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The cake was a lie: Islanders accept the “unacceptable” and keep the band together

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In a collection of failures, this Islanders season stands as a masterpiece worth savoring, according to the owners.

ACM Party For A Cause: The Joint Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for ACM

A year ago today, I wrote a post in which I said that I thought Garth Snow should lose his job as Islanders general manager due to the self-inflicted and foreseeable mistakes he had made over the previous season.

Well, I’m back. And Garth Snow should lose his job as Islanders general manager due to the self-inflicted and foreseeable mistakes he has made over the previous season.

I don’t want to rehash what I said already. While the problems might have changed (there were only two goalies at a time on the roster this year, but one had a save percentage that would have been bad in 1982; two top four defensemen hurt? Just call up some kidz!), the overall product remains the same. Not good enough to get into the NHL playoffs, not one of the top teams in their division, and so far from being a Stanley Cup contender that calling it a “pipe dream” is an insult to both pipes and dreams.

Arthur Staple also already laid out, in excruciating detail at The Athletic, the major problems to befall the Islanders this season, the vast majority of which fall on both the GM and head coach Doug Weight. Putting aside for a moment the pending free agency of captain John Tavares, the Islanders’ on-ice product suffered from a great many issues that either were corrected far too late into the season or not at all. Staple is one hundred percent right that the Islanders are, “a team in dire need of restoration” and are in “need some sort of attitude adjustment.” Both of those are severe understatements.

Numbers barely do justice to the “brand” of hockey we watched all season. Every night was amateur hour, every shift a clown show, every minute in the defensive zone a fire drill. Hockey players are among the most boring, buttoned-up athletes on Earth. And twice this season, opposing skaters (and one coach) marveled at how much space the Islanders gave them and why they weren’t playing tighter, tougher defense like other teams. That’s not normal.

When a team averages 50 shots against for weeks and the coach doesn’t see a problem with it because of his own reasons, you know they’re living in a different world from the rest of the league.

It’s not every season that a team is one of the highest scoring in the NHL and also gives up a historic amount of goals. That’s a very glib, although not inaccurate, summation of the season and it’s on the guys who put together the roster and run it that the defensive problems weren’t dealt with and a path back to the playoffs couldn’t be found despite that crazy offensive output.

Same As It Ever Was

Calling for two people to be fired isn’t something I particularly care to do. I certainly wouldn’t want someone coming to my job and telling people I should be fired. Weight and Snow have forgotten more about hockey than I will ever know in 10 lifetimes. But this is two straight seasons (and three, really, despite a playoff series win), in which the direction of the team should be strongly questioned because it looks like the pilot is asleep at the stick.

Alas, my opinion doesn’t mean squat because, unlike Fleetwood Mac, this band will stay together.

As we learned today in a bafflingly short press conference with co-owner Jon Ledecky, Snow and Weight will still remain with the organization in the roles they already have and have proven to be spectacularly incompetent at.

Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin talk a big game, spend a big amount of money and won a big victory when it was announced in December that the team won its bid to build itself a new arena at Belmont Park. Ledecky is always smiling in pictures with fans and riding the train to games. Apologizing for missing the playoffs is just gosh darn swell.

But promising to, “evaluat[e] all aspects of our hockey operations. Then we will make decisions on what is best for the future of our club,” is simply kicking a lingering, obvious can down the road. To entrust this current management group to fix the problems they created is foolhardy, unconscionable and delusional. If Ledecky and Malkin want to lose money, flushing it down the toilet would be faster and less irritating than watching Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck “lead” the NHL’s worst penalty kill for the next four years at over $3 million per.

Harsh? Maybe. But maintaining the status quo means maintaining the culture of losing that has permeated the franchise for decades. Snow has been at his job since 2006 and the best his team has managed to be was a scrappy lower playoff seed. The organizational philosophy of “just get in and anything can happen,” might be historically accurate but it hardly signals a team that has a drive to be the best. Isn’t that the whole point of this whole stupid thing?

What’s in the Box?

Fans were sold on the idea that the team was building (or “rebuilding”) from rock bottom to a contender and that patience was required. After all that building, they’ve made the playoffs three times, won one round and are back in the lottery two seasons in a row. The cake was a lie.

The funny thing is, Snow used to be an entertaining out-of-the-box thinker for his constantly cash-strapped team. He made hay with players plucked off the waiver wire or signed as bargain bin free agents. The idea seemed to be that those players would supplement the team’s core players until new draft picks blossomed into other core players.

Over time, those bargain guys were jettisoned, most of the draft picks never became core players and, eventually - when they required big financial commitments - the original core players were left to walk away for nothing. And, yes, it just so happens that the most core of core players requires a big financial commitment this summer.

While Snow often recuses himself from making public comments during the season, nobody can hold court like Weight, whose pre-and-post-game media availabilities are often appointment viewing. As the season wore on though, it became apparent that Weight in was over his head behind the bench and out of ideas about how to fix his club’s problems. Late in the year, even those entertaining pressers took an ugly turn. Apparently none of that matters, either.

Weight has called this season’s results, “unacceptable.“ Without the benefit of a time machine to go back in history and prevent any of it from happening, isn’t continuing on the same path simply accepting the unacceptable? What does “unacceptable” mean if you chose to accept the same thing again?

And if, as the popular theory goes, they’re keeping their jobs because they’re tight with their impending free agent captain, then the line for interventions is longer than we originally thought.

Super Genius

To the few people actually paying attention, the Islanders carry an air of unearned arrogance about them, sticking doggedly to a gameplan that has proven time and again to simply not work. Snow and Weight have talked about doing things “their way.” We’ve seen where “their way” leads, and it’s off a cliff even Wile E. Coyote would start avoiding at some point.

The owners’ drop in the the public perception was swift and venomous, thanks to the constantly churning toxic soup that makes up Islanders social media circles. The billboards calling for Snow’s firing that went up this season were simply the physical manifestation of #IslesTwitter, that justifiably eternally burning garbage fire that treats every move the team makes (or doesn’t make) like it’s the end of the world. The Islanders have had clueless, out-of-touch and straight up criminal owners throughout their history. No one associated with this franchise knows what a winning team actually looks like, outside of the historic Dynasty era. And with this vote of confidence, the new regime has inched closer to their scorned predecessors.

If Ledecky and Malkin are serious about making the Islanders a “world class organization,” (boy, did that line age poorly in record time), they need start thinking inside the box for a change. As in, how would an actual world class organization handle this situation? How would a recent Stanley Cup champion recover from a season like this? How did they rise to become a championship level club?

In most cases, it wasn’t by sticking with the same guys that drove the car into the ditch in the first place.

John Tavares may stay or he may go. Electric rookie Mathew Barzal will still be here. But so will Snow and Weight. I’ve seen how this movie plays out and I know how it ends.

I think I’m gonna start changing the channel next season.