Despite Turnaround Season, Snow Misses Nomination For GM Of The Year

The New York Islanders finished last place in their division six out of the last eight seasons. However, the Isles finished this season with 101 points, third place in the Metropolitan Division, a Hart trophy finalist named John Tavares, and a physically brutal first round playoff exit that lasted seven games against the Washington Capitals.

Despite this drastic change, GM Garth Snow is not a finalist for this year’s General Manager of the Year award.  

When Snow was initially hired several years ago to replace Neil Smith, the Islanders immediately became the butt-end of multiple jokes that mocked a once proud franchise. The back-up goalie becoming the general manager of the hockey team he was playing for? It was impossible to not shake your head as an Islanders fan and ask yourself, where the hell did we go wrong?

But Snow has stuck to his guns and has possibly been the most steady and consistent General Manager over the last ten years. He swore to draft well and develop from within, only adding a few free agents here and there to help his team mature and grow into a playoff team. The rebuild took many years, but this season saw it come to a definitive end, as the Isles are now on the brink of performing as a Stanley Cup contender year after year.

Homegrown talent includes Islanders draft picks such as Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, Matt Martin, Matt Donovan, Casey Cizikas, Frans Nielsen, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Kyle Okposo,  who are being led by their captain Tavares, a relentless scoring threat that is fighting for the NHL’s scoring title year after year.

This year, Snow was given the green light to spend some of Charles Wang’s money and improve his roster so they can take the next step. He traded for and signed All-Star goaltender Jaroslav Halak, and then added top-pairing defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk for seemingly nothing. The three of these players have made all the difference, as goaltending and defense had been the major reasons as to why this team had struggled to improve each season.

Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin added depth to their offense, which in turn allowed players like Strome, Lee and Nelson to develop their game without having extra demands placed on them too soon in their career. As a result, Strome finished with 50 points in 81 games played, Nelson had 20 goals and 42 points in 82 games played and Lee had 25 goals and 41 points in 76 games played.

Snow’s patience, determination, eye for talent and ability to accrue key players led his team to their most successful season since 2002.

Throw in that some of these key players, such as Leddy and Boychuk, were not under contract for next season. The latter’s future was even more in question since Boychuk was an impending UFA that was very upset about being traded out of Boston. What happened in the end? Snow was able to lock both players up for the next seven years, insuring his blue line with top-caliber talent that’s supported by other top-four blue-liners such as Hamonic and de Haan.

This is not to say that Steve Yzerman, Glen Sather and Bob Murray are undeserving of their nominations. They have done an excellent job with each of their hockey clubs with each team reaping the benefits of a long playoff run.

But it’s hard to say that Snow does not deserve some type of recognition for what he has been doing with his hockey club.

-Rob McGowan

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