First off, let me apologize for my horrible writing skills and grammar but I need to get this off my chest.
For a bit of background on me, I have been an Islanders fan since 2000 so I haven't been a fan my entire life. I was born and raised in Northern Ireland, moved to London at 15 to play soccer professionally which coincided with me discovering the Islanders and retirment due to injury before moving to America to coach full time in Rochester. During my professional soccer career I began to watch American sports due to the extreme travel involved with my career which led to being up all hours of the night watching games from 1am to 3am in the morning regularly. I loved the speed of the game and picked the Islanders to support because the more I read about the history of the expansion team the more I loved them plus due to location so I could conceivable watch them some day live. I didn't grow up playing the game, hell, Northern Ireland only has 1 rink in the country so the more I watched the more I picked up.
But to my main point, from the moment I have been a fan of the team, the Islanders have came across as a 3rd rate organization from top to bottom. Far too often people focus on the NHL portion of the club and not the overall picture. Yes the new practice facility is outstanding and the arena in Belmont is going to be great so thanks to the new owners for that but we still aren't anything close to how a professional franchise should operate. Personnel running the franchise needs to be addressed from Scouting, development, coaching and general management.
Lets look at the scouting network we employ. In 2012 we had the lowest amount of scouts employed in the entire NHL. This was during a period of time in which we were "rebuilding" with high pick after high pick. Surely as part of the rebuild investment would be made to maximize the return? If we don't have high quality scouts looking under every stone in the world for the next star then we are making it much harder to make smart picks.
From 2012 to 2014 we went from 9 full time staff (joint fewest in the NHL) to 15 full time staff (17th in the NHL). While it's good to know we have begun to employ more personnel, are we employing the best people for the job?
Director of Player Development: Eric Cairns.
Cairns was an NHL enforcer, so we are using an NHL enforcer to oversee the development of our players? Is that really the best choice for the job here?
Player Development: Marty Reasoner
An average NHL player but to be fair, he could be a very good developer of talent for all I know.
Pro Scout: Eric Boulton
Another enforcer who is the Pro Scout in the organization. Again, maybe I'm way off but surely there must be better hockey minds than Eric Boulton available to be a Pro Scout. It strikes as jobs for the boys here.
I just wanted to give a taste of some of the people behind the Islanders right now and how I believe we just aren't putting ourselves in a position to succeed at the NHL level. In the cap era you can't just outspend everyone and sign anyone you want. Scouting for talent is huge for an organization to find cheap gems and young players to help manage the cap in the NHL therefore we need to maximize our returns on draft picks.
With the cap limiting the money spent on the NHL roster we should be spending on every other area to gain an advantage. Have the best coaches, backroom staff, anaylsis's, pro scouts, amateur scouts and every area of the club have the best to maximize our chance to win.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
The Sound Tigers got off to a good start from their inception in 2001, getting all the way to the finals but since the 2nd season, the Sound Tigers haven't won a single playoff series. What that means is since 2003, no single Islander who has ever set foot on the ice in the AHL in the past 15 years has ever tasted success. Complete losers.
Think about that, from the 03-04 season up until current, the Sound Tigers have made the playoffs 6 times. They have missed the playoffs completely 8 times. In 14 seasons, the Sound Tigers have won a combined 8 post season games and I have no clue why this is acceptable in any way shape or form. The top 4 in each AHL division makes it to the post season in the current format. Right now, the Sound Tigers are sitting 5th and 5 points outside of a playoff spot so it looks like another season without post season play.
Why is it important to win with the AHL team? well for one it gives prospects more competitive games to play in a playoff format of higher significance than normal AHL play. If you don't make the playoffs your season is over, you go home and get ready for the following season, while top franchises prospects are getting more game time and learning opportunities in a pressure environment.
The shockingly bad performance of the Sound Tigers is a major concern to me. How can we expect to compete as an NHL franchise if we can't compete in the AHL? Due to injuries, the place our replacements come from is the AHL so a weak AHL team means a weak pipeline of talent to replace potential injuries.
It makes no sense to have high quality prospects playing with average players. If the non prospect players aren't good enough to compete in the AHL then we need to seriously look at the players we sign and bring to Bridgeport and what the GM is doing exactly to make things work. There needs to be a support structure in place to allow talent to learn and flourish with quality all around.
I'm not going to even talk about the ECHL.
