A Short Stay on Long Island: Neil Smith Out As GM
That was fast. After a month on the job, Neil Smith has been fired as General Manager of the New York Islanders.
The reason why is unclear at this point; if I had to guess, I would say he drew the ire of former GM, and current VP Mike Milbury by not trading any of his goalies in his first month on the job. Hopefully there will be more details available right away.
**Update**: Mirtle has a good take up. As for my own opinion, I don't think Smith made any terrible moves thus far. Getting Sillinger, who scored 63 points last year, for an average salary of $2.2 million is right in the range where most 2nd/3rd line centers are getting paid this off-season. As for the defenseman, Poti's $2.75 mil might seem high, but it's only a one-year deal, while getting Brendan "all defense, no offense" Witt for $2.5 a year is a bargain in this year's unrestricted free agent market for defenseman. Meanwhile, adding Andy Hilbert and Chris Simon for depth are also good moves, since they don't cost much and are only one-year deals.
Do these moves make the Islanders a playoff team? Probably not. However, when looking at the team's payroll, you have to understand that the moves that Smith could have made are kind of limited with almost $12 million tied up in two 66 point scorers (Yashin and Satan). With the exception of Poti, the guys he added were veteran, good character players who could have helped provide leadership to the club, and help mentor the kids who will make the Isles a playoff team again. Compared to what some of the other bottom-feeders who are going nowhere did (such as St. Louis), Smith had performed well in adding reasonably priced talent, and not sacrificing his team's future cap flexibility.
Reports say that he was fired, so unless Smith actually stepped aside for 'personal reasons', I just don't understand this move one bit.
**Second Update** - Garth Snow, who is still under contract as the backup goalie, is the new GM. My first reaction is...you have got to be f'n kidding me. I just, don't get it at all. Here's what owner Charles Wang had to say:
"When the job opened up, the choice was an easy one. Garth knows the league as well as anyone, has an eye for talent and understands how our staff works as a team. Most importantly, Garth is a man of integrity, someone I trust will work hard, be creative and represent the Islanders with dignity."
Okay, now I'm even more confused. So despite never having worked in a front office, Snow was able to impress Wang enough by showing off his knowledge (perhaps by playing fantasy GM) that he convinced Wang to can the man he hired just a month ago? Astounding. Part of me thinks that TSN picked this story up from The Onion.
Props to the first guy who shows up at the Nassau Coliseum with a "My Wang Makes Better Decisions" t-shirt.
**Third and Final Update** - ESPN provides a bit of insight into this, quoting Wang as saying that Smith "philosophically opposed" the business model of the Isles' front office. This makes a bit of sense, but you have to think that Wang should have done his homework in the first place. Also, I like Neil Smith a lot as a GM, and think that, business models aside, the Islanders are worse off without him in charge.