. And this is just another example of us following through with our plan."
Translation: "I ain't done yet."
Bottom line: "Draft & Develop."
We waited around for quite awhile before Scott Gordon returned after practice for his turn in front of the tape recorders. Tom Liodice and I were joking that he was taking as long as possible so he wouldn't have to answer the "So, what did you tell Campoli that made him ask for a trade?"
The questions started with his thoughts on Hillen instead of his thoughts on losing Campy.
"Well obviously, Jack's come up and he's shown that his time he spent in Bridgeport was good for him," Gordon said. "He's stepped up his play and we're comfortable knowing he can play significant minutes and be able to compete at this level consistently."
As a first-year NHL coach going through trade time, Scott said he was holding his breath knowing that he would be losing a player. When it came to the problem with Campoli, Gordon stated in a fatherly manner, "I wanted Chris to want more from himself. And since we sat down, I thought he was going in the right direction. Like I told him, it's a tough situation when you have an All-Star defenseman in front of you that is as good as (Mark Streit) he is."
"Defense is something that you can get better at, and for me, he was. His compete level was higher. I had no problems with Chris." All he told him was, 'I want you to want more from yourself.'
It is obvious that Gordon is a good coach for the younger players. He is an excellent coach for the younger players. He wants to bring the best out in each of them, and wants them to reach their highest potential. As any good teacher, sometimes he may be looked at as wanting too much. But it's obvious that he may know what a player is capable of, even when that player doesn't see it in himself.
Good luck, Campoli. We will miss you in the community. We wish you all the best.