By the end of Wednesday’s conference call with Doug Weight and general manager Garth Snow one thing became very apparent, Snow remained fully in control of the Islanders.
Speculation swirled over the past few months that new owners Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin were looking to bring in a new president of hockey operations to work with, or possibly above or even to replace, Snow. However, following the Islanders’ announcement that they’d be retaining Weight as head coach it appeared that Snow was safe.
Weight was deserving of the Islanders’ head coaching job, sure there were some hiccups along the way, but the U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer dragged the Islanders out of the Eastern Conference gutter and into the playoff hunt. But the hire was clearly a decision made by Snow, an indication that he isn’t going anywhere at the moment.
Having Weight stay on as head coach was something that Snow had on his mind for a while. In fact it was something the Islanders longtime general manager had been thinking about for the last month of the season, even before knowing what coaches would be available after the regular season was over.
“I was just hoping and had my fingers crossed on personal level,” Snow said about be able to convince Weight to take the gig.
Despite the strong finish that Weight was able to get out of the Islanders, it was a disappointing year for the team that Snow assembled. The Islanders went 17-17-8 before Jack Capuano was fired on January 17, created a bizarre and drama filled three goaltender situation for the first half of the year, allowed defensive prospect Ryan Pulock to sit in the AHL all season, and Snow’s big offseason additions didn’t begin to hit their stride until the second half of the year.
This all came after three of the team’s core players left via free agency in the offseason, prior to the 2016-17 campaign, but ownership remains willing to let Snow hold the reigns of the organization.
“I’ve had a tremendous amount of support from ownership,” Snow said. “Communication as president and general manager, it’s maybe not on a daily basis, but you speak several times a week. The communication has always been there and it’s something I’m grateful I’ve always had the support of ownership… It’s been a great working environment.”
Still, Snow knows that outside of the organization not everyone is happy with the way things have played out, especially this season. A number of decisions raised the eyebrows of fans and observers, especially the decision to carry three goaltenders, which led to some rather uncomfortable moments.
Snow reasserted that he made the right decision there, highlighting the team’s belief that JF Berube would have been claimed on waivers if the Islanders sent him down and that an injury to AHL goaltender Christopher Gibson played into the unusual situation.
“For us it was an injury that obviously figured into our decision making,” Snow said. “A lot of times people don’t realize that injuries at the AHL, how much they impact decisions you make with the depth you have here. Not just limited to goalies… When you win no one questions it.
“When you’re sitting here like we are we, with 94 points one point out of a playoff spot, you leave yourself open for criticism. It’s part of the drill, we get it, I understand it, but we make the best decisions with the information we have at the time.”
In 11 years with Snow in charge the Islanders have just one playoff series win in four postseason appearances, while also going six years between playoff berths from 2008 to 2013. The Islanders failed to qualify for the playoffs after making it the year before three times (2006-07, 2013, 2016-17) and Snow did not make any major additions to the team following the 2013 and 2014-15 season.
Now, Snow will be at the helm during perhaps the franchise’s most important offseason they’ve ever faced.
The Islanders must navigate through this year’s expansion draft, figure out their goaltending situation, bring in some added help and most importantly find a way to re-sign star captain John Tavares. The latter will be high on Snow’s offseason agenda, because if Tavares, who still has one year left on his team friendly deal, indicates he won’t re-sign it opens a new host of other issues for the Isles’ GM to deal with.
“We’re going to give our best shot in getting him signed,” Snow said. “He’s got one more year on his six-year contract and that should happen towards the end of June and July. We’ll start that process.”
As for some of the other issues Snow will have to deal with, he’s jumping in head first to handle them.
“Doug and I will get to work today and plan for the expansion draft,” Snow said. “Plan for potential roster improvements, get ready for the draft, so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done between now and July.”
Snow said he would be opening to bringing in new people to the Islanders’ front office, but at the same time it isn’t clear if that will happen. For the time being, and for better or worse, Snow remains in charge of the Islanders organization.
So what happens next is on Snow, regardless if he thinks that GMs – like goaltenders – “probably gets too much credit when a team has success and wins and you probably get too much of the blame when your team loses.”