Garth Snow, the maligned general manager of the New York Islanders, has the next two months to figure out how to salvage his job.
On the tenth floor of CBC headquarters in Ottawa, commissioner Gary Bettman and his team of league officials established the top three picks in the draft by drawing three separate balls in a lottery machine.
First came the Buffalo Sabres. The league’s worst team — winning number combination 1, 4, 6, 14 — won the top pick in the 2018 draft. Then came the Carolina Hurricanes, who jumped from the No. 11 spot to No. 2. Finally, after a redraw, the Montreal Canadiens were awarded the third pick.
The Islanders finished the season 35-37-10, good for the 10th-worst record in the league. Because of last June’s Travis Hamonic trade, the Isles also owned the Calgary Flames’ pick. With two first-round selections in hand and a nearly 20-percent chance at winning one of the top three picks, general manager Garth Snow’s team entered Saturday night’s event with cautious optimism.
In the end, it didn’t matter.
New York just couldn’t catch a break, and now own two mid-round picks. Unsurprising, sure. But still pretty disappointing.
In Brooklyn, team officials will spend the next few months preparing for the upcoming draft. It’s there that they’ll comb through dozens of prospects in search of the next big thing.
The Islanders have only selected 11th and 12th one time each in their history, landing Pat Price in 1975 and Calvin de Haan in 2009.
New York entered the draft lottery with a 6.5 percent chance of winning the first pick. Instead, they’ll have fewer options, but an equally important decision at hand.
Even though New York has repeatedly tested the patience of its fanbase during its protracted rebuild, the team will approach the draft seeking to restock a depleted farm system.
With their two selections, the Islanders are expected to consider centers Joe Veleno and Barrett Hayton, defensemen Jett Woo and Bode Wilde, and wingers Joel Farabee and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
But critics of general manager Garth Snow believe that the team should trade their picks for established talents, rather than keeping them to select players that will only make an impact in the future. The Twitter user @donaldrosner, replying to the Isles’ official page, tweeted, “SNOW WONT (sic) TRADE THOSE PICKS, HIRE SOMEONE WHO WILL.” That sentiment was echoed across other platforms as well.
SNOW WONT TRADE THOSE PICKS, HIRE SOMEONE WHO WILL
— donald rosner (@donaldrosner) April 28, 2018
For the time being, the Islanders seem to be hedging their bets on Snow, who has guided the team to just one playoff series win since 2006. With each passing year, the general manager has come under increased scrutiny for failing to assemble a winning squad.
The Islanders, however, believe that he can still build one.
Snow will have two first rounders, the presumptive Calder Trophy winner and a horde of forwards at his disposal.
But skeptics are quick to point out that captain John Tavares is an unrestricted free agent with little incentive to stay in New York. Ilya Sorokin, the top goaltending prospect in the organization, likely “has two more years left on his contract” in Russia, Snow admitted to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple. And despite that forward depth, the Islanders are overpaying Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Andrew Ladd, meaning that they have less money to spend on other contracts.
For Snow, the choice boils down to this: Will trading these picks, either to a team at the top of the draft or to another club in order to acquire established talent, help the Isles achieve both short-term and long-term success? If the answer is no, then Snow will likely keep the picks.
But under increased scrutiny by a justifiably impatient fanbase, Snow might not have much of a choice. Frustrations are reaching a boiling point, and soon may be too late for Snow to salvage the job he has owned for the last decade.
Despite all this, in an interview two months ago with Staple, Snow claimed that his job security never even crossed his mind. “From Charles (Wang) to Scott (Malkin) to Jon (Ledecky), I’ve always had support privately and publicly. I’ve never given it a thought until you asked that question.”
The hope among critics is that Snow will feel the pressure and make a franchise-altering move on the night of the draft. More likely, though, is that the Islanders make their two selections. After that, Snow may be in so much hot water that even he is aware of it. Or, so the critics hope.