In news simultaneously shocking and not-all-that surprising, the New York Islanders announced on Tuesday that head coach Doug Weight and longtime GM and president of hockey operations Garth Snow were relieved of their duties.
#Isles News: Garth Snow and Doug Weight have been relieved of their duties. Lou Lamoriello will assume the responsibilities of General Manager and begin the process to find a new Head Coach.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) June 5, 2018
The feeling of change surrounded the Islanders after the May hiring of former Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello as the new president of hockey ops. Lamoriello will assume the role of GM as the team looks for a new coach. (Amazingly enough, the team’s release says Snow and Weight both remain with the organization for now; we’ll see what they’re asked to do and how long that lasts.)
Snow’s reign in Long Island ran for more than a decade after the former Isles goalie retired and took over as GM from Neil Smith in 2006 (with no managerial experience, and with Smith only on the job for 41 days before his firing). He’s had a divisive post-playing career, making moves that ranged from brilliant to completely head-scratching – unfortunately for Snow, the latter happened more frequently.
Snow’s track record of landing impressive young talents like Anders Lee, Matthew Barzal and Brock Nelson was good and he did a wonderful job snagging castoffs like Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy from cap-strapped teams. And he did manage to get the Islanders to the playoffs four times, most recently in 2015-16.
However, Snow won’t be remembered for those moves. Instead, he’ll be remembered as the guy who signed Rick DiPietro to a ridiculous 15-year deal worth $67.5 million (which the Islanders are still paying until 2020-2021), for holding onto assets until well past their expiry date and ultimately winning just 11 playoff games during his tenure. Simply put, while he made some good moves, Snow’s time in this role was plagued with mediocrity and bad decisions. And, honestly, it seemed the Islanders were A-OK with that, hence the surprise.
The organization seemed entirely complacent on letting Snow do his thing as the team underperformed, including failing to make the playoffs in the past two seasons. Once Lamoriello was brought on board, Snow’s decision-making ability was guaranteed to be reigned in, but to cut him and Weight (a below-average coach who probably needs more time as an assistant) this quickly is not only encouraging but the best possible outcome for fans in New York.
Lamoriello’s got a tough summer ahead of him, with the number-one priority making sure captain John Tavares sticks around. On top of that, he’s got to get a Tavares deal done while navigating a cap-hit reeking of bad long-term deals left behind by his predecessor. Keeping Tavares and managing the cap won’t be easy, but their chances of doing it with Lamoriello instead of Snow are unquestionably increased. Making the move shows Tavares the Islanders aren’t complacent and are ready to take a different step forward. That doesn’t guarantee Tavares’ re-signing, but it does show him they’re willing to try something different.
It will be fascinating to see who Lamiorello hires as head coach because the franchise, before the firings, was completely aimless. Bringing in someone who can provide stability instead of being a placeholder is obviously a huge priority.
Regardless of who is hired, what’s clear is the Islanders are entering a new chapter instead of sticking with the same failing formula. There’s no guaranteed success with Lamiorello and a new coach, however, there’s no guaranteed mediocrity like there was under Snow. The Islanders, at the very least, will be a much more interesting team. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and rip off the band-aid. It took the Islanders more than a decade, but they’ve finally done it.