Former University of Maine and NHL goaltender Garth Snow has had a challenging year as the third-year general manager of the New York Islanders, who will finish the season with the worst record in the NHL. They are 26-45-9 with two games left.
But he remains upbeat about the future.
An injury to former U.S. Olympic team goaltender Rick DiPietro limited the workhorse to just five games this season. Injuries have also limited veteran defenseman Andy Sutton and forward Mike Sillinger to just 30 games between them.
“It’s no fun when you’re losing but we laid out a plan that would put us in a situation to be a consistent contender that can compete for a Stanley Cup and I’m proud of the fact we’ve stuck to the plan and haven’t deviated from it,” said the 39-year-old Snow. “We’ve lost something like 560 man-games to injury. That’s crazy.”
The result is the Islanders have one of the youngest teams in the league.
Nine of the current regulars are 24 years of age or younger.
Snow noted that his team has lost several games by two goals or less (36).
“That number will decrease in the future from the experience our young guys have gotten this year,” said Snow. “We’ll obviously get a good player in the draft.”
The Islanders will get two first-round picks, including the first choice, and three second-rounders, he said.
“We’re going to keep building our team through the draft. We’re going to develop our young prospects. We’re going to build this team with younger players and our fans have embraced it. That’s the way most successful teams are built. You get the key pieces to the puzzle through the draft and when the time is right, you sprin-kle in the right free agents,” said Snow.
The Islanders recently signed 2007 Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan Duncan, a center, from the University of North Dakota to a free agent contract.
Snow said the recession has impacted “everyone at different levels” but they’ve adapted by offering several different family ticket packages.
“Our sales people have been very creative catering to our fans,” said Snow.
He feels the product the NHL is putting on the ice is top-notch.
“The league is doing great. It’s a faster, more exciting game now,” said Snow who noted that rule changes including the elimination of the two-line pass infraction and a crackdown on clutching and grabbing has enabled the high-skilled players to showcase their skills.
He called the Versus TV network a “great partner” for the NHL and has mixed emotions about shutting down the league to allow players to play in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“To shut down the NHL for that long a period of time [three weeks] is tough to do business-wise. You’re shutting it down during the peak part of the season. The schedule is already condensed and it would be condensed even more,” said Snow. “Having it held in Vancouver next year makes it a lot easier travel-wise.”
However, when it isn’t in North America, travel and the health of the players becomes more of a concern, he said.
The father of three sons was recently honored at the Hockey East Tournament for being part of Maine’s 1992-93 NCAA championship team that was judged to be the best in the 25-year history of Hockey East.
He spent time with former teammates Mike Dunham, his roving goalie instructor and scout, and Jim Montgomery along with former assistant Grant Standbrook and ex-Bears Bob Beers and Brendan Walsh.
“It was fun talking about the good times we had. That season was the best experience I’ve had in hockey and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” said Snow.