If you've ever wondered about the kind of things a general manager might say to his team's owners in the suite during a game, at dinner at a North Shore steakhouse, or on the phone to cover his hide the morning after the latest loss, wonder no more. This week, Garth Snow pulled back the curtain on the wizardry that has enabled him to remain GM of the Islanders for nearly a dozen years, despite any measurable success.
Perhaps emboldened by another "atta way!" from ownership and a strong cup of Starbucks, Snow was at his hypnotic best when speaking with Steven Marcus of Newsday on Wednesday. His team merely in a scramble for eighth place again, Snow has long since given up on trying to win over the fan base.
As he did in the Charles Wang era, Snow's primary focus is on retaining his power with ownership. Think that's being overdramatic? This is a man who failed for years and was given the added title of president and later a golden parachute by Wang. Imagine if his Islanders had ever accomplished anything!
Snow is no longer team president, but he remains prime minister of puffing himself up.
Let's break down a few more of Snow's gems from Wednesday, the real hilarious stuff. From Newsday:
"Snow did point to injuries as being 'one hundred percent' the reason why the Islanders are in a precarious position for the playoffs. 'Not making excuses, I'm stating a fact,' he said, referring to season-ending injuries to Calvin de Haan and highly-regarded prospect Devon Toews."
Snow and Doug Weight have pouted more about the loss of de Haan -- a slightly above-average defender with a sadly significant history of shoulder injuries at a young age -- than the Penguins have ever moaned when Kris Letang has been sidelined.
The 26-year-old defenseman was having a good season before another shoulder injury ended it. His play was efficient enough to make you wonder why Weight and his 87 assistants were playing him less than 19 minutes a game.
With de Haan, the Islanders were dreadful on defense (yes, the porous goaltending didn't help), yielding 3.42 goals per game. The Ls started to pile up before the loss of de Haan, but the team has certainly been worse without him. Since de Haan went down, the Islanders have given up an additional half-goal per game. Combine those numbers with Snow's quote, and the line forms on the left to represent de Haan in his next contract negotiation. He can be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
While de Haan has been out for two months, Snow hasn't done anything to improve his team's defense corps. Since Dec. 1, two weeks before de Haan's injury, the Islanders have allowed an astounding average of four goals per game. The Islanders' playoff chances have suffered more by the lack of resourcefulness from the GM as the loss of the player. Just stating a fact.
As for Toews, this is a history-making moment for Snow. I ask you, sports fans, in all your time following your favorite teams in any sport, has a GM ever cited the loss of a player who had never played a major league game as a reason for his team's struggles in that current season. A setback for Toews' development, sure, but for the big club's season?
Only a master crapsman like Snow would take this opportunity to hype one of his draft picks. Devon Toews is a solid, B-level prospect who Snow and Weight believe was so ready for prime time that he, um, had never played a single game for the Islanders prior to his injury, despite the blueline competition not quite being Potvin-Persson-Langevin-Morrow.
In an aside, Snow boasted about the ascent of Sebastian Aho, a defender with good potential who was drafted last June. Aho is 21 -- not your typical 18-year old straight out of the draft -- has played well for 13 games and has been scratched twice in favor of the past-his-prime Dennis Seidenberg. But hey, it was an on opportunity for Snow to pat himself on the back, and he was not going to miss it.
Every NHL team has injuries, but no NHL team uses them for excuses like Garth Snow's Islanders -- or maybe I missed Jeff Gorton on Thursday blaming the Rangers' collapse on the loss of Chris Kreider and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The real comedy gold from Snow was regarding Josh Ho-Sang, whom Snow has buried in Bridgeport after the GM took bows all last year about the skilled kid…oh, wait, he's still taking bows about him!
"He's a top-five talent in that draft. We were lucky to draft him 28th."
Let's go with some straight facts. Ho-Sang was drafted in 2014. With the fifth overall pick, the Islanders selected Michael Dal Colle, a goal scorer with five goals in 38 games in the minors this season. Dal Colle may not be a top-28 talent in that draft, but credit to Snow for the majestic troll there.
Among those also drafted in 2014: Aaron Ekblad, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Dylan Larkin, Brayden Point, Viktor Arvidsson, William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers.
If you want to make the argument that Snow is being cute with semantics by saying Ho-Sang is more talented than many of those guys, great, but where does that get the Islanders? Ho-Sang is currently nowhere near the NHL players they are. Fact.
It makes you wonder how this culture of CYA has been allowed to fester for more than a decade, when the franchise never gets any better. It's the kind of environment that produced another bizarre moment Thursday night from Doug Weight.
On Monday against Nashville, Weight's Islanders gave up 37 shots on goal in the first two periods and a late goal that sent the game to overtime, and lost. Thursday night, the Islanders faced the Sabres -- 30th in the league -- allowed Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel to waltz into their zone for the first goal, fell behind 3-0, and came back to tie it in the third. Instead of securing the needed standings point and going to overtime, Weight and Co. gave Seidenberg another shift and the Islanders lost on a goal late in regulation. And yet these words came out of the head coach's mouth after the game in another keep-it-positive, oh-those-crazy-bounces postgame show on MSG:
"I felt like we deserved to win."
Can you think of a successful coach in New York sports history who would have said that? Where else in the wide world of sports do people talk like this? Nowhere -- just the New York Islanders, since 2006, when Garth Snow took over.
If people around the NHL and other major league sports really took a look at the messaging from Snow and Weight to the public, they'd probably say something deep and analytical like, "Wow, that's Crazytown." The difference between the comments of Weight and captain John Tavares after losses is startling.
Over doing his actual job, Snow used to prioritize wanting everyone to think he was the smartest person in the room. The illusion is long gone. It's just a matter of how much longer ownership will let him get away with it.