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Garth Snow: Three-goalie system due to Halak’s injury history

In an interview about Jack Capuano’s firing, the Isles GM’s frankest answer was about not being able to rely on Jaro’s health

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Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
Halak “historically has a tough time staying healthy.”
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In some media follow-up a day after announcing that Jack Capuano had been fired as New York Islanders coach, general manager Garth Snow appeared on the “Power Play” show with Scott Laughlin and Patrick O’Sullivan on SiriuxXM’s NHL Network.

For the most part, you already know what he said before he said it. At least in terms of the decision to fire Capuano, and what it says about the much-maligned offseason moves, Snow stuck to a script longtime fans know. However, on a few other topics there was at least a little insight into his thinking.

But first, when asked about whether Doug Weight will finish the season as coach, Snow’s answer was a winding road from his talking point sheet about how “Doug Weight is our coach,” something about systems not changing much without training camp, and a big game coming up Thursday. He also wouldn’t touch reports that the Isles had permission to talk to Gerard Gallant before they fired Capuano.

Takeaway: It’s clear that a coaching replacement could be named, if the right fit came available, and in fact it sounds like that is in part why the Isles made the move when they did, knowing that they wanted a non-Capuano coach in place next season.

O’Sullivan then offered him the opportunity to say they still have a shot at the playoffs, etc.

“We have players who need to step up and take the next step. You can always look back in hindsight, but you deal in real time with the information you have and make decisions based on that information. It’s the same whether you win the Stanley Cup or finish in 30th place, you can always look back and say coulda-shoulda-woulda. Only one team gets to look back and say they made all the right decisions.

Perhaps the most interesting, though not necessarily new info, was his elaborating — or confirming the conventional wisdom, really — his thinking behind carrying three goalies for a year and a half: Jaroslav Halak’s history of untimely injuries.

Laughlin asked Snow, as a former goalie, why they carried Jean-Francois Berube as a third (and little used) goalie for so long.

“A couple reasons. It didn’t seem to hurt us last year.

“To go back why it started, we picked up J-F Berube off waivers when Jaro wasn’t healthy to open the season. And thank goodness we did. If it wasn’t for Berube last season and some of his performances, we probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs*.

“Go up to training camp this year, there’s usually five or six goalies in camp. We get an injury to one of our goalies in the AHL, so for us we didn’t really have the opportunity to get away from the three-goalie system, because we weren’t healthy in that area.

“You know there’s a track record with Jaro when he was here, he hasn’t proven to be a goalie who can play 65-70 games...not that there is that type of goalie anymore with the way the schedules work, but he historically has had, uh, a tough time staying healthy for 82 games, so that was in the back of my mind. It seemed like a good idea to have three goalies. Like I said, it worked for us last year.”

*editor’s note: This is technically true, in so far as Berube started six games and was credited with three wins and an overtime loss in 2015-16, good for seven standings points.

Halak’s injury history, of course, does go way back. But they don’t address it in quite this way without falling in love with Berube.

Anyway, with Halak getting lots of starts this season and staying healthy but performing poorly, the Isles finally put him on waivers at the end of December and assigned him to AHL Bridgeport.

To close out the interview on SiriusXM, Snow also fielded questions about what they need in a coach and whether John Tavares has input in the decision, both of which were answered as you’d expect. Listen to the full interview here or via the Twitter embed below: