Garth Snow believes that his job as New York Islanders general manager is safe. Fans and many NHL insiders are scratching their heads at that very notion.
Speaking to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple, the former goaltender remarked that his job status never even crossed his mind. “I’ve been doing this for 12 years,” Snow told Staple on Monday. “From Charles (Wang) to Scott (Malkin) and Jon (Ledecky), I’ve always had support privately and publicly.
“I’ve never given it a thought until you asked that question.”
With a new coaching staff — “I think they’re doing great,” Snow said — the Islanders have emerged as one of the league’s premier offensive powers. The team ranks third in goals-per-game (3.33), 11th in power play percentage (21.4) and second in third-period tallies (71).
The Islanders have three skaters — John Tavares, Mathew Barzal, and Josh Bailey — that are on pace for over 80 points. That isn’t good; it’s great. With an offense like that, the Isles should be at the top of their division.
Unfortunately, things haven’t gone that way. For as good as the offense has been, the defense has been just as bad — if not worse.
Take any imaginable metric — save percentage, penalty kill percentage, goals-against per game — and the Isles rank either last in the league or close to it.
The defense is sabotaging the season.
Earlier in the season, I argued that the Islanders’ defensive woes were internal, and needed to be treated as such. “The problem with the Islanders right now is that there are multiple problems — too many to fully fix externally,” I wrote. “Change needs to come from within, and it needs to happen collectively.”
While that hasn’t changed, Snow’s offseason moves — most notably, his trade of Travis Hamonic, who returned to Barclays Center this week — have led many observers to place their blame not on the players, but on the general manager.
Snow, for his part, doesn’t “think we’re in a position to be spending draft picks on rentals.” The Islanders netted Calgary’s first and second-round pick in the Hamonic trade, but Snow doesn’t seem ready to deal.
It’s unclear whether he plans to act on Thomas Greiss, the veteran netminder who has had one of the worst seasons in recent NHL history. His goals-against average of 4.02 is the highest in the league since Mike Bales, Arturs Irbe and Wade Flaherty, in the 1995-96 campaign.
While Greiss still has plenty of term on his deal, Matt Di Giacomo argues, “The Islanders simply cannot afford to waste a top-tier forward corps and leave John Tavares questioning whether or not his squad has the potential to excel with just a couple of months left before he’s set to hit the open market.”
(Tavares, the captain, will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.)
It was painstakingly obvious that the Isles were going to struggle on defense — particularly their second-pairing — yet Snow did nothing to address that. Fans have had it up to here with their general manager, inciting “Snow Must Go” chants and, more recently, funding a project to build a billboard, à la New York Jets, on Flatbush Avenue and 6th Avenue.
To many, it’s been a long time coming. In Snow’s 12 years at the helm of the organization, the Islanders have won just one playoff series. This year especially, with such a talented offense, the Islanders should be competing for first place. Instead, they’re at the bottom of their division, struggling to stay afloat.