Or so those commercials go, telling you to find something that will keep you above the influence. In Garth Snow, Charles Wang found someone to keep him above the years of Milbury influence. The whole Ilya Kovalchuk drama shows that the Islanders organization appears to finally be above the Milbury way of thinking. We'll probably never know how everything worked out (or if the whole thing was a bluff by Kovy's agent) but the situation seemed right out of the Milbury textbook. Disappointingly manage to sign none of your major FA targets on day one, then on day two try to steal the spotlight by making a big splash with horrible logic behind signing him (he'll help the Lighthouse Project).
Instead it seems cooler heads prevailed and Snow walked Wang away from the cliff. The slow gradual rebuild survives one of its scarier moments of being rushed forward. In the future we might look at it as we look back now and see Bill Torrey turning down Sam Pollock's quick fix offer for Potvin. Through it all though, there was no bluff and bluster, no bashing of agents or players and no putting your own publicity ahead of the team. There was no outbidding yourself for how much you were going to pay Kovy. Snow said what we've come to expect him to say, that he was just doing his due diligence and no offers were made.
Just last year everyone seemed to be begging Garth to open up. Announce the draft pick early and spend the summer marketing the pick to your fans was the rallying cry. Instead Garth played it with a complete poker face up until he finally made the selection. In the end, keeping quiet about the pick might have been the best move. It created one of those great moments, when the absolute roar went out through the arena at the draft party following his pick. That was followed up by chants of "Let's Go Islanders". Snow himself didn't promise the cup, or that the youngster would turn around the team in a year. Instead he kept it short and simple "John’s a special hockey player and an even better person."
The quiet path so far seems to be working. When John Tavares struggled this year there wasn't a GM running to the press to proclaim he was in the doghouse. In the end, despite his slump, JT ended up second in rookie points. JT didn't have unrealistic goals he had to meet. He didn't have to try to carry the whole team by himself. The same can be said when you look at this years draft and Snow's quote about top pick Nino Niederreiter "He's a big power forward, he can score goals, he's a great kid, There's a lot to like. We're excited about him." No Stanley Cup promises, no yelling and screaming that you picked the best player in the draft, just short sweet and to the point.
Rebuilding a team is a slow process which requires patience and stability. So far we have seen both of those in strides. The bad news for this off season is that players we hoped would improve the team a step or two quicker went elsewhere. There is good news abound though. Scott Gordon is about to become the longest termed coach of the Islanders since Al Arbour. Doug Weight is back again as captain, giving the youngsters on the team another year of maturing before they pick up the C. They have cleared out a lot of the guys brought in to bridge the gap in order to give the youngsters a chance in the NHL.
Garth Snow might be a little too quiet and a little too tight lipped about his plans. But in the end as long as the team keeps improving and adding high quality prospects there's not much to complain about. For ten years we saw the opposite way, and can't think of anyone that would want to go back to that. It's not about what's said with the war of words. It's not about making a bigger splash then everyone else. In the end it's about the product on the Ice, and that's what should always be first. A famous movie quote is "If you build it, they will come" well for the Islanders, it would be better to say "If you win, they will come".