Nearly 12 months ago we here at ProHockeyTalk asked, What’s Garth Snow thinking?
Almost a calendar year later, the same question can be asked.
The man, who appointed Snow general manager eight years ago, Charles Wang, is on his way out and the team has qualified for the playoffs just once in the past seven years.
With big changes at the top ahead, Snow is under pressure to turn his team into a playoff contender sooner rather than later.
New York finished the 2013-14 season 14 points back of eighth place Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Islanders were last in the Metropolitan Division with a 34-37-11 record.
The Red Wings finished with 93 points to clinch that final playoff spot last season, the only time the Islanders have finished with more than 80 points in an 82-game season was Snow’s first year at the helm in 2006-07 where the Islanders lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Buffalo Sabres in five games.
Under Snow’s watch, the Islanders have had three coaches and one can argue, given Snow’s pressure to win now, Jack Capuano could also be written about in this space.
The good news for Snow is he’ll have his captain, and top center, John Tavares back and healthy after suffering a knee injury at the 2014 Olympics limited him to just 59 games in 2013-14.
Snow went out and got Tavares some help adding depth to the forward group by signing Mikhail Grabovski to a four-year $20 million deal and Nikolai Kulemin to a four-year $16.8 million deal. The hope is Grabovski and Kulemin can rekindle their chemistry formed while playing together for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In goal, Snow went out and picked up the rights to Jaroslav Halak from Washington and inked him to a new four-year $18 million deal. Halak, who has a career 144-85-29 record with a .918 save percentage, should slot in nicely for the departed Evgeni Nabakov.
Halak should slot in nicely that is if he gets help from his defense.
The Islanders were 28th last season in goals-against ahead of only Florida and Edmonton. Snow didn’t do much to help his goaltender. He did go out and acquire the rights to Dan Boyle from San Jose, but was unable to come to terms with the pending unrestricted free agent, who signed with the New York Rangers.
The Islanders are also without Andrew MacDonald, who Snow sent to Philadelphia in March for minor leaguer Matt Mangene and a pair of draft picks.
Left are Lubomir Visnovsky, Travis Hamonic, Matt Carkner, Thomas Hickey and Brian Strait in addition to Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan.
The Islanders did add a former Maple Leafs property on the back end as well in T.J. Brennan, the reigning AHL defenseman of the year. But given that Brennan was a minus-10 while scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace with the Toronto Marlies last season, I’m not sure how much help Brennan can be.
Then there’s budding prospect Griffin Reinhart, who at 20-years-old, could crack the Islanders opening day lineup. But to rest your defensive hopes on a rookie is recipe for disaster.
Snow’s inability to shore up defensive concerns could be what sinks him in New York’s final season on Long Island.
Related: In praise of John Tavares