5 Reasons New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow Should Be Fired

Ryan SzporerContributor IIIMarch 8, 2014

5 Reasons New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow Should Be Fired

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    New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow.
    New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow.Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke/Associated Press

    New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow should not be fired for sending All-tar Thomas Vanek to the Montreal Canadiens this past trade deadline.

    In fact, while the return for Vanek (a second-round draft pick in a below-average draft and a mid-level prospect in Sebastian Collberg) was laughable, to a certain extent, Snow should be commended.

    After all, according to ESPN’s Katie Strang, Snow said the offer was the best the Islanders received by far. Granted, he also said the Isles “felt ‘very fortunate’ to have made that trade,” and one has to believe at least there he’s lying through his teeth.

    However, if you’re to believe the first part—and, considering the perception Vanek will pursue free agency this offseason, it’s very believable—credit Snow with putting the organization first, even if he probably waited a lot longer to trade the man than he should have.

    Snow easily could have refused the Montreal offer and kept Vanek until July 1, at least making it seem like the two sides were trying to work out a long-term extension. However unlikely that end result would have been, the optics would have been infinitely better.

    At least this way, he was able to get something for the top-line winger, admittedly at the further expense of his image as a incompetent GM. So, no, the Montreal trade should not alone be the reason Snow gets fired. It should, however, be the last straw. Here are five others that together should break the camel’s back:

5. Moulson-Vanek Snafu

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    Former-New York Islanders forward Thomas Vanek.
    Former-New York Islanders forward Thomas Vanek.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    As mentioned in the first slide, Snow shouldn’t necessarily be fired for getting just a second-round pick and Collberg for Vanek (and a fifth-round pick). However, he should be in large part because of what he gave up to get Vanek in the first place.

    Back in late October, the Islanders were a mediocre 4-4-3 when Snow traded away soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Matt Moulson, a first-round pick and second-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres all for Vanek, another pending UFA.

    While there’s little denying Vanek is the better of the two players, Snow essentially gambled that Vanek would push the Islanders over the top. In the process, he sacrificed what will end up being a very high first-round pick and an underrated player whom he had already signed to a total of three different contracts, each time on the cheap.

    Needless to say, judging by his current address, Vanek? Much less likely to re-sign with New York.

    At the end of the day, he essentially dealt Moulson and first- and fifth-round draft picks (the second-round picks are a wash) for a prospect that is currently playing in Sweden and may not pan out.

    In contrast, Sabres GM Darcy Regier ultimately translated Vanek and Cody McCormick into a first-round draft pick, three second-rounders and Torrey Mitchell (albeit in part through Tim Murray, who traded Moulson to the Minnesota Wild last week).

    Regier, of course, ended up getting fired for his efforts. Just saying.

    Admittedly, there’s still a chance that Moulson can re-sign with New York this offseason, but put yourself in his shoes. Would you go back to the Island after being stranded there for five seasons? The allusions to Lost are just staggering.

    Even under the assumption Moulson is still loyal to Snow for initially signing him back in 2009, that would only have been a bargaining chip as long as the Islanders held exclusive negotiating rights until July 1 and all other teams entered the fray. They don’t have any now.

    Thanks to Snow, they don’t have much else, either.

4. DiPietro Deal

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    Former New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro.
    Former New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro.Associated Press

    When Snow signed goaltender Rick DiPietro to an unparalleled long-term deal back in September of 2006, he was hoping to get 15 good years out of him. He only got one before injuries started taking their toll.

    Now, thanks to a compliance buyout, the Islanders will be paying DiPietro $1.5 million each year up until 2028-29, according to capgeek.com.

    Now, none of that will be counting against the salary cap, but that’s still pretty amazing for a guy who last “played” (in the non-traditional, decent sense) seven years ago. I mean, so bad did it get for DiPietro that during the lockout he ended up playing tier-two German hockey.

    Even if you were to chalk up the DiPietro disaster to a string of injuries no one could have possibly predicted, it’s not like he did anything to deserve that level of commitment from the Islanders in the first place. The season before, he posted a 3.02 goals-against average and a save percentage of .900.

    Know who else posted a .900 save percentage that season? Peter Budaj of the Colorado Avalanche, Marc Denis of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Jason LaBarbera of the Los Angeles Kings, none of whom were ever starting goaltenders close to being worthy of DiPietro’s $4.5 million annual salary.

    Whether the 15-year deal was Snow’s brainchild or not, he has to take responsibility for it, because the Islanders were taking a huge risk of handicapping his team at the goaltending position (and the team in general) for the next decade-and-a-half on the off chance it didn’t work out.

    Well, it didn’t work out.

3. Inability to Solve Goaltending Dilemma

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    New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
    New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov.Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    Since the 2007-08 season—six years ago—a total of 12 different goaltenders have suited up for the Islanders, and that’s not even including DiPietro, unlucky No. 13. Well, actually, his number was 39…so three times as unlucky and mediocre? Yeah, that sounds about right.

    You can blame the DiPietro contract and the hope that he would eventually get healthy and start earning his 15-year contract all you want for handcuffing Snow. However, that’s a lot of swings and misses. And it’s not like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, either.

