Should Garth Snow Trade His First Round Pick?
Garth Snow has not made a name for himself by trading away his first round draft picks for quick fixes or Alexei Yashin type o'deals; instead he typically holds onto the pick, considering that his last three have been in the top-five selections.
In his four years as General Manager, he has only traded his first round pick once as part of the Ryan Smyth deal. That doesn't include trading the 5th overall selection in 2008 down to the 9th spot to draft Josh Bailey. The point is that Garth's plan was focused around drafting talented young prospects and developing them into players that would eventually lead the franchise into the playoffs.
Although the goal is far from achieved, Garth has kept his word. But this year might be different. The Islanders organization was expecting the team to make the playoffs under Scott Gordon as head coach with many of the team's core players taking the next step. So far the Head Coach has been fired and been replaced by an interim coach that has seen the same results; Okposo and Streit have been hurt all year; Tavares, Comeau and Bailey have not improved; and the team sits at the very bottom of the NHL standings with one of the worst losing streaks the Island has had in over a decade.
Maybe the New York Islanders were a little premature in their expectations. The team did only complete two years of a rebuild, despite ending the 2010 season with a major improvement over the previous year. When you look back at teams like Chicago, Washington and Pittsburgh, one can see that they didn't become competitive hockey clubs just after two seasons. It took several years for them to finally see that gold pot under the rainbow. But premature or not, this season has been a disaster. Regardless if the Isles made the playoffs, their still should have been added results to the 18-point jump in the standings that they made from 2009 to 2010. At the very least, they should have been maybe four or six points out of a playoff spot instead of nine; that's how close they came last year. Look how far they have come this year.
So what does Garth Snow do?
The lottery is still several months away, but right now he is likely receiving the first or second overall pick in this year's draft with a handful of exceptional talent. A center-man like Sean Couterier may look nice in an Islanders jersey. He has 16 goals and 35 assists for 51 points in 32 games played with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL and has been scouted as a "smooth and skilled playmaker" according to The Hockey News.
Ryan Nugent is another center that the Isles may look at as well. He's another set up man who already has 33 assists along with his 8 goals and 41 points in 31 games played with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. John Tavares can certainly use someone that can get him the puck since he has yet to have a legitimate line-mate that can create space and opportunities.
But the Isles can look at defenseman Adam Larsson if they feel comfortable at center. He is not the offensive weapon that the Isles could use on the blue line, but he is a 6'2 and 209 pound d-man that is still growing at the age of 17. And the best part is that he enjoys the physical game. The Islanders passed on Luke Schenn a few years back and may look at a guy like Larsson as an opportunity to bulk up their defenders. In 28 games played with the Skelleftea HC of the Swedish Elite League, Larsson has one goal and seven assists for eight points.
These are just a few of the top prospects heading into this year's draft class, something that will earn a closer look as the time approaches. But after a brief taste, I ask you, what is more important? Finding the veteran playmaker or goal scorer that this team has been unable to attract via free agency? Or does Garth Snow stay the course and continue to draft another potential cornerstone prospect?
The NHL's Brian Compton made a point on Islanders Point Blank TV that a player like Tavares may worry about the direction of this team if Garth is unable to find the right pieces to help the young guys take the next leap forward. If one-year wonders like Parenteau and Grabner are all he can find, can this team really turn into a contender? JT will be an impending RFA after next season and can reject a contract if he really wants to, although Snow will likely do everything under the sun to retain him. But it's happened before and it can happen again.
So, does Garth Snow make a bold statement that he wants this team to win in the near future by trading this year's first overall pick? Or does he find the man he needs through the draft and continue the patient rebuild?
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