Garth Snow has been the Islanders GM for almost 12 years. He has brought one playoff series win in 12 years with 4 playoff appearances and I'm sorry but that just isn't good enough. How can any employee of any business in the world, allow someone who has been under performing for such an extended period of time, with little to no success, be allowed to continue in charge??
As an example, the Islanders NHL roster of players signed currently for the 2020/21 season are: Ladd, Clutterbuck, Cizikas, Boychuk, Leddy, Pelech and Mayfield. Reading those players would suggest Snow is expecting to be a non playoff team long term due to the caliber of player he signs up long term and wants to keep around.
Very rarely does Snow maximize his assets. Other franchises get consistently to the playoffs via smart trades, good cap management and feeding prospects into the roster regularly, all of which Snow does none of. Instead of allowing players to run down their contract and walk at the end of the season we should be maximizing the assets we have. If you know you don't want to re-sign someone on their final year of a contract, unless they are a core reason for success of the club, they have to be traded.
Josh Bailey is having a career year, along with several Islanders. I believe the numbers being reached by the likes of Bailey is due to a very attacking orientated system and therefore I would be cautious about signing Bailey long term for that reason. He will demand a large salary and with his age and length of contract he would need to be signed, has a very high chance of turning into a bad contract quickly.
A good GM recognizes when to move players on to maximize the return and to fill areas of weakness. The islanders do not struggle to score currently and therefore if we were to move Bailey at the deadline, it could net us something of value long term to the organization, especially if we don't plan on paying Bailey what he would need to re-sign.
I have to admit the whole JT contract situation is holding us hostage and obviously a great cause for concern but if you are convinced Tavares is going to sign, we need to find a way to surround him with talent short and long term. I believe we can afford to trade the likes of Bailey, Nelson and others to bring back areas of need to improve.
Salary management is clearly not Snow's area of expertise either. To fix the salary we have on the roster, we would have to move someone like Clutterbuck, who in my opinion is a negative asset due to length, size of contract and production along with a positive asset like Bailey who is having a career year which would obviously effect the value in return.
Constant bad contracts for average players. Refusal to trust younger prospects to gain experience in sheltered roles on the team over veterans who aren't good enough to quite frankly be in the NHL. Bad management of prospects across the board. Snow is widely regarded in the hockey community as a GM who managed the Islanders at the bottom of the cap picking up pieces here and there to stay around the bottom of the cap and tick over. Snow should've been fired long ago.
We have to be a franchise where everyone from General Manager to AHL coaches to prospects to NHL rostered players are accountable. If you under perform you lose your job, be it an NHL rostered player or management. We have to have accountability across the board with the sole aim of changing the culture of the entire Islanders organization.
Anything with the Islanders attached to it should be winning. Do not accept 2nd best, we have to change the league wide perception of the franchise and everyone associated to it and for me that starts with a complete clear out.
I would fire everyone who isn't renowned or seen as being at the top of their line of work or area of expertise and isn't making positive things happen for the Islanders. Bring in a President of Hockey Operations with a track record of nothing but success who can help steer the direction and appointments of General Manager all the way down to coaching staff in the AHL and scouting network. I truly believe we need to get rid of everyone associated with the current Islanders and start a new with top qualified successful people.
If prospects aren't used to winning, go to the AHL and continue to not win then jump to the NHL and don't win, it means your a career loser which can't happen. Create a positive environment and culture focused on winning Stanley cups. You don't win by sneaking into the playoffs in a wild card spot, you have to challenge for division titles every season, gain home ice and win consistently post season. It's no coincidence that Bridgeport never win in the playoffs like the Islanders and that has to change, they are all linked.
This isn't the normal "fire everyone" post. We need a methodical process of bringing the best people in to run the Islanders. Bridgeport don't win and aren't developing talent properly, Bridgeport GM and coaching staff go, bring in new staff. Every aspect of the franchise needs to be looked at with a microscope and asked can we do better? can we find someone to work in any position to improve our club?
Until we look to have the best scouting department, player development, coaching, management or any area in the overall Islander franchise, we will be a bottom end team who make the odd play offs via wild card but never amount to anything. We're currently a treadmill team stuck in mediocrity and it all needs to change. Currently it feels like we're in an endless rebuild.
We have Belmont coming, which will be absolutely huge for the franchise. Let's make the changes needed to hit that stadium when it opens with a quality team capable of competing for a cup. Stop wasting time with imbeciles in the organization, who are around from the era of penny pinching to survive under Wang. It's time to take to get serious and bring in top level professionals to do the job right. Out with the old, in with the new.
Its why the Islanders have to make a change.