New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow has heard the angst emanating from all corners of his team’s fan base.
That does not mean, however, the executive is ready to make wholesale changes to an Islanders squad that has disappointed through the first two months of the 2016-17 NHL season.
“I understand the frustration of our fans,” Snow told reporters at Northwell Health Ice Center Friday morning, prior to the Islanders’ 3-2 overtime loss to the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Penguins, according to NHL.com.
Following the loss, the Islanders have a 5-8-4 record. Their 14 points are the fewest in the NHL, Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division.
This coming off a season in which the Islanders won a playoff round for the first time since the epochal 1992-93 season, and spent in free agency for Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera, Dennis Seidenberg and the since-waived P.A. Parenteau.
According to industry website CapFriendly.com, the Islanders’ $72.388 million payroll is 12th highest in the NHL.
Seidenberg’s eight points are tied with Josh Bailey for third most on the team. Chimera’s five points ranks sixth on the team with Travis Hamonic. Ladd, signed to seven-year, $38.5 million UFA deal on the first day of free agency, has two goals and an assist in 17 games.
“Andrew brings a lot of different things to our club. “[He’s] a very high-character guy. We knew that when we signed him,” Snow said. “Andrew Ladd isn’t defined as a hockey player by scoring goals; it’s a lot of different things he does, whether it’s [being tough] to play against, his leadership.
“He’s a winner. Andrew’s a big part of our club. It’s the reason why we signed him, because of all those positive attributes that he brings to the club.”
Added together, and you get an angry fan base demanding wholesale alterations to the playing roster, coaching staff and the front office.
“It’s the same passionate fan base that blew the roof off the [Nassau] coliseum in the Pittsburgh series, the Washington series, the last year of the coliseum, and they blew the roof off the Barclays Center last year,” Snow continued. “It’s a passionate fan base; we’re in New York. Of course, we’re going to hear it when we do well and we’re going to hear it when we don’t do so well. It’s what we signed up for. I can appreciate the passion. Quite frankly, it’s one of the best parts of being a general manager of a New York-based team; you’ve got the most passionate fan base in the world.”
Appreciating passion is one thing. Reacting to passion is quite another. And to hear Snow, it sounds as if he’s ready to ride with what he constructed despite speculation that the executive is prepared to deal.
“[Head coach] Jack [Capuano and the rest of] the coaching staff, our players, I have a lot of confidence in everyone in that room. The great part about when you face adversity, [you see] who rises to the top. Although it doesn’t always feel easy for our fans, when you go through adversity, it’s a great challenge and I always look forward to see who rises to that challenge, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a player, coaches, staff.
“We’re all in this together and I’ve got a lot of belief in everyone in that room,” Snow said.
Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than the Islanders’ 42, and their minus-12 goal differential is fourth worst in the league.
“Like every other team, we’re always looking to improve our team,” Snow said. “All avenues, whether it’s the draft, whether it’s free agency, whether it’s trades, waivers, we’ve gone every route to build this team. Like I said, I believe in the guys that we have in that room right now. It’ll never prevent us from always looking to try to improve our club, but those guys in there are [going to] rise to the top, and I have a lot of belief in them.
“I’ve had the luxury to work with [co-owners] Jon Ledecky [and] Scott Malkin, and I’ve had their support. For me, I’ve been very fortunate to be a manager and to have had the support from ownership that I’ve had for the last 10 years. I know that doesn’t always happen. I’m grateful and I’m appreciative about the support that I get from them.”
You can follow Metro New York NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman.