When it comes to his career as Islanders general manager, Garth Snow is a blessed man. Despite a twelve-year run of failure, the kindness shown Snow by his employers has been extraordinary. Perhaps one of these years he will pay it back, and pay it forward.
Many people outside Islanders Country, and even some of the residents, do not have a grasp of the lengths two ownership groups have gone to keep Snow in his position. A brief recap is necessary.
Let's start at the beginning, in 2006, when Snow was given his dream job by Charles Wang after the expiration of Neil Smith's 40-day summer internship. At the time, Snow was just a few months removed from his playing career. As a manager of any kind, he did not have a single hour of practical experience.
Although mocking laughter abounded, his hiring has turned out to be the least bizarre moment of his tenure. Primarily on the backs of some key free agents signed by Smith, holdovers from the Mike Milbury era, Ted Nolan's impassioned coaching, and a week of Wade Dubielewicz poke-checks, the Islanders made the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Fast-forward to 2014. In August of that year, Wang made a deal with Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin. This is the part most people seem to brush over. It's like they cannot comprehend the moment. Remember this: in the eight years between Nolan's playoff season and Wang's sale, the Islanders made the playoffs just twice - losing in the first round both times.
Despite almost a decade of failure under Snow, Wang made an incredibly magnanimous gesture to his employee and close friend. Wang's sale of the Islanders to Ledecky and Malkin came with a unique hitch - they would not become majority owners or have operating control of the franchise for another two years. In the history of professional sports, there had been few precedents for a two-year transition.
Those close to Wang, who has been admirably loyal to many of his closest confidants throughout his business career (hockey examples: Rick DiPietro, Alexei Yashin, Milbury) - knew what it was about. After all, it wasn't like Wang needed to see his Islanders play another two seasons at Barclays - an arena and partnership he had come to loathe. No, the reason for not relinquishing control for another two full NHL seasons was because he wanted to give Snow two more seasons to prove himself, so the new owners would retain him.
With the bar very low, it all went to plan as the Islanders qualified for the playoffs in the second year of the transition. Soon after the Islanders defeated Florida in the first round before losing to Tampa Bay, Ledecky and Malkin took control. They installed George McPhee as a consultant (Ledecky knew the former Washington GM when Ledecky was a minority owner of the Caps), but opted to not bring in their own man since Snow was coming off the first whiff of victory in his decade as GM. McPhee stuck around for a year before being named the first general manager in the history of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Still, Wang showed even more love for Snow. As the ultimate insider Bob McKenzie has reported, Snow received a contract extension for several years. I once wondered how offensive it must have been for Ledecky and Malkin to have that contract shoved down their throats, but I no longer do. By Ledecky's actions on Monday - really, a written statement and no questions taken? - it appears they're okay with it.
Think about it. Let's say Snow's golden parachute is for another eight years and $24 million. Ledecky and Malkin bought the Islanders for almost a half-billion dollars, and are part of a group trying to build an arena in Elmont for hundreds of millions of dollars more. Paying off Snow's contract and hiring someone better would be a small price to pay for doing what's best for your business and customers.
But barring a change in heart by the utterly-confused Ledecky, Snow appears to be here to stay. Ledecky had a month to get it right and could not have gotten it more wrong. Was the owner's challenge to his people over the final week of the season, "What's the dumbest, sneakiest, most tone-deaf move I can make on Monday?"
You would think that someone as blessed in his career as Snow - hired without experience, then repeatedly encouraged, coddled, rewarded, and now pardoned - would be a more gracious man about it.
Instead, Snow has not worked hard or wisely. He has rarely surrounded himself with the most qualified available people. All the while, some very diligent and skilled men have lost their jobs over the last decade because of Snow's insecurity and paranoia, and his hunger to replace talented people with personal friends.
Yet somehow, Ledecky has observed the nonsense - along with all the losing - and decided, "Garth Snow is the man I want running my franchise." (Let's be clear here: this is all Ledecky).
After this season, and Monday's statement, you have to wonder what it would take for Ledecky to ever relieve Snow of his duties. Actually, you also have to wonder about Ledecky. On Monday afternoon, he was okay with having it leaked to Newsday that Snow and Doug Weight were staying. Then he conducted a press conference - not live-streamed so the fans could watch - and read a lame statement in which he didn't concretely say they were staying. At worst, he comes off as wormy.
Not in the heat of this bewildering, embarrassing moment, but over the next several months, fans will decide if they want to continue to support the owners and the franchise with their hearts and wallets. There will be more protests, and season ticket renewals will not be stellar. But in the end, fans are forgiving and loyal. When the team gets good again, the roar will return - at least in Nassau.
As for Snow, maybe today is the day he is finally grateful, appreciative, humble.
Garth Snow was asked at the press conference if he feels he's earned the right to stay on the job after missing the playoffs 8x in 12 yrs & winning 1 playoff series. The GM said "Yes" then spoke re the "all-out rebuild" when he took over in 2006 & the talent here now. #Isles #NHL- Brian Heyman (@bheyman99) April 9, 2018
OK, maybe not. Today is the day Snow turned out to be even a bigger joke than he already has been.
Twelve years ago, Snow was given his dream job. He has not returned the favor. Ever since and continuing on Monday, he has been unsuccessful, aloof, incommunicative, a habitual excuse-maker, and butt-coverer. Snow has become the 12-year personification of the guy in "Office Space" who gets hypnotized, shows up for work late and in a daze, and does little…and gets promoted.
Add today to the list of the most ignominious days in Islanders history. It's a long list, sadly, and this one is near the top.