    Currently, the Islanders are 16th in the league in shots against per game (30.3). That’s certainly not great and points to a porous defense (yet more holes on the roster that need to be filled), but the kicker is they are last in the league with an average of 3.33 goals allowed per game. There is simply no defense that bad that could possibly justify that level of goaltending.

    Not only that, but the organization is absolutely bereft of blue-chip goaltending prospects. According to hockeysfuture.com, Anders Nilsson is the closest thing the Islanders have to a potential starter in the organization, and he currently has a .883 save percentage this season through 10 games and only projects as a competent journeyman goalie, if that.

    It’s not for lack of trying, either. Since Snow took over, he has drafted six different goalies. Granted, goaltenders take time to develop; Snow drafted two this past summer and one may yet pan out. However, as far as goalies are concerned, he’s already batting 0-for-12. What's the likeliest outcome here in your opinion?

    By the way…Snow? Used to be a goaltender. Again, just saying.

2. Poor Drafting Overall

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    Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville.
    Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville.Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Of course, to be fair, Snow’s drafting incompetence isn’t limited to just goalies. Sure, he hit the John Tavares pick out of the park back in 2009, but how often do GMs screw up the first overall pick?

    Not that often—and really, only and handful of times dating back to the turn of the century, when a certain goaltender out of Boston University by the name of Rick DiPietr…oh, God, will it ever end???

    That was, of course, Mike Milbury’s pick, so no one can possibly hold that against Snow. However, he really hasn’t fared much better. For example, none of his 2007 picks panned out. In 2008, when he picked Joshua Bailey ninth overall, he missed out on Cody Hodgson, Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson and Jordan Eberle.

    To his credit, he did pick Travis Hamonic in the second round and a few sleepers later on in Matt Martin and Jared Spurgeon, both of whom have played over 200 games in the NHL. Unfortunately, all of Spurgeon’s 210 have come with the Wild after Snow failed to sign him.

    In 2009, he again managed a few good picks besides Tavares in Casey Cizikas (92nd overall) and potentially Anders Lee (152nd overall), two picks he impressively acquired in one fell swoop by trading his 56th pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    However, he also held the 12th pick, with which he selected defenseman Calvin de Haan, who has played just 41 games in the league. With the exception of one (Philippe Paradis; 27th by the Carolina Hurricanes), every single remaining first-round pick in that year’s draft has played more.

    That includes other superior defensemen (if the Islanders were indeed hellbent on picking one with that pick) like Florida Panthers Dmitry Kulikov (14th) and Dylan Olsen (28th), Chicago Blackhawk Nick Leddy (16th), New York Ranger John Moore and Pittsburgh Penguin Simon Despres (30th).

    With the 31st pick, the Islanders meanwhile selected goaltender Mikko Koskinen, narrowly missing out on the Colorado Avalanche’s Ryan O’Reilly (33rd) and, oh yeah, Ottawa Senator Robin Lehner (46th).

    In 2010, Snow also wasted his first-round pick by selecting Nino Niederreiter fifth overall, whom the Islanders largely discarded, trading him away to the Wild for third-line grinder Cal Clutterbuck. Niederreiter has since found some success in Minnesota, with 30 points in 62 games.

    Even if one were to argue Niederreiter never would have worked out in New York, Snow could have alternatively chosen either Jeff Skinner (seventh), Mikael Granlund (ninth), Cam Fowler (12th), Jaden Schwartz (14th) or Vladimir Tarasenko (16th). That’s five different success stories in a span of the next 11 picks, almost a 50 percent success rate. Instead, Snow settled for Clutterbuck.

    The bottom line is that New York can do better…on so many different levels.

1. Two Playoff Appearances in Eight Seasons

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    New York Islanders captain John Tavares.
    New York Islanders captain John Tavares.Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    Ignoring the DiPietro contract, things started off relatively well for Snow in New York in 2006-07. It’s, admittedly, a pretty big elephant in the room, but for the sake of the argument, assume it didn’t happen.

    His Islanders made the playoffs that season, and he was even named executive of the year by Sports Illustrated. Of course, it’s not exactly a publication known for its hockey knowledge, but, hey, neither is Snow at this juncture.

    The Islanders then went five more seasons before making the postseason again. When GMs speak of five-year plans, it’s assumed to be a plan to win the Stanley Cup. He needed six just to reach the playoffs a second time. And now the Islanders have taken yet another step back.

    With 16 games left, they are 15 points behind the New York Rangers for the final Metropolitan Division playoff berth and 14 behind the Detroit Red Wings for the last wild-card spot. Barring a miracle of biblical proportions, New York will not make it this spring.

    Meanwhile, trading away Moulson makes it less than likely they, now down a top-line winger, will make it back next season. The losses of Vanek and Andrew MacDonald, each of whom Snow couldn’t convince to stay, kind of reinforces that fact and paints an even bleaker picture for the future.

    That’s not even taking into account the loss of former captain Mark Streit, who last year similarly had to be traded to the Philadelphia Flyers after it became clear he wasn’t going to stay, either. This was a guy who actually decided to come to New York from the Habs back in 2008.

    If you have trouble convincing guys who actually had a choice to come here to stay, you’re counting a whole lot of unhatched chickens hoping Tavares will when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018. That, by the way, is another four-, not five-year plan away.

    Just how many years will it take Snow to get this team back to the playoffs? Islanders fans should hope they don’t have to find out.