Well? What would you have done?
The last few weeks, as with every week in Islanders-fandom, have been filled with the gnashing and wailing of teeth. The causes have been repeated over and over: Garth Snow is staying on as GM, in a season where everyone felt a firing, or at least a loss of power, was not only a good idea, but the only one that made sense.
That didn’t happen. Many fans feel betrayed by ownership, as there had been a league-wide search for a president of hockey operations. But what is in the minds of fans often clash with the reality of the situation.
For a start, would any of the president choices really be the saviors that people claimed? Wayne Gretzky? His record in management hasn’t been strong, including when he was coaching the Coyotes. Is there any evidence he understands the modern game and knows the proper way for the team to improve?
Dale Tallon? For those who want a new-school direction, Tallon is a no-go. The Dave Bolland contract he signed, as well as his drafting of Erik Gudbranson, portrays a GM who values grit and leadership above skill…the exact profile of an executive the Isles should be avoiding. (Ed. Note: Tallon will be staying on as the Panthers GM).
Pat Brisson? The owners were pushing hard to have John Tavares’s agent run the show, and that may not have been a bad idea. An agent has the connections to know the major players in today’s hockey world, and may have a finger on the pulse of who the hot GM and coaching candidates are. But no matter how the owners pleaded, he refused the job—and you don’t want someone running your hockey operations who half-asses it.
So this leaves Snow. And with the alleged massive contract that he has (thanks to Charles Wang), the owners felt they could only justify his firing by bringing in another big name to take his place. You can disagree with that all you want but it’s a more complicated discussion when it’s your money.
And of course, there’s the bigger elephant in the room. By all accounts, JT is a creature of comfort. Staple indicated that if Snow was replaced, it wouldn’t bode well for the odds of Tavares resigning. For whatever faults the fanbase has with Snow, Tavares likes both him and Weight. If they were gone, who would he have loyalty to in the organization? Owners he’s only known for a year?
And for those who say that “if a star player has too much power in personnel, then they should go”, I have a question: How do you get a superstar in today’s NHL? You get them through the draft, which requires your team to be very bad, sometimes for a long time, and to be lucky. You can suck, and still not get in the top 3, or be No. 1 in a draft where it’s Nail Yakupov instead of Auston Matthews. A rebuild wouldn’t be good on or off the ice. On the ice there’s no guarantee that the team would be bad enough to get a top draft choice, particularly considering how difficult it is to win the draft lottery now.
And off the ice? The Isles fanbase is teetering on the edge of a cliff. A rebuild might send them over it. So Tavares has to stay. And that means Snow is in charge for now.
You may hate it. But ask yourself, given the realities of the situation—appointing a head of hockey operations who may not be suited for the modern game, and risking Tavares being uncomfortable and leaving—what would you have done?