Good evening folks, Your Isles cub reporter is here checking in with a Q and A with the New York Islanders General Manager, Garth Snow. Earlier his week, T\here was a meet and greet for Season Ticket Holders who were being courted o renew for another year. Approximately 40 people atended and it was held at the bar in the Coliseum.
Right off the bat, you could tell these questions were going to be somewhat contentious. A Season Ticket Holder began by recounting Snow’s previous statements about the difficulty attracting UFAs given the team’s lack of stability off the ice and the difficulty in making trades when every other GM is asking for the sky. The fan commended the initial thought behind the rebuild but then bluntly asked why he should buy tickets if there was no way to improve the team this year.
Garth calmly replied the rebuild began because he was “sick of finishing as close to the bottom as we are to the top”. He then said numerous places, including Hockeys Future (those boys certainly needed a good plug this week) now cite the Isles as a top 10 farm system. “We now have enough assets where we can move pieces to make the team better now through trades. That wasn’t the case a few years ago.”
Methinks something is brewing here.
Another fan asked if the Isles were drafting for defense, given the opening on the blueline. Snow replied “our draft philosophy is best player available. Doesn’t make sense to draft for this team’s needs when that player will be 2 to 4 years away from being fully able to fill them.”
Another fan fired one of those eternal Isles questions. Who is the long-term solution in net? Snow’s reply and omission were telling. “Anders and Kevin look primed to fill that role, Mikko may contribute as well. It’s great to have Nabby to carry the load for next year.”
There was no mention of Rick DiPietro.
With my mind racing about that conspicuously absent name, I was called upon. For those of you hoping for butterflies, sorry, public speaking is part of my job. I asked, pointedly, about the opening of second line center (noting 12 and 51 were better served in other roles), and if Snow still intended to address his need of last offseason, a top 4 D-man. Snow responded as such,
“I do want to measure my answer, because I love Frans as a player, and love what he brings to the team. I was very glad to lock him up with the deal we did (this drew a large cheer from the previously somewhat subdued crowd, 51 is a fan favorite). That said, if we can pick up a dynamic offensive talent and lessen his minutes, we will do that. As for your other point, we need a top 4. They are hard to acquire, but as noted we do finally have the assets to acquire one of those players.”
Well, I floated back to my chair and got a supportive thumbs up from Kathy as an audience member summoned the greatest pure goalscorer in NHL history to the dais. Bossy was on fire tonight for whatever reason. The question was about the team gelling and finding an identity, as they seemingly lack one. Mike Bossy rose and fired. “We were going nowhere until Bill swung a deal for Butch Goring. After it was explained to me that Butch was the guy from Los Angeles with the weird looking helmet, I wondered why we wouldn’t make a deal to win the cup.”
That team won 4 cups on the heels of that deal. Boss implied that team identity takes priority over individual accolades (which he says was a tough lesson for him as a youngster). He drew a comparison of the new numero 91 to the immortal number 19, and then came to the question of team identity. “This team does have an identity. It’s identity is John Tavares.”
A question near and dear to Kathy’s heart was fired by a fan wondering aloud about when the team is competitive again, if they will still be accessible to their fans. Garth replied “ Yes, absolutely. The dynamic here on Long Island is different than any market I played in, all those big cities. We embrace the community, the community embraces us. We are part of the community.” Why does this team lack toughness? This was the only time throughout the whole Q and A Garth had some snarl:
“Tell Matt Martin, the guy who lead the league in hits by a wide margin and will fight anyone, this team doesn’t have toughness. I asked our leaders every now and then, if they felt they were being roughed up and wanted Trev (Gillies) or someone else from the Bridge to clean that up. They declined every time. Would you like a 4th liner who can contribute in all facets who has the capability to handle that if the situation arises? Absolutely. We’d welcome that guy. The game is too fast now for a one dimensional enforcer. Our team got called to task last February for a game against the Penguins. That’s the kind of identity; in terms of a team sticking up for itself you want for a group of guys.”
Garth more or less acknowledged Trevor was moving on and thanked him for his role in the community and his zeal for his role.
Pointedly, a fan brought up that Garth omitted DiPietro earlier. “We could not foresee this string of injuries when he signed that contract. He was an all-star. If he can come back, we will welcome him. But the position can be held down by Anders, Kevin and possibly Mikko, mentored by Nabokov while we see if Ricky can come back.”
A fan bluntly asked for the team to improve and to be given hope. Garth reiterated he expects to move assets for a top 4 D and expressed sincere disappointment this wasn’t a playoff team this previous year. A Josh Bailey fan asked where the organization wants him to start next season. “Josh will begin next season on the Wing. It’s a much more straight forward position defensively, allowing a young player to focus on developing offensively.”
The last question was about Nino, and Garth defended his much maligned use this year. “Though ideally, he would have spent the season in Bridgeport, it was good for him in the long term to struggle at this level and learn what he can’t get away with, rather than dominate another year in junior.” Garth pointed out THIS year, the AHL is an option. Garth quietly, at the end, expressed confidence Ullstrom, Cizikas and Donovan could make significant impacts if needed this year.
The formal Q and A ended and groups departed for the lockerroom. A number of folks asked Garth a few pointed questions off the cuff. One fan insisted Ricky should work his way back through the AHL. Garth didn’t shoot him down. Kathy confidently swaggered up to the GM exchanging talk about kids in mites and the goddamn New England Patriots.
Another fan thanked Garth on the way out. The fan lamented PA Parenteau becoming UFA. It was noted PA had a respectable (my wording, not the GMs, based on what was relayed to me) offer and chose to test the market.
I sensed an opening and thanked Garth for the team supporting Matt Moulson and Frans Nielsen who spoke out on behalf of the Burke’s You Can Play Team. Garth nodded and replied “What happened to Brendan, in terms of being forced out of the game, shouldn’t happen to anyone. As a parent, it hits you. Brian, Patrick and family are doing a wonderful thing and I’m proud of Matt and Frans for being part of it.”
That was that. I floated back to grab my notepad as Kathy was expressing delight at how well I conducted myself. Anyhow, on the way out, Garth playfully slugged me in the shoulder and said, “See you around.”
Pretty cool experience. A grateful hat tip to Kathy of SuperHockeyMom.com for being my running buddy for this and to Tom Giullieti, the best ticket rep in the NHL for getting me in to this event.