Published on June 10th, 2013 | by Jesse Dakss23
Exclusive: Q&A With Islanders GM Garth Snow
Tonight at 7 PM, on a rainy off-season night for the New York Islanders, GM Garth Snow attended a Q&A session with the Islanders Booster Club. I chose to wait to write up a full article about his thoughts and answers, rather than tweeting out little tidbits because I felt it was necessary to include direct quotes. If you’d like to look at a few tweet highlights, you can definitely find them on the Twittersphere. I’ll bring up a topic and then provide direct quotes from Garth as well as a bit of analysis from time to time.
First, a funny Garth quote: “I’ll answer some questions, and some I’ll BS you.”
GOALTENDING SITUATION When asked if he’ll be going outside the organization for a goaltender, “We have a couple of avenues we could go. We could bring Nabby back, for a year, buy some time for Poulin and Nilsson. We could go outside the organization. We’ll know within the next three weeks which direction we’re looking to go. But i’m completely comfortable with Nabby, in the regular season he was one of the mainstays on our team, and he’s one of the leaders in the locker room as well. We have a few different options, but right now i’m talking to Nabby and his agent, and we’ll see where that leads.”
RICK DIPIETRO When asked about the reports of Snow looking to trade a pick or a prospect to a team to take DP’s contract off the Isles hands, he said “That article was totally untrue. We haven’t made a decision yet on Rick because we don’t need to yet.” Hmm.. to me, it sounded like DP will be gone, but there’s no way Garth would announce something like that.
PAYROLL When asked if Barclay’s Center would bring a higher payroll, Snow gave corpoate speak. “Anytime i’ve ever went to Charles and asked him for money i’ve never had a stop sign. One of the reasons our payroll is so low is because we’re such a young team.” He then cited JT’s pay increasing, and saying that Bailey and Hamonic’s pay will also increase.
STREIT “For this room, Mark’s probably not going to be coming back. For us, we need to create space for the Matt Donovan’s of the organization, who’s earned a right. We have to create an opportunity for younger players that deserve it in Bridgeport.” And he also flat out said, when the question was followed up, “We need to create a roster spot for Matt Donovan to make our team” So, to me, it sounds like we won’t be acquiring a top 4 defenseman from outside the organization. When I followed up later in the session and asked him about if he feels asking a rookie such as Donovan to take on such a big role ( the one that Streit had), he cited Brian Strait’s pre-injury play. “I feel that Strait is a top 4 defenseman in this league.”
So, there you have it, we will most likely have a top 4 of Hamonic, Amac, Lubo, and Strait this season. He obviously didn’t rule out acquiring somebody from outside the organization, but from the way he kept propping up Donovan the entire 90 minutes of the Q&A, i’d have to believe that Donovan will be in our top 6 and Strait in our top 4. Not sure that’s such a positive, in my opinion. Strait’s pre-injury play was good, and probably top-4 worthy, but it’s a bit risky to rely on him to return to that state. He didn’t look as good coming back from the injury… but it was a rather quick process, while breaking an ankle usually takes a bit longer. Hopefully with a full training camp and off-season of working out, he’ll come back 100% and be able to achieve that level of play that he had earlier in the season. But I do love the fact that Donovan’s finally getting the chance to make it. I thought he looked good in his few games here last season, and was kind of curious why they picked up Hickey, Strait and Martinek with Donovan down there waiting. Thankfully (IMO) Garth hasn’t given up on him, and he’ll definitely be on our NHL club next year. “His strength, for anybody who’s been in Bridgeport to watch him, is jumping up in the play, creating offense, he was great on the power play there, and he’s got a little bit of a mean streak in the defensive zone. He’ll compete on the wall battles and make sure he doesn’t get beat to the front of the net.”
A FREE AGENT FORWARD? “If you look at what our roster potentially looked like last summer.. younger guys, place holders, if a situation arises like it did last year where we could make our team better- a trade, signing, July 5th, we’ll do it. There’s also going to be players available from buyouts, when we get closer to free agency we’ll know.”
TIM THOMAS ”He won’t be our property come July 5th. The reason we did that trade at the time- We were in a situation where we had Lubo Visnovsky, who was suspended and hadn’t reported yet. We had 20 days to be compliant with the salary cap. I didn’t want to mess with the chemistry that was going on in the room and we had a discussion as a team with the players and for me, the best way to achieve what we needed to do within that 20 day time frame was to trade for Tim Thomas… It was a bit of an unknown if [Lubo] was going to stay.” When asked if the players were aware of the trade prior to it being made, Garth said yes. “One of the first people that I talked to was Nabby, to let him know he was our guy, and we were going to play him.. the players were aware of why the move was made and I don’t think it was a reason why we did or didn’t play well after the trade.” The bold was a big sticking point for many that would form their opinion of the trade. I don’t think it was such an awful thing, but some have the opinion that it was him giving up on the season. Now that we know the players knew about it, I feel even more strongly that it was not him giving up on the team at all, rather showing that he felt confident with Nabokov and the team we had.
