The Value of a Move Not Made

Giving Garth Snow some begrudging credit

Author’s note: This can probably best be considered an appendix/follow-up to a longer piece I wrote on the recent 3-team trade and Nashville GM David Poile. If you haven’t, give that a look.

There was something I noticed was lacking from most coverage of that Matt Duchene trade, because of course I did.

Along with the trade came the usual asides about who was interested in the moved players, this time most prominently featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins (an abjectly terrifying Idea) and the Columbus Blue Jackets. But where were the mentions of Garth Snow and the New York Islanders?

Devotees of the team will remember late February of this year, when it seemed the team was just a flight away from announcing a major trade. Rumor was, Duchene would be the team’s newest entry on flight manifests, as part of a deal that would include the now departed Travis Hamonic, Mat Barzal, and other picks and prospects.

But it was not to be. The Islanders stayed mostly quiet at the deadline, and fans were forced to wait for the offseason to arrive for a shakeup. And at the draft, a shakeup did come. Prospect-turned-bust in the making Ryan Strome was shipped off to Edmonton, and Jordan Eberle joined the team.

Despite rumors that the Islanders could be in on Duchene even after the Eberle trade, nothing more materialized. The team entered the season with a collection of younger players lined up to be the team’s middle six centers, including the player that’s emerged from that group as the most exciting of the bunch, Mat Barzal.

And now, Duchene is in Ottawa, Kyle Turris is in Nashville, and the Islanders still have a collection of kids mostly running the dot. And more than a few fans were frustrated at that fact.

That anxiety is understandable. There’s seemingly a better than 0 chance that John Tavares leaves in the offseason, and whether you think the chance he’s in a new jersey come training camp is closer to 20 percent, 50 percent or 80 percent, you’ll forgive Islander fans if they’re looking to compete as soon as possible.

All that said, I think Garth Snow deserves credit for some of the same things I praised Poile for in my last blog. He had a plan that surrounded maximizing their assets like Barzal, and he had the vision and the patience not to kowtow to pressure and to Joe Sakic in handing the future of the Islanders to the Avalanche.

Would the Islanders be a better team with Matt Duchene joining Tavares up to the middle, and would they have a better chance to compete in a loaded metro? Almost certainly.

But if Tavares did leave in a few months, and Duchene followed him out the door, where does that leave the Islanders to come 2019? A team without a stadium and without a star. Not a good place to be, particularly as the second most popular team in a crowded sports market.

So if Tavares leaves, do I expect Barzal to become the team’s new rock and lead him to the same (somewhat meager) heights that 91 has led them tho? I don’t. \

Barzal is obviously talented and has tons of potential, but to ask any prospect to become Tavares is a hefty order.

But whether Tavares is in New York or not, the team is in better position long term with both Pulock, Barzal, and the collection of draft picks they didn’t send to Colorado (along with those they did get from Calgary when Hamonic left town for the Flames.) Whether he’s a superstar, or not, it’s not hard to believe Barzal will be an effective piece for years to come, and a more affordable one at that.

Snow is almost certainly planning to at least attempt to resign Tavares, and for better or worst, affordable contracts will matter when that time comes. And who knows, maybe the potential of helping a player like Barzal become the kind of player that can help Tavares push the Islanders forward is more appealing than having Duchene on the roster anyway.

Sometimes, the moves you don’t make mean more than the ones you do.

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