It has been said that a man cannot choose his own family. While obviously it is not the same situation, I feel that I am similarly stuck with my Isles.
True, I picked them as a 7 year old boy brought to his first hockey game by his father. I gasped in awe at the white ice and the speed at which the game was played. I enjoyed the four year dynasty along with so many of my fellow Long Islanders. I suffered through the embarrassing debacle of the 1990's (save for a lone highlight season cut short by Dale Hunter’s cowardly attack on Pierre Turgeon.). They were a team I couldn’t bear to watch because it seemed like victory was never safe. But I could never bring myself to look away either. They are my team and I can no sooner disown them than I could a crazy uncle or a nerdy cousin.
Having established that I am Islander fan for Life or longer, I’ve had to take the good with bad, to put it kindly. What it really means is that I have had to endure some of the most bizarre situations any NHL fan has ever encountered. The Fishsticks, the Spano Fake Purchase and Mad Mike’s unfathomable trades are all subjects that can be covered in future blogs.
When I first learned that Garth Snow, last seen tending the Isles nets (and not very well, I might add) was going to replace Neil Smith (whom I found a curious hire in the first place) as General Manager of the team for whom I have rooted, suffered and defended for nearly 30 years, my heart sunk.
When I later heard Charles Wang lauding Snowy’s alleged ability in assessing talent and his keen business mind, my next thought was "What exactly is Wang basing this on?"
Smith, in his brief tenure, was busy in the Free Agent market, acquiring Witt, Poti, and Sillinger, among others. When Snow took over, he did a commendable job, landing Sean Hill and Viktor Kozlov prior to the season. He obtained Marc Andre Bergeron to quarterback the PP. He also shocked the hockey world by trading for Ryan Smyth, Captain Canada himself (though at a large and, in hindsight, ridiculous cost). We will cover DP’s 15 year contract at another time. I simply don’t have the strength at the moment.
In the early days of Free Agency this summer, Isle fans far and wide were calling for his head after we lost Smyth, Blake, Poti and Kozlov, with Jon Sim being the lone player coming to the Island. I say that some of the circumstances that exist were beyond Snow’s control. Smyth never wanted to be an Islander to begin with (though, to his credit, he conducted himself as a professional in his time here). Blake bought into his own press and knew that one 40 goal season would be enough to ensure a large payday in the increasingly unrealistic NHL Free Agency market. I do, however, hold him accountable for losing Poti and Kozlov, both of whom could and should have been retained.
He redeemed himself somewhat with the Bill Guerin/Mike Comrie/Ruslan Fedotenko pickups. I believe these players possess a critical element that Smyth and Blake lacked....they WANT to be here and want to play hard for Ted Nolan. This is the new mantra of the Islanders and I want to believe that all future deals will be done with this in mind.
Snow’s entire credibility hangs in the balance right now. If he can obtain a hard-hitting defenseman and a 1st line center without raiding their already depleted Prospects Cupboard, he will be given credit for fielding a playoff contending team. If he doesn’t, this team is no better than mediocre and the perception that "You too can be an NHL GM" will be alive and well.
Dr. StrangeSnow has the cap space to operate. Due to the fact I am a true Islander fan (and therefore give myself no choice), I must hope the patient recovers.