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 So far the Head Coach has been fired and been replaced by an interim coach that has seen the same results; Okposo and Streit have been hurt all year; Tavares, Comeau and Bailey have not improved; and the team sits at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?

-Rob McGowan

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11 Comments

Stacy Podelski's picture

That is a tough call. I would love to see a good draft pick come in and make a difference, but would like to see something good happen for this team now. Hopefully the Islanders will do something, because it is sad to watch a team put out that much effort and not get the results they want.

Rob McGowan's picture

Exactly. It brings up the discussion on whether or not Snow trading the pick is actually against the rebuild, or helping push it forward. It would have to depend on the player in any potential offer.

ss1983's picture

I dont think it would mean that it has to be for or against the rebuild. Any acquisition of that caliber will help the rebuild. I said before the season started that Snow should look into trading this years first rounder, but i did not expect another top 5 pick, let alone another #1 or 2. The only way i would trade this pick is if Snow can get a top line winger and a top pair dman who are close to their prime. You'd basically be asking a team to gut their roster for the pick, but lately it seems like gm's are willing to do just that to obtain these top picks. Its a tough spot because as hard as it is to get free agents here, the FA crop this year is extremely weak already. You can have a future lineup looking like Tavares, Okposo, Bailey, Neiderreiter, Dehaan, Hamonic, and this years pick as a really strong young core of the franchise. Or you can add some strong veteran skill and leadership to a team that desperately needs it. Having said that I'd keep the pick being how high it will be. Maybe moving down no further than 3 to add another asset. Garth will have to find other means to fill holes (trades or FA). Assuming that this year is not a wash regarding the young players taking the next step, we should already be a significantly better team next year with the returns of Streit and Okposo. Then you can possibly shop next years 1st rounder at the trade deadline if necessary. p.s. sorry for blabbing so much

George Prax's picture

Great post.

He wouldn't be a good GM if he didn't at least know what he could get for it, even now, even if it's still December. If a team is willing to overpay for that pick now then he should start a bidding war and trade it as soon as he can. Not like the Isles don't have talent and adding some players with NHL experience now could help ease the wounds of losing that pick down the stretch. There's some amazing top five talent at the draft, but if I were Snow, I would definitely considering it.

Alex Mueller's picture

He shouldn't trade the pick unless he gets an amazing offer. There is no quick fix.

George Prax's picture
Alex Mueller wrote:

He shouldn't trade the pick unless he gets an amazing offer. There is no quick fix.

It's not even a matter of a being a quick fix in my opinion. They just don't have enough NHL caliber players and a top 5 draft pick isn't going to do them much more good... I think they're better off with several established players, if, as the commenter above said, Snow can pull that off.

rvaisles's picture

I normally don't advocate trading top five draft picks and even less so if the possibility exists that it will be 1st overall, however, given the Islanders desperate and bleak situation, if Garth can get several quality NHL calibre bodies in the lineup in exchange for the pick, he's got to make that move.

Obviously, this goes against conventional "build through the draft" wisdom, but, as we all know, NOTHING is conventional...NOTHING is "normal" on Long Island. Free agents won't sign here, so what other method is available for bringing in talent that can play?

George Prax's picture
rvaisles wrote:

I normally don't advocate trading top five draft picks and even less so if the possibility exists that it will be 1st overall, however, given the Islanders desperate and bleak situation, if Garth can get several quality NHL calibre bodies in the lineup in exchange for the pick, he's got to make that move.

Obviously, this goes against conventional "build through the draft" wisdom, but, as we all know, NOTHING is conventional...NOTHING is "normal" on Long Island. Free agents won't sign here, so what other method is available for bringing in talent that can play?

Even building through the draft you still need to complement your deficiencies by either free agents or the trade market. Like you said FAs won't sign there and there is an abundance of tradeable assets. Just look at the Flyers as a bench mark, or even the Pens. Both teams have excellent homegrown talent, but they also have some major pieces acquired by other means as well.

Rob McGowan's picture

ss1983, babbling is always encouraged, so please feel free to always share your thoughts!

I'm sure that this will become more of a hot topic as the trade deadline approaches, and even more so as the draft approaches if Snow still has the pick by June. One thing to keep in mind is that teams like Chicago, Washington, Pitt, etc, did not trade these top picks. They kept them and endured several long years. It goes to show there isn't a quick fix, but does Snow have the ability to land a top-six guy to help these kids via trade or FA? So far he hasn't...

ss1983's picture

exactly Rob, regardless of trading this pick or not Snow still needs to find some way to bring in veteran leadership and skill. At the end of the day these kids need more veteran presence to take the burden off themselves so they can develop properly because in my opinion everyone's development is being hampered. Teenagers and and 21 year olds should be able to fly under the radar until they break out. They should not have the burden of carrying a "dysfunctional" franchise on their back with absolutely no help. Like you said Rob, people forget that before kane (1) and toews (3) the hawks had a run of very high defensive prospects that were drafted, pittsburgh and washington stepped in sh*t with ovechkin (1), backstrom(4), malkin(2) and crosby(1). Unfortunately for Snow, he had zero to start with. No lingering or aging stars, no soild vets and the only prospect coming up was okposo. I'd compare us more to LA than those other teams. The rebuild really started once guerin and comrie left and after them there was nothing left. It will not happen overnight. I think this years pick is crucial for the teams future. However, it should be the last one we need. I am not making an excuse for Snow because he had opportunities to bring in some guys who could help. Whether or not he thought they werent a good fit, he cant possibly think that PA Parenteau was the better option. There still should be enough options to fill holes w/o trading the pick. With so many teams up against the cap Snow should be able to bring in a couple guys who can really help. If he doesnt do it soon enough though, I feel like the players (along already with the fans) will feel that Garth is just hanging them out to dry.

Fivehole's picture

Stay the course, Garth...unless...

Unless he gets blown away by a deal that helps the team now and more importantly, the future. No deal for Brad Richards w/out an extension. Bieksa and Cody Hodgson certainly isn't worth giving up Josh Bailey. I would like to see Garth keep the pick and draft Gabriel Landeskog. He's the pick.