Saturday, December 06, 2014

N.Y. Islanders: Garth Snow's Critics Laying Low


N.Y.I.   19-7-0    38 points
N.Y.R.  11-9-4    26 points
N.J.D.   10-12-4  24 points

NEW YORK ISLANDERS: In his eighth season as general manager, Garth Snow might be the metropolitan area's junior executive next to Lou Lamoriello and Glen Sather, but he's presently doing the best job.

Although Garth Snow inevitably came up empty in the Matt Moulson trade, no one is harping about Thomas Vanek these days (unless you're a bookie that is).

At the time, the previous year's playoff series against the Penguins left many greatly anticipating the team taking another giant step forward in 2013-2014.

However, the team had obvious shortcomings on defense and in net.  Not only did the trade delete John Tavares' popular line mate, Vanek addressed neither issue, which caused many fans to find a place on the fence.

We know Snow's gamble failed to pay off.  The Islanders were unable to overcome a poor start, and did not qualify for last season's playoffs, and Thomas Vanek moved on to sign a free agent deal elsewhere.

In a different town; a different situation; perhaps the net-gain zero trade of a very popular player, and failure to make the playoffs adds to unemployment figures.  However, the continuing post-Milbury reconstruction under Charles Wang has been a very forgiving process.

If nothing else, Garth Snow showed some poblanos, chalking the trade up to - nothing ventured; nothing gained.

Fair enough.

To that point, Snow had already put together a young, fast, and physical team, that was capable of scoring with consistency.  Perhaps a chance to retain a veteran player of Vanek's caliber was worth a shot.   As an impending free agent himself, it would have been far more difficult to maximize a return on Matt Moulson through another team, lest we forget Buffalo was the NHL's most highly motivated seller.

Then what?

This last off-season, Garth Snow very smartly shored up his defense, and vastly upgraded his goalie situation.

For the moment, perhaps no single acquisition indeed shines more brilliantly than goalie Jaroslav Halak.  In exchange for a 4th round draft pick, I'd say Garth Snow did well.

In Thursday's 2-1 victory over the Senators, Halak, 29, earned a franchise record 11th straight victory, breaking the mark set in 1982 by Billy Smith.

Although he only ranks 19th in the NHL with 18 starts, he is t-3rd with 3 shutouts, t-4th with 14 victories (14-4), 7th with a 2.05 GAA, and 8th with a .926 save percentage.

On Saturday night, he'll have the opportunity to face his former team, the St. Louis Blues, whom seemingly had no use for Halak, yet presently find themselves desperate in net and earlier this week signed Martin Brodeur.

Playing in front of Halak, the former Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy, and former Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk, have repainted the Islanders blueline.

Nick Leddy, 23, is presently playing up to expectations, and (IMO) still packed with offensive potential.  This is a trade I feel will only get better as the season progresses.  Quite frankly, I don't know what Chicago was thinking.  Meanwhile, in addition to the size and presence he brings to the ice, Boychuk is off to the best start of his career.  In 26 games the two have combined on a +9, with 25 points.

No Moulson; no Vanek; no problem.  Garth Snow and Coach Capuano unleashed Brock Nelson this season, and the young 2nd year center is responding.  He is on the power play, his overall minutes are up, thus he's benefiting from increased shot opportunities.  In return, he has 7 PP goals, and a team leading 12 goals, and is tied with John Tavares with a team leading 23 points.

All this so far has contributed to the Islanders NHL leading 19 victories this season.  They enter Saturday night's action in sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division, and trail Tampa by one point for the conference lead.

Not incidentally, those who widely criticized Snow's lack of experience over the years are now laying low.

In his eighth season as general manager, Garth Snow might be the metropolitan area's junior executive next to Lou Lamoriello and Glen Sather, but he's presently doing the best job with the least resources.


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