It was one year ago yesterday that New York Islanders fans rejoiced that general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight were finally fired from their positions within the organization.
The day was a long time coming, but it was also a moment that might have changed the franchises’ fortunes for the foreseeable future.
Lou Lamoriello, who took over the Isles President of Hockey Operations on May 22, 2018, made the swift decisions to let go of Snow and Weight two of the longest-tenured people in the organization. Snow had been with the Islanders since 2006 when he was given the title of g.m. by the late Charles Wang; Weight had played for the Isles from 2009-12 and became an assistant under former coach Jack Capuano and later head coach for two and a half seasons. Those two firings occurring were far overdue and meant something crucial for the franchise: A fresh start.
During Snow’s reign, the Islanders only made the playoffs four times in 12 seasons, couldn’t attract key free agents to turn the team into a legit contender, and failed to build around former captain John Tavares. His right-hand man, Weight, the resume wasn’t much prettier — two straight seasons of missing the playoffs, a porous defensive structure, coaching a team that allowed the most goals for in over a decade.
After giving Garth his pink slip — and assuming the role as general manager shortly after — Lamoriello made it known that this was his franchise and times were changing. Looking back on that day and what has unfolded since, the Islanders have risen from the ashes and are finally on the right track.
Where do they stand you ask:
1. They stand as a franchise that finally has accountability and culture from the top of the organization to the bottom.
Under Snow and Weight’s watch, accountability and culture were as foreign a concept to anyone who was around the organization. As soon as they were shown the door, Lamoriello made it very clear that the organization was going to be run with an iron fist. What that meant was everyone from players, to coaches, to the guy who resurfaces the ice, was going to be held to a higher standard. That higher standard was easy to identify with throughout this season and will be the same for hopefully many years to come.
2. They stand with a head coach and general manager who actually know what they are doing.
“Adults in charge”. That’s been the expression attached to how the Islanders were going to be handled by with Lamoriello and Barry Trotz at the helm. Only a year in, that expression rings true with vigor. Lamoriello and Trotz have changed the perception of how many view the franchise from the outside.
Trotz now has instilled a system and attitude that the current and future players of this organization can use to be successful both as a team and as individuals. He and Lamoriello have also infused a plan to keep and sign players who they think are the pieces to a championship puzzle.
Take the Brock Nelson signing for example. Knowing the organization still lacks depth down the middle and seeing that options were probably thin via free agency and trade-wise, Lamoriello was steadfast in his thinking and got Nelson locked up for the long-haul instead of playing it out and letting him test the market.
This isn’t the old Islanders where you had Snow making the decisions and shafting key players like Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo.
3. They stand with a farm system that is rejuvenated.
Under the old guard, the scene in Bridgeport was always bleak. But now, the Islanders actually have a minor-league team that will finally help have players ready to play at the NHL level. It showed in buckets this year with the Sound Tigers claiming a 95-point season and a playoff berth for the first time in three years. The system put in place and development of some of the Isles bigger name prospects — Michael Dal Colle, Otto Koivula, Sebastian Aho, Kieffer Bellows, Mitch Vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon — were on display. Despite all the flack he was given, head coach Brent Thompson also did a terrific job.
4. They stand with a bountiful of prospects that could be NHL-bound in the near future.
Noah Dobson, Bode Wilde, Oliver Wahlstrom, Arnaud Durandeau, Ilya Sorokin are just a few of the names that might be sporting the Islander crest soon. But overall, all those key pieces are just a smidge of where the Isles are heading.
5. They stand with a young core that hasn’t reached its full potential.
Center Mathew Barzal is only 22-years-old and is on the cusp of being an elite player in the NHL; The defensive core — Ryan Pulock (24), Devon Toews (25), Scott Mayfield (26) and Adam Pelech (24) — was outstanding last season and are only going to improve under Trotz’ structure; Forward Anthony Beauvillier has 20-25 goal potential; Center Brock Nelson has 60-65 point potential after a career-best 53-point campaign; Even Michael Dal Colle — who totally flipped the script on his career — has the chance to be a solid third-line presence.
6. They stand as a club with a sense of direction.
Even when the Islanders did have minimal success under Snow, they never built on it and pushed themselves back to the unknown. But after they just experienced their best season points-wise since 1983-84 and achieved far greater than anything they did when the former regime was running the show, the organization now sees what lies ahead to get to the ultimate goal. Lamoriello knows what else needs to be done to make this club a championship caliber team for the next half decade, something that Snow never could fully grasp.
7. They stand with a fan base that is ready for the glory days to return.
The optimism has never been higher among the Isles faithful. Things have dramatically changed and the fans are hungry for more. There’s a restored pride in the team, management, and ownership.
No one could have predicted a year ago at this time the Islanders as an organization would be, yet here they are. Stable, being run professionally, standing tall and ready for possible long-term success.
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