9:42 pm - In an interview with rightsholder MSG Network, Islanders general manager Garth Snow said his team’s future is bright, he is building a “consistent contender” and the team’s goal is to make the playoffs next season.
After defending his play-in playoff proposal – “There were 16 teams in the playoffs when there were 21 NHL teams, and now there are 30 teams and there are still only 16 playoff teams,” he said, dead seriously - Snow was asked by Howie Rose about his team. Here is an unedited transcript:
This is clearly Year 2 of a rebuilding program. Where are you right now relative to your expectations?
I think there are a lot of bright signs for the future when you look at our team. Kyle Okposo has taken a huge step in the right direction. Josh Bailey…when you see the difference in him after a summer of training, he came in and looked like a man. John Tavares is gonna benefit from a summer of training.
I don’t think people realize that after a player is drafted, the emphasis when the season ends is to get in shape to do well at the (draft) combine. That’s not necessarily getting in shape for a hockey season. It’s no fault of any player. It’s just the way the system works…and obviously, leading up to the draft, there’s appearances, commitments made, whether it be in the media or certain markets.
Then as the player enters into the market he is drafted by, there’s a lot of commitments and time that takes away from training. There’s an added benefit for John to get a really good summer of training.
Do you feel (Tavares) needs to get significantly stronger to take the next step in his development?
He’s going to get stronger just because he’s a 19-year-old kid. Sometimes we lose sight of it.
What about from a technical standpoint, in terms of skating and an ability to stay on his feet…does that comes with more weight and more bulk?
I can tell you from my own experience, when you’re 19 years old or 20 years old and playing against men who are 28 and 32 years old, there’s a big difference. And not only in strength and conditioning, but what you find works maybe in college or junior might not necessarily work in the NHL.
Those are lessons I know are sometimes frustrating for our fans, but things are going in the right direction. We have a great group of young players. We have a good nucleus. We have solid leaders in that locker room. It’s going to be fun watching this team evolve and grow up.
Will Rick DiPietro play again for the Islanders this season?
Yeah, we believe so. The swelling has gone down and he’s been skating with Sudsie (Maharaj) and Mike Dunham, our two goalie coaches. I fully expect him to play at some point.
What happens as you get into the summer if there are any lingering questions whether he can carry a big load next year? For the sake of this conversation, we’ll assume (UFA Martin Biron) goes somewhere else. Do you then need to find another veteran goaltender as you did with Biron to pair with Roloson?
You know what happens when you assume, Howie. With Rick, with what he’s gone through and the way he’s rehabbed, this is why for us it’s important for him to get in games now.
Well, then if he comes back and plays ten games (this season) will that satisfy for you that you have no issue with him going forward? Or will there be that lingering doubt that he can play a significant number of games?
The one luxury we have is Dwayne Roloson, who’s under contract for next year. He’s obviously a goaltender who’s played extremely well for us and he’s carried the load. It’s a luxury that we have.
When you got to the trade deadline, you were five points behind and you made the decision to trade Andy Sutton. Andrew MacDonald got hurt the first game back after the Olympics and you brought up Dylan Reese, an inexperienced player as opposed to trying to get Brendan Witt through recallable waivers. What’s the thinking there in terms of going young or with a veteran to make that last playoff push?
For me, when I was looking at the situation, that Ottawa game (before the Olympic break) was a big game for me. We were up 3-1. We win the game and we’re four points out of a playoff spot. There’s been several other games I would classify in that category. For us, we did a premptive move, moving Greg Moore for Dylan Reese. We felt he could be a depth defenseman. We have the luxury of recalling Brendan Witt. We felt we had depth in that area. (Bridgeport defenseman) Mark Flood, although he’s been hurt, he’s playing this weekend.
I would say the big positive in all this was the emergence of Andrew MacDonald, Jack Hillen and Dustin Kohn. In the weeks leading up to the deadline, they performed at a level we felt put us in a position to win hockey games.
From my standpoint, the goal is to bring the consistent contender to Long Island and win a Stanley Cup. If the opportunity presents itself, that we can make a move that helps the long-term and the short-term, we’ll do it. For me, it’s pretty easy. We felt that we were gonna make moves to help us bring a Stanley Cup back to Long Island.
What would your report card read for Scott Gordon’s work?
I think he’s done a great job. If you look at the way Andrew MacDonald and Jack Hillen emerged on the blue line, the development of Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, Frans Nielsen – one of the most underrated players not just on our team, but in the league – I think he’s done an excellent job.
Looking toward the summer, what would you identify as your biggest need?
We obviously want to improve in a few areas. We’d like to add a couple of defensemen.
Is size an issue?
Yeah. In a perfect world, we’d have six 6-foot-7 defensemen, 250 (pounds), that could skate like the wind. We’ve had some success July 1 – Mark Streit, Dwayne Roloson, Doug Weight, Matt Moulson. We feel we can go out and improve our team. Our goal is to make the playoffs next year.
You’ve got fans who are patient. You’ve got others who are disgruntled. What’s your message to them?
We’re gonna build this the right way. Our goal is to bring a Stanley Cup back to Long Island, and we’re just gonna execute that plan.
You are cordially invited to discuss Garth’s remarks and submit your own Plus/Minus from tonight’s game.
Toronto, Carolina and Columbus all win one-goal games – the Leafs and Canes in overtime. Holy crap.