Getty Images

Isles’ ownership ‘evaluating all aspects’ as Snow, Weight stick around, for now

15 Comments

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Underneath the staircase, just outside the New York Islanders practice facility locker room sat a blue and orange team bag with “SNOW” printed on the ID tag. The bag may have been packed but the general manager who it belongs to is apparently not going anywhere.

On Monday, as the Islanders finished up the second day of exit interviews before beginning their off-season, owner Jon Ledecky sat next to GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight and read from a prepared statement that did not definitively say one way or the other that changes were coming in those positions.

“We are committed to long-term success. Any decisions we make are for the long-term success of our hockey club. We win and lose together as an organization, not as individuals,” said Ledecky. “Missing the playoffs is beyond disappointing. At the same time, we believe we have a strong core of players that will be the basis for our success on the ice. Obviously our definition of long-term success is competing every year for the Stanley Cup and eventually winning a fifth ring. 

“Our season has just ended and as an organization we will be evaluating all aspects of our hockey operations and then we will make decisions based on what is best for the future of our club. I’m not here today to talk about any specific individuals including players coaches and the general manager.

“We believe that it is essential to our success to have a thoughtful evaluation to look at the past and more importantly assess the future of our team on and off the ice.

“As for the past season, as owners, we have failed. We sincerely apologize to our fans. We want to express that our ownership group is totally committed to winning and providing the resources to do just that.”

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

At that point, Ledecky, who spent several nights during the season greeting fans inside Barclays Center and on the Long Island Rail Road, got up and stood in the back of the room and did not take questions as Snow and Weight tried to explain away another disappointing year.

A second straight season without the playoffs, which was derailed by a second half skid and an inability to keep the puck out of their own net, now transitions to a defining summer for the franchise. Captain John Tavares can enter the unrestricted free agent market on July 1, and as of Monday, he hadn’t begun to think about what direction his future will take him.

“This is where I hope to be. I’ve always stated that,” Tavares said. “But obviously I have some time to think about my situation and go from there. I’ve loved it here and people have really embraced me, the team and organization have been first class since I’ve gotten here. Obviously, some great talent and some great things ahead. Definitely a lot of positives and I’ll have to take some time and figure out what I want to do and go from there.”

Tavares has consistently expressed his love for the organization and the Long Island area, but after nine years and three playoff appearances, the lure of moving on to an annual contender remains an option. 

The loyalty factor could come into play, as well. Aside from his affection for the team and area, Snow drafted Tavares first overall in 2009 and the captain spent his first two years in the NHL living with Weight and his family. It’s the only organization he’s ever known and it’s clear both sides have told one another about how much they desire to bring a championship back to Long Island.

“I think they know how bad I want to win and I think I know how bad they want to win,” Tavares said. “I don’t think they’re here not trying to win and trying to do the best they can on a daily basis and give it everything they have, and try to get the most out of our group and continue to have success and have an opportunity on a yearly basis to play for the Stanley Cup. I don’t think that’s any question, their commitment to having a winning team.”

During 16 minutes he and Weight spoke, Snow said he wants to see Tavares “retire as an Islander” five times. There were the usual quotes of wanting to be better next season and putting in effort to not be in the same situation a year from now, but the confidence the fan base has in the leadership of the team has diminished over the last few years, which resulted in billboards being put up in Brooklyn calling for the GMs dismissal in February.

It seems pretty clear that Snow and Weight will be back next season. What more do Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin need to evaluate after before deciding to officially retain the pair? The draft and free agency periods are coming up and there’s the Tavares contract situation to sort out. Someone has to be in charge of those things and that’s been Snow’s job for the last 12 years. If you were going to change it, wouldn’t it have happened already?

It’s a crucial off-season for the franchise and with relatively new ownership and a new arena coming, the winning days need to return quickly for the franchise. And for Snow, the work is already underway.

“We’ll go through the process of reviewing the entire organization,” said Snow. “The first part, the exit meeting with the players is step one. Obviously, the draft is the end of June and those meeting will start picking up here in a few weeks to see where we sit with the lottery. It starts again [Tuesday] morning for Doug and myself and that review process.”

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

#MelnykOut billboards go up in Ottawa as Senators fans urge change

Getty Images
3 Comments

The billboards in Brooklyn want the general manager out. The billboards in Ottawa, which went up Monday morning, are calling for the owner to sell.

As the dissatisfaction with the state of the franchise continues to intensify, Ottawa Senators fans have come together to purchase four billboards calling for Eugene Melnyk to get “out.”

The campaign was started by Spencer Callaghan, who raised $5,000 in the first 24 hours after the GoFundMe page was opened.

“What I want to accomplish mainly is for people to just start asking questions, like why is this organization in such turmoil,” Callaghan told CTV News in February. “It’s at the point where if we need a change of ownership to get this organization back on track then that’s what we need to push for.”

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the four billboards will be up for two weeks and a fifth will go up for one week on April 2.

It’s been a strange year in Senators land. They went from being within a goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final to having their owner threaten to move the team to then having him walk that back a few months later to now looking at the NHL draft lottery and coming to the realization that captain Erik Karlsson may be dealt in the off-season.

So you can see why they might be ready for some change.

