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Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow. Garth Snow Has Islanders Prepared to Compete Both Now and In Future

Garth Snow (Getty Images)

Garth Snow (Getty Images)


The future of the New York Islanders is as bright as the white snow that falls on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues (at least for now, because perhaps in a couple years it could be Willets Point). Since becoming GM ten years ago, Garth Snow has successfully performed a full rebuild of the Islanders, and has turned them into a legitimate playoff contender, having reached the second round for the first time since 1993. While the losses of Kyle Okposo, Matt Martin, and Frans Nielsen were to the ire of the hearts of Islanders fans, Snow acquired former Winnipeg Jets captain and Champion with the Blackhawks, Andrew Ladd to play alongside John Tavares, a much needed void to fill on the left side. Snow has spent years trying to find the perfect players to play alongside JT and Okposo: fan-favorite Matt Moulson; veteran Thomas Vanek to replace Moulson; former first round draft pick Josh Bailey; and even younger players like Ryan Strome. But earlier this summer, Snow may have found the final puzzle piece in P.A. Parenteau.

The return of Parenteau to New York could mean Tavares centers a line with two experienced veterans, which could end up becoming a major turning point in his career. Tavares had been lined with wingers closer to his age, and has been forced to develop his game without in-game veteran experience, and he certainly proved to the hockey world that he is as elite as elite players come. But now, he’ll likely be in the middle of two veterans, which might be the most important move for the Islanders in establishing themselves as a perennial playoff threat. Just in case either one does not hang on the top trio with JT, Snow still boasts one of the best prospect pools in the NHL rivaled only by a select few organizations, such as Toronto. I have little doubt Ladd will not work well with JT, but in case Parenteau doesn’t work out in his second go with the Isles (he played pretty well with JT the first time he was with the Islanders six years ago), he’s only locked in for one year, $1.25 million – an incredibly cap-friendly situation for a guy who put up 41 points with an offensively-challenged Toronto team.

On the back-end, Snow has wonderfully placed reliable defensemen on the blue line. But more than that, the Islanders have acquired some great defenders who can also have a significant impact on offense. Nick Leddy is one of those players, and he is particularly great on the powerplay. Leddy led the team’s defense with 40 points this season (5 goals, 35 assists), 19 of which came on the man advantage (3 goals, 16 assists). Guys like Boychuck and up-and-coming d-man Ryan Pulock boast a monster of a clapper that might even make this season’s shot block champ Francois Beauchemin rattle in his skates. Speaking of shot blocking, Calvin de Haan ranked fourth in the NHL for blocked shots this past season with 198 in 72 games while still contributing 16 points.

Youth is one area in which the Islanders are extremely fortunate. With young studs like Joshua Ho-Sang, Keiffer Bellows, Matthew Barzal, Michael Dal Colle, and Anthony Beauvillier, the future looks even brighter for the Islanders. That might be from the goal lamp being lit so often. Bellows has a shot even his daddy Brian is envious of. All of the aforementioned prospects had more points than games played for their respective clubs last season.

Also very important in the youth movement, over the past few summers, Snow artfully drafted what seem to be promising defensemen. Loic Leduc towers at 6’6” and 229 lbs. On the other end of the height spectrum is David Quenneville at 5’8”. But don’t let his size fool you. In 64 games played with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, Quenneville put up an impressive 55 points from the blue line. While the other 29 teams dismissed him for his size, the 7th-rounder (200th overall) is a little diamond in the rough. Though he’s only 18-years old, he may someday play alongside his uncle, Johnny Boychuck, and against a cousin of his, Blackhawks’ Coach, Joel Quenneville.

Just like anything in life, we must take the bad with the good. Perhaps Halak is getting flashbacks from his time with the St. Louis Blues where he had to battle Brian Elliot and rookie at the time Jake Allen for the starting position. When Halak signed with the Islanders before the 2014-15 season, it was thought that the starting job would be his and his alone, without constantly having to look over his shoulder to see if someone else will steal the job from him. But now it’s déjà vu all over again. Not only has Greiss proved to be a viable starting netminder, Jean-Francois Berube showed that he could be a reliable backup. In seven games, the 25-year old maintained a save percentage of .914 and a goals against average of 2.71. Not the best of numbers, but then again, not the best of statistical pools to analyze either. Halak has struggled with inconsistency his entire career. For his sake, hopefully he stays healthy this season. As for Islanders fans, a little competition never hurts when it comes to finding your best starters.

Are you an Islanders fan that is still upset that Kyle Okposo, Matt Martin, and Frans Neilsen are gone? Do you still think the team is now worse off? Have I not convinced you otherwise yet? Let me take a final stab at that. I will premise this by stating that all three players are great players and were a ton of fun to follow. Okposo was third in points, first in assists, and second on the team in points with 64, 23 of which came on the man-advantage. He had no problem getting dirty in the corner digging pucks out for JT. In that sense, the Islanders will miss that portion of his game. However, there are two types of great hockey players out there: those who need other great players to be great, and those who make other players around them great. I believe Okposo is the former, whereas Tavares is most certainly the latter. Okposo’s points were inflated simply by playing alongside the Isles captain. Again, I’m not taking anything away from Kyle. Back in 2014 when Isles fans were angry that Okposo got snubbed from Team USA, he continued to produce despite JT’s absence in the lineup. I’m sure he’ll have similar success in Buffalo playing alongside Jack Eichel. But JT needs proven veterans. He needs next level players, not because he’s not great enough, but because one player will simply not bring the team the Stanley Cup all by himself, no matter how elite he is. Just remember, the Oilers won the Cup without Gretzky (I know this example is an exaggeration, but you get my point). I’m sure Andrew Ladd and P.A. Parenteau will have no problem picking up the slack in the corners.

As for Frans with the Hands, as I refer to him, losing him for the penalty kill hurts. But perhaps it’s time for Jack Capuano to let Brock Nelson take over that pivot role. Though his faceoff percentage was just below half at 47.9%, Brock continues to grow as a player in all areas. Just as “youth” has been the keyword the past couple of seasons, the penalty kill should be no different. Maybe Alan Quine, if he cracks the main roster after training camp, will get a chance to slide right into the penalty kill role, as he is a natural centerman. Or maybe Ryan Strome if he ever signs a contract sometime this summer…

Martin was certainly a fan favorite and his charity work (on and off the ice) is to be applauded. From an emotional standpoint to Martin leaving, I can’t help Islanders fans there. All I can say is that it is the nature of the business-side of sports in general – players will come and go. I believe Chimera will do a fine job as his replacement, possibly better. There may not be as many hits to go around with Chimera, but Chimera is an experienced veteran and knows how to get the job done. Last season, at 36-years old, Chimera notched 20 goals and 20 assists, good for double Martin’s point production. Not bad, eh? Just don’t expect the veteran to drop the gloves…

The bottom line is, if the NHL created a GM of the Decade Award, I’d imagine Snow would at least get a look. Of course, everything looks good on paper until the team hits the ice, but the Islanders will no doubt continue to appear in the playoffs, and will only get stronger as playoff contenders as the years go by. The only downside of many of the contracts offered by Snow is that they are one-way deals, meaning the player must clear through waivers before being sent to the minors. This means Garth may have some more tricks up his sleeve, especially given the fact that Ryan Strome is still without a contract as of Friday. Regardless, Kudos to Garth Snow. I’m sure Bill Torrey is proud.

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Evan is the Hockey Editor for He provides coverage of the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers, as well as some league-wide content.

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