Garth Snow has been GM of the Islanders since he retired from the ice in 2006. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
The Hockey News: What was the thought process behind letting Scott Gordon go when you did?
Garth Snow: We’re a team that’s rebuilding, we’re a team that has a great nucleus that’s going to help us in the near future – not only with players here, but we have prospects in Bridgeport, prospects in junior and in Europe and college hockey. We’re definitely a team that has a lot of great things on the horizon.
As for Scott, (firing him) was one of the hardest things I’ve done in this position. Scott is an excellent coach. He was the right coach at the right time for a young team the past couple of years. He’s a good friend, it was a difficult decision. On the plus side, I’ll be in the office next to him. He’s someone who has great insight on the game. He’s taken on the role of special advisor to hockey ops.
THN: What made you guys decide on bringing in Jack Capuano as Scott’s replacement?
GS: After looking at our options, it became clear. Jack’s coached a lot of our players on our team and he’s very active in camp and has responsibility throughout the course of training camp. It was more beneficial to have a coach who’s familiar with the personnel. When you go through a change like that, I want to avoid the feeling-out process. Jack’s either coached with them or worked with them in training camp, not only this year, but the past four years. That, to me, was a positive.
THN: Are you keeping an ear to the ground for other coaches?
GS: Right now, Jack’s our coach. We’ve had key injuries. We’ve been decimated by injuries on the blueline in particular. We can’t use that as an excuse. We have some talented players. It’s an opportunity for some players who are playing 12 minutes to play 15 minutes, it’s an opportunity for players from Bridgeport to get called up and showcase themselves that they’re NHL players.
THN: It was a little bit of a surprise to see Josh Bailey sent down to the minors. What led to that and how did he respond?
GS: He responded really well. He’s averaged I think a point a game in Bridgeport (now 12 points in eight games). For me, Josh started the season playing at an extremely high level, then he suffered a hip pointer and that set him back. When dealing with a hip pointer, you need to train. From that point, I just thought there was a lack of confidence in his game. We talked with Josh to explain there’s an opportunity for him to go there in Bridgeport and be the best he can be at that level and get his confidence back. He was at a point where he was at 159 games and as soon as a player in that stage of his career reaches 160, you have to sign him to the AHL affiliate – in our case Bridgeport – unless he’d go on waivers. I didn’t want to be in a situation a month from now saying, ‘I wish I had done it at that time just to get his confidence back.’ So it was a timing issue as well. He was at 159 games; if he played another game we never would have been able to make that move.
THN: Is there any sense in the organization that he was rushed into the NHL?
GS: No. Scott and I at the time, we gave it a lot of thought. The way Josh is as a player and probably more importantly as a person, it’s less of a concern that...when you make a decision over an 18-year-old about whether to keep him or send him back to junior, a lot of it is between the ears, the physical aspect of it. We thought he was in a stage of his career where he could handle it.
THN: I was reading an article about veteran baseball GM Pat Gillick and he said for players making the step up to the majors he used to think 80 percent had to do with talent and 20 percent had to with maturity. Now, he said he thinks it’s 60 percent maturity and 40 percent talent. Does that apply to players being ready for the NHL?
GS: Because of how well-trained these young players are, it is about physical development. They all have personal trainers with them at a very young age. In my opinion, most of it is between the ears and how can a young player handle the ups and downs of an NHL season.
THN: What are some of the bright spots you’ve seen on the NHL roster that might start showing itself later on in the season?
GS: We’ve been decimated by injuries, especially on our blueline. We have a lot of players in the system, in college, in Europe and the juniors. I’m very bullish on our future and we’re in a situation where there are a lot of great things to come. We’re trying to get there as quickly as possible, but we want to do it the right way.
THN: Is there anything you expected or hoped to see from this year’s team that hasn’t happened yet?
GS: Health. (Laughs)
THN: In the AHL, can you give me names of who you’ve been impressed with so far?
GS: Josh (Bailey). He actually got hurt in one of (his AHL games). It’s funny, a lot of these players are here because of the injury situation. Travis Hamonic is going to be a player for the future, high character, not afraid to block a shot, to be physical. Our silver lining is our prospect pool.
THN: One of the guys I wanted to ask you about is Kirill Kabanov. He’s bit of a wild card, thought of as a first round draft pick at one point and you guys nabbed him up later on. What made you guys feel comfortable selecting him in the third round?
GS: He’s a first round talent. When you can get that kind of talent, that’s a risk I’m willing to take. He’s a very talented player, he just needs to mature. We haven’t given up on him by any means. I know he got traded from Moncton (Quebec League). The conversations I’ve had with him were positive. We’re grateful to have him as a prospect as well.
THN: What have the reports on Kabanov been like so far this season?
GS: He’s got dynamic skill, he can be very threatening not only off the rush, but through the hash marks. He’s got great vision.
THN: You guys have a few players going to the World Junior Championship. How important do you think that experience is for the development of these guys?
GS: When you watch the World Junior Championship, it’s one of the best tournaments around. We started to get more and more prospects competing in that tournament. That’s always a great tournament around the holidays, fast-paced and playoff-style hockey. It’s great to have your own prospects face prospects from other organizations.
THN: Is there anything specific you’d like to see from a certain player in that tournament?
GS: We just want all prospects to play a big role. We want them to have success. At the end of the day, it’s about winning and being successful as a team. I know we have prospects with different teams so I’m not going to favor one team. I just want our prospects to use that tournament as a learning curve and have fun with it.
THN: How important is the Lighthouse Project for the future of the franchise in New York?
GS: It’s crucial. The one fortunate thing that happened over the summer was our owner, Charles Wang, put $250,000 into the locker room and the lounge (at Nassau Coliseum). He’s shown commitment to the team and to the community.
THN: How far along is this rebuild and when is it realistic to expect to see some results and some playoff appearances?
GS: Obviously, we’d rather have it be sooner than later. We’re trying to develop our players as quickly as possible. We’re going to do it the right way, there won’t be any quick fixes. We don’t want to compromise our goals. We have to make the right draft picks, develop those draft picks and stick with the right free agents.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web editor. His blog appears Tuesdays only on THN.com.
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