Meanwhile, it will be a very interesting off-season for the New York Islanders. They are going to miss the playoffs for a second straight season and have to worry about whether John Tavares will decide to re-sign with the organization. Fans upset with GM Garth Snow’s lack of progress with the franchise put up their own billboards in February calling for his removal. Head coach Doug Weight doesn’t seem to have any answers, so will ownership decide to clean house and start fresh as the franchise begins to split games between Barclays Center and a renovated Nassau Coliseum next season as they wait for their new home to be built near Belmont Park?

If the campaigns in Ottawa and New York succeed by reaching their ultimate goals, how much of an inspiration will they be for other fanbases who are sick and tired of the lack of direction with their teams?

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

‘Snow Must Go:’ Islanders fans raise money to protest GM

Getty
8 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

OK, look: it’s always a little awkward to note when a group of people are calling for someone’s head. It’s not that far from “Frankenstein” territory.

That said, if there was ever a time when fans should really make their voices heard, this would be it.

Around the NHL, teams are sending mixed messages: they’re acknowledging a need to rebuild, while at the same time handing polarizing GMs contract extensions. With that in mind, it makes it easier to wrap your head around the New York Islanders civil revolt regarding their perceived need to get rid of longstanding GM Garth Snow.

It already began last night, as fans chanted “Snow Must Go” after the Islanders dropped an embarrassing 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, showing porous defense once again by giving up 51 shots on goal.

Rather than showing up with paper bags on their head (possibly with increasingly creative faces), an enterprising group of Islanders fans decided to buy a strategically placed billboard to voice their displeasure about Garth Snow. To do so, they put together a Go Fund Me account, and that drive basically only took about an hour to hit the $2,725 goal.

Here’s what the ad looks like:

Here’s part of the message:

It’s time to send a clear message to Islanders owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin. Fans will no longer tolerate the culture of losing surrounding this franchise. Help us send a message and tell ownership that “SNOW MUST GO” on a poster board within a half mile of the Barclays Center.

Whether you believe that keeping Snow in place is the best way to retain John Tavares or that management needs to show more urgency with a playoff spot on the line, you have to give Isles fans credit for creativity here.

Considering the fact that Snow has been GM since 2006, it’s also difficult to deny that his fingerprints are all over the Isles’ issues at this point. Plenty of fans think there needs to be a change, and they’re going the extra mile (or 10’6″ x 22’99”) to express their beliefs.

Apparently such an effort worked out for New York Jets fans, too, and they feel like spiritual cousins to Islanders fans (and of course, in many cases people are fans of both teams).

Will they get their wish? We’ll need to wait and see. Either way, it’s tough to say that they don’t have a point.

Stick-tap Greg Wyshynski of ESPN

UPDATE:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Isles to Ho-Sang: Cut the bull

Getty
17 Comments

Sensory details and reactions continue to pour in regarding Joshua Ho-Sang’s debacle of a first (and only) day of Islanders training camp.

None of them depict the polarizing prospect in a particularly positive light.

The harshest words come from GM Garth Snow, whose comments via New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple have been sanitized for innocent hockey viewers:

“Enough with the bull[blank],” Snow said. “It’s time to grow up.”

Head coach Jack Capuano’s message was simple: this slip-up was “unacceptable.”

It also may not have been the 19-year-old’s only mishap with the Islanders, although precise infractions weren’t shared. Staple did unearth some specifics about yesterday’s tardiness situation and his punishment beyond being demoted prematurely, however:

Three hours? That can’t be right, can it?

Regardless, as Jason mentioned on Friday, incidents like these do little to dissuade critics from believing that his plummet down the 2014 NHL Draft was justified. Those people may believe that he’s just not worth the trouble.

He’s young enough that this story is far from over, though you have to wonder if the Islanders “chapter” is perilously close to its conclusion.

Under pressure: Jack Capuano

9 Comments

If nothing else, it seems like New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano seems pretty comfortable on the hot seat.

Well, judging by PHT archives, it’s at least a common location. Let’s peer through the headlines over the past few years:

2014-15: After the season – “(Garth) Snow says Isles will stick with Capuano”; back in November – “Isles’ struggles putting heat on Capuano”

2013-14: After the season – “Snow says Capuano will be back as Isles coach”there were Peter Laviolette rumors, but Capuano wasn’t considered “the problem.” His struggles were testing Snow’s loyalties. Hey, but he had John Tavares’ faith.

2012-13: After the season – “Islanders will keep GM Garth Snow and coach Jack Capuano”

2011-12: He got the fabled vote of confidence

Jeez, quite the pattern for a guy who was bumped up from interim head coach back in April 2011, right?

Even with the vultures swirling over Capuano after each season, Snow remains loyal. After the Islanders fell to the Washington Capitals in that tightly played Game 7, he (mostly) praised Capuano’s work to New York Newsday.

“Our coaches did a great job, whether it was preparing our players or with the communication between coaches and players, which was outstanding,” Snow said. “There were some aspects of our game, whether it was with our penalty-kill that struggled early on and became a strength for us by the end, or our power play, which was a strength at times early on and we didn’t have one in the playoffs. That’s an area of concern. We’ll analyze all different areas of our team and try to get better.”

The Islanders have come along nicely over the years, yet you have to wonder how long the leash might be if they don’t generate a deep postseason run in the near future.

Could 2015-16 be Capuano’s last chance?