BROOKLYN/JERSEY/COLORS “I’m not gonna get into the whole Brooklyn situation. To my knowledge, it’ll be all the same jerseys and colors. Will there be a new third jersey? Probably. Our focus regarding jerseys has been to come up with an outdoor jersey. It won’t be too much different than what we wear now but every team has a different jersey that they wear for it. I can say from the pictures of it, it’s a sharp jersey. I think everybody will like it, but it won’t be drastically different from what we wear now. The information I have is that we’re going to keep the same logo, the same history.”
CALVIN DEHAAN On his status, Garth said “unlucky.” “We haven’t given up on Calvin. Because he’s been out of sight, people put him out of mind. If you ask me where I see him starting, Bridgeport. The competition is good, and I think one thing that picking up 4 guys we picked up off waivers that we had scouted heavily, it created a competitive environment”
ERIC BOULTON/FIGHTERS I asked Garth how many games he saw Boulton playing this year: “That’s a situation where I know he came in at the end of the season.. when we were playing in Toronto, Buffalo, teams that had that element in their game and he’s one of those players that I talked about earlier that don’t get enough recognition from the outside but is very well-respected guy in the room and he’s a great person to have on your team when the game takes a turn in another direction.
I then gave Garth my opinion on the topic and said to him: “But I feel like, if a player’s playing a game like that, only 6-8 minutes a game at even strength… Let’s say, for example, a team like Toronto will play Colton Orr.. they’ll have him on the ice for 8 minutes. But if you can have a player like Ullstrom in the lineup, because Orr won’t fight Ullstrom, you could kind of neutralize that and make Orr a non-factor in the game. Then you could use that extra element of speed.”
Garth replied: “I like that (toughness) element in our organization. It’s a matter of opinion, every GM feels differently. I respect your opinion.. I just think if you asked players in our locker room if they want Eric Boulton on the ice, they’d all say yes.”
RYAN STROME When I asked him if he feels Strome will make the team, and if so, will it be at center or at wing like he played in Bridgeport: “Depends on what happens between now and July 5th and September.. but I’d envision him starting in Bridgeport. With the prospects that we have now, we can take our time and let them marinate in the AHL and have success there. Sometimes it’s even wrong to say that because I don’t want to discourage Ryan, I want him to train hard and make our team, and hopefully he has a good camp and makes the decision hard on us as a staff.” I actually like this, because I feel that Strome is a bit small and could definitely benefit from time in the AHL. It also leads me to believe we may be acquiring a forward from outside the organization.. especially with the way that Snow said in the bolded print. Referring to July 5th specifically shows they may be trying to acquire a free agent or two.
NINO NIEDERREITER “I have no issue with Nino.. We had a 6 day training camp, we didn’t want to bring 7 lines.. we wanted to bring as close to the four lines that we felt would be on the team as possible. I’m not going to speak for his agent. Obviously he wasn’t happy that Nino wasn’t here, but I felt we made the right decision, having him play 20 minutes a night at Bridgeport. It’s a non-issue for me, and I can’t control the agent.”
TRADING THE FIRST ROUND PICK When asked if he’d entertain the thought of trading the first round pick this year, he said “Absolutely. We’re going to listen to what other GMs have to offer. Do I think it will happen? Probably not, but there’s still a lot of time between now and June 30th” Garth kept referring to trading the pick throughout the night, so I think if he gets the price he wants for it (hopefully part of a package for an established player), he’s going to pull the trigger. He also didn’t rule out moving up or moving down…and specifically said later in the night “If we end up using the pick, we’ll get a quality player.” Sounds to me like he’s anticipating possibly trading it.
GRABNER GETTING MORE PLAYING TIME “It’s definitely an option for the team.. those are healthy discussions that we have with the coaching staff during the off-season. He’s definitely great in front of the net”
Random thoughts and other little tidbits, that I felt a direct quote wasn’t necessary for because I don’t want this article to be 5000 words long:
-We’ll most likely be starting the year with 8 defenseman, as we did last season.
-He wants Bailey to be here long term, but it all depends on the money that his agent wants.
-He was very high on Nelson and Donovan the entire time, so expect them both to be on the team.
-He brought up something interesting. Once they move to Brooklyn, they may renovate ice works and do pre-game skates there in the afternoon, open to the public. They may even start getting hotel rooms the night before home game and having pre-game skates, or sessions during an off day, at the Barclays Center soon.
-We’re probably going to be drafting a goalie this year, because he said we haven’t in a while.
That marks the end of that question and answer session. Overall, I feel good about the direction the team is going in. I find it a bit concerning that he doesn’t seem to be making an addition to the defense, but we’ll have to just hope Strait and Donovan can combine to replace Streit’s minutes. I think the chances of us acquiring somebody from outside the organization for a forward or goalie slot are pretty high, after tonight. What do you all think?