The predictable and not totally unwelcome naming of Doug Weight as full time head coach this morning answered at least one of the Islanders’ burning offseason questions. That leaves about a dozen more, and by the sounds of things, we’re not going to get straight answers to them from Garth Snow anytime soon.
Weight’s introductory conference call was a chance for Snow to address some of the reasons why his team missed the playoffs by a single point this season. But in his remarks, Snow seems to chock the failure up to injuries, bad luck and... criticism? I don’t know.
Take this bit for example via Arthur Staple in Newsday:
Snow didn’t think it was a mistake to have Halak, Thomas Greiss and J-F Berube on the roster that long. “No, not really,” he said. “I thought our goaltending struggled the first 10 weeks of the season. We had an injury in Bridgeport with Christopher Gibson, who missed almost the whole season. We only had three NHL-ready goaltenders. There was a fear if we put J-F on waivers, we were confident he would’ve been picked up. We would’ve been left with Jaro and Thomas Greiss and two very young goaltenders. That injury figured into some of our decision making. Sometimes people don’t realize injuries at the AHL level impact decisions up here.”
We’ve heard this story before, but with the season finally over, you’d think it was time to simply admit the mistake and thank everyone for making the best of things. Guess not.
Maybe Snow’s right that another team would have picked up Berube on waivers. But was that really worth packing the guy in bubble wrap for two full years? He got into 14 games this season, including seven starts. He played well in approximately four of them. Was Berube supposed to become an everyday NHL starter despite barely hitting double digits in games played? Was that the plan? I doubt it.
It’s the kind of weird move that Snow seems to pride himself on (remember when he tried to goose the team’s power play by adding the blistering, unguided slapshot of Brian Rolston?). And, in fairness, some of those weird moves have worked out in his favor. But in the end, the goalie trio produced no more wins for the Islanders than they probably would have had with just Halak and Greiss. And by not getting the requisite games played, Berube is now set to become a Group VI unrestricted free agent next season.
At least Christopher Gibson will be healthy...
And via Brett Cyrgalis in The Post:
Clarity wasn’t exactly the optimal way to describe what happened when Snow began speaking. He made it seem as if everyone was pretty happy with how things have gone, rather than think this season was a step backward after the Islanders won their first playoff series in 23 years the previous year.
Snow suggested the team he put together was just somehow unlucky in this campaign — though they were relatively healthy. The organization has been under his stewardship since 2006.
“When the team loses, there’s going to be bullets and arrows flying,” Snow said. “It’s part of the gig.”
Snow is correct about those slings and arrows and has taken more than his fair share over the last 11 years, some more deserved than others. But he deserves a lot of the blame for this season given the many self-inflicted wounds that could have been solved or at least addressed more quickly. If you track Snow’s moves back to last offseason, the list grows even longer.
There are some serious issues with the construction of the roster, most of which is locked down for next season or beyond. To sum up the past season and the uncertain road ahead by saying, “Haters Gonna Hate” isn’t going to calm anyone’s nerves.
The best news from today’s availability was the team’s willingness to add more assistant coaches to help in areas that need improving. That would be a welcome change. But in regards to the front office, we’re still unsure if a new executive will be placed above Snow on the team hierarchy and, for now, it appears he’s as fully autonomous as ever.
Back to Staple:
Malkin and Ledecky have not ceased their search for a president of hockey operations, but Wednesday’s announcement would appear to mean any new hire will not have complete control of the team. Usually such a role would allow a president to choose his own GM and his own coach.
The Islanders need forward thinking to regain the steps they lost this season. That means addressing where they went wrong, learning why and adjusting as necessary.
After today, it doesn’t sound like Snow is even ready for Step One.