Embattled Executive Says Stigma Surrounding Beleaguered Franchise Is Fading

NEW YORK (WFAN) — Garth Snow has turned into a lightning rod of sorts these days.

The embattled general manager of the New York Islanders has been the subject of much criticism of late, specifically in the aftermath of the now-infamous interview he did with TSN during the NHL draft.

In case you were taking a nap that night, Snow used a four-letter word during the interview as he attempted to justify why he chose to trade back into the first round to select controversial-but-talented forward Josh Ho-Sang. The media had a field day, with some saying Snow should spend less time being combative in interviews and more time working on fixing his team. After all, New York has qualified for the playoffs just twice since the lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season and has not won a playoff series since 1993.

In the aftermath of the criticism, it appears Snow has taken that directive to heart. He seems to have made returning the Islanders to the playoffs his top priority. By all accounts his first two picks in the draft were solid and his work over the first two days of free agency was also impressive, considering the Islanders swung at some big names and missed on Tuesday.

Snow, who is now in his eighth season as the club’s general manager, spent nearly $37 million on veteran free agent forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin on Wednesday and then went on WFAN with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Thursday to talk about it.

“We’re confident these guys are going to come in and help get us to the next level,” Snow said.

It is widely believed that some kind of stigma is attached to the Islanders, meaning top players do not view Long Island as a destination they want to explore come free agency. Part of the reason for that is for years the Islanders have conducted business as mostly a salary cap floor operation, meaning they’d spend just enough to get to the NHL’s minimal requirement. As a result, the team has had very little margin for error in the standings and more often than not has not able to overcome its talent shortcomings.

However, beginning last season the team’s payroll started to climb and while they won’t challenge the 2014-15 cap ceiling of $69 million, the signings of goaltender Jaroslav Halak (four years, $18 million), Grabovski (four years, $20 million) and Kulemin (four years, $16.75 million) all but guarantee that the Isles will eclipse the $51 million cap floor this season.

Snow said he sees this stigma fading away and expects the team to be much more competitive for free agents once it arrives in Brooklyn next season.

“For me, it’s word of mouth. We get players like we did yesterday — Grabovski and Kulemin — word of mouth playing with other NHL players at world championships, playing with them at the Olympics and finding out what a good place Long Island is to play and what type of organization we are,” Snow said.

Snow also spoke about several other things, including franchise center John Tavares’ health, the controversial trade that sent popular Matt Moulson to Buffalo for Thomas Vanek last October, and what he plans to do to fix a defense corps that was among the most porous in the NHL last season. To hear the entire interview, please click on the audio link below.

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