The Contrarian: A Good GM

by Demetri Fragopoulos on November 20, 2016

What should Garth Snow do about the sinking Islanders?

Two articles, one from Frank Seravalli (TSN) and the other by Jared Clinton (The Hockey News), on the New York Islanders struggles caught my attention this week.

Fans want GM Garth Snow to relieve Jack Capuano of his coaching duties. But Snow does not believe that it is necessary, at least for the moment.

Seravalli wrote, “Jack is an excellent coach. We have good players. I love our coaching staff,” and, “I have a lot of confidence in our players. We have a good team. I have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff,” said Snow in defence of his squad.

Snow attempts to use statistics to calm the waters, “We’re coming off two 100-point season. I think that speaks for itself for how good a staff we have” and “It’s an 82-game marathon, not a sprint. We’ll keep trying to get better every day.”

Then he tries to deflect the cries and boos of the fans. “It’s a passionate fan base. I get it. They want results. We want results. We’ll do our best to give it to them. Hey, it’s part of the business. We’re in it to win. And when the team isn’t successful, I think any team in the league that would happen.”

Clinton pulls out his own stats, referencing the Islanders’ measly 2-5-3 record over the last 10-game stretch, their goals for/goals against difference, and the three-headed goaltending conundrum they are dealing with. More stats come from Seravalli that illustrate the same thing.

Both writers turn their focus on Snow though, believing he could have orchestrated something better during the summer with former players Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen. Their replacements Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera are not pulling their weight.

(I should point out that Okposo has 10 points in 16 games and Nielsen has eight points in 18 games but their teams, Buffalo and Detroit, are not faring much better than the Islanders in the standings.)

The only other thing that is identified is Capuano’s curious line combinations. “He has been sharply criticized for his line combinations, which most recently included captain John Tavares on a line with Cal Clutterbuck and Josh Bailey,” added Seravalli.

Their conclusions on the analysis, especially Clinton, are kind of murky. Snow is stubborn.  Maybe this will happen. Maybe that will happen. Maybe the injuries are why they are so bad right now. Maybe things will get better by January or else Snow will be forced to do something.

While I usually preach patience, I think this is a case where Snow must take action soon. Here is why:

  • I want my coach to have figured out his line combinations during the preseason, not at the quarter poll marker. “Where I have to be better, I have not found the combinations to give us some offence with this hockey club,” said Capuano in Seravalli’s article.
  • I want my coaching staff to bring confidence to our players. “I see some guys just lacking confidence,” said Snow.
  • I want the player acquisition strategy that my GM deploys not to paint the team into a corner (re: goaltending).
  • I want my GM to say, “I think our team is great.” Not that it is good. If it is only good then what are they doing to improve it?

Now if you want more stats, here you go:


After 17 games


Goals For

Goals Against

One-goal Games

Two-goal Games

Three+ goal Games





7W / 1L

2W / 2L

2W / 3L





3W / 6L

2W / 1L

3W / 2L





2W / 7L

1W / 2L

2W / 3L







They are not winning those close games this season.

In 2014-15, they won 26 of 43 one-goal games, five of 13 two-goal games and 16 of 26 three-or-more-goal games.

In 2015-16, they won 21 of 37 one-goal games, eight of 16 two-goal games and 16 of 29 three-or-more-goal games.

If goaltending is the problem, then stabilize the waters by moving one of them and sail forward. If it is scoring, then call up some of the young kids to energize the squad. If they are losing because the line combos and general chemistry between players is poor, then set up some off-ice activities so that the players can build said chemistry and confidence with each other.

We understand that fantasy hockey teams are not like real ones. We can change lineups, discard underperformers and pick up someone who is hot, even if it is for a short period of time. Our systems and rules allow us to be frivolous and risk takers.

The commonality between real life and fantasy, though, is not being afraid to apply a change before it becomes too late.

Lament and second guess his decisions this past summer, but there is no undo button.

When Garth Snow was appointed as general manager of the Islanders, not many people thought he would do as well as he has done. In his 11 years at the helm, they have made the playoffs four times and only once gotten to the second round (last season). In the 12 seasons before Snow, they made the playoffs five times and only once gotten to the third round (1992-93).

He has done well to last this long, but if asked to rate his performance, I would say that it has at best only been “good”.