Getting to the second playoff round is not equated with winning the Stanley Cup and nobody knows that better than Garth Snow.
Reaching hockey’s Supreme Silverware remains the primary goal of the Islanders GM. But to do that, there are more immediate challenges to meet.
Signing one, two or all three of his unrestricted free agents — Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin — ranks among those priorities.
Addressing the Jaroslav Halak–Thomas Greiss–Jean-Francois Berube goalie trio issue is another, as well as finding superior wings for captain John Tavares.
The sting of losing two overtime games and, eventually, the second-round series to Tampa Bay, remains with players, fans, and the general manager. When I asked Garth precisely what went wrong; what cost his club that tournament, he was blunt.
“We just weren’t good enough,” he asserted.
Snow, who has run the Isles front office since retiring as a goalie in 2006, offered his views on these and other issues related to the transplanted-to-Brooklyn franchise:
POSSIBILITY OF KEEPING OKPOSO, NIELSEN AND MARTIN:
“The challenge for me is to keep them together (as Islanders) and to keep all three.”
HOW HE FEELS ABOUT THEM AND CHANCES TO KEEP:
“These are players we drafted and then developed into the (desirable) players they are today. That’s one reason I’d like to bring them back. But with the salary cap, we have to see how to do it.”
HOW HE GETS ALONG WITH THEM:
“I have a good relationship with all three as well as their agents and we have had good conversations. But when it comes to (delicate) situations such as these the discussions remain between the players, their agents and me. We’ll just wait and see how it all unfolds.”
FINDING LINEMATES TO ENHANCE JOHN TAVARES’ OFFENSIVE STRENGTHS:
“First of all, John Tavares is the face of the franchise and one of the elite players in the league. Whether it means getting a winger for John, we will leave no stone unturned. Whether it means improving the team, we’ll leave no stone unturned. This will all unfold.”
WHETHER THOMAS GREISS CAN BE A NO. 1 GOALIE:
“For starters, Thomas displayed a great work ethic which earned the respect of players and coaches. When he was given the opportunity to play, he played great and proved to be a No. 1 goalie. His challenge going forward is to improve (on what he has accomplished already.)”
THE THREE GOALIE SYSTEM — WORKING AND NOT WORKING:
“Jaro (Halak) had an injury early in the season. We were fortunate to get (J-F) Berube who was highly regarded (with Thomas Greiss) so goaltending became a position of strength for us. But moving forward, we’re going to have to make decisions (about goaltending.)
REACTION TO THE BROOKLYN MOVE:
“It has a great atmosphere with a first-class building environment — players’ video setup, the overall comfort — first-class all the way. This was an adjustment for the team and the organization which we embraced. The result has been a magical environment, and I have the utmost respect for the way the fans have reacted to it. All in all, it has been a great atmosphere.”
ISSUE OF PLAYERS LIVING AND PRACTICING ON LONG ISLAND BUT PLAYING IN BROOKLYN:
“Granted it’s not like a five-minute drive to the Coliseum. But our situation is no different from many NHL teams. The Rangers practice in Westchester, players live there but they play their games (in Manhattan) at Madison Square Garden. The situation is similar for the Kings in Los Angeles and the Capitals in Washington.
You can go down the list of other NHL teams (and the situation will be similar.) There’s rarely a situation in the NHL (where teams can have all their practices in the same arena in which they play.”)
CONDITION OF ICE AT BARCLAYS CENTER:
“There have been ‘quirks’ here and there. This comes with dealing with a facility in its first season. But we have made positive strides and there’s been a learning curve for everyone. But we have not had many complaints (about the ice).”
HIS FEELINGS ABOUT COACH JACK CAPUANO:
“At the end of the day you judge by how the players compete and our fans love the way our team competed.”
ADJUSTING TO NEW OWNERS AFTER CHARLES WANG’S STEWARDSHIP:
“Charles was a special owner who created an atmosphere here where players did not want to leave (Long Island). Now we will move forward with (new owners). I have a great relationship with Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky and I look forward to working with them.”
DEVELOPING YOUNG DEFENSEMEN SUCH AS RYAN PULOCK, SCOTT MAYFIELD AND ADAM PELECH:
“They are three promising young players each different in the way he plays the game. We’ve been fortunate in that we have not had to rush them (from AHL Bridgeport up to the big club.) We’ve had the depth to let them take their time and learn in the AHL. They will play a big rule in the future.”
WHAT WENT WRONG IN GAME 5 VS. TAMPA BAY:
“We laid an egg, but it’s important that it’s something we learn from.”
A man with a sense of humor, Snow got his biggest laugh when asked what he’s “most proud of” from his decade running the team.
Delivering the perfect squelch, he shot back: “That I haven’t hit 300 pounds!”