Tuesday, July 18, 2006

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:

"I spoke with Garth at length throughout the spring about the general manager's position and he really impressed me with his passion and his knowledge," said Islanders owner Charles Wang.

"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.


At 8:05 PM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...

Perhaps the strangest thing about this whole mess is that Snow's approx. $750K salary is still counting against the Islanders' cap. Frigging ridiculous.

At 8:16 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

And now LaFontaine is stepping down. GONG SHOW.

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Unbelievable. You have to think that this is related, probably in protest to Smith's firing. As if this wasn't enough of a fiasco, can you imagine what having one of their more popular former players resign is going to do PR-wise?

On another note, the more I think about it, the more I'm coming around to the idea of Garth Snow as a general manager. While there's no doubt that the process by which he came to the position is a mess (through no fault of his own that we know of), who's to say he won't be a good GM. We've seen plenty of guys rise through the ranks of front offices, only to flop when they're finally put in charge. Frankly, if experience matters, he has as much of a claim to his front office position as broadcaster-turned St. Louis Blues president John Davidson does to his, yet nobody expressed disbelief when JD was hired.

I almost think of this as an experiment. How many of us think that either ourselves, or people we know, could do a better job as a GM than about half of the league, despite lacking the 'requisite' experience. If Snow can objectively look at players - I think his biggest problem will be being overly influenced by his first-hand interaction (on and off the ice) with the players he now has to evaluate - and manage the cap properly, he should be okay.

At 12:08 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Frankly, if experience matters, he has as much of a claim to his front office position as broadcaster-turned St. Louis Blues president John Davidson does to his, yet nobody expressed disbelief when JD was hired.

Excellent point. No one has said shit about JD. Personally, I think they will both stink.


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