This entry is for the fans who have not had a great experience when it comes to the Islanders drafting quality players in the first round. This team was originally built through the draft, especially the first round picks. There are numerous reasons why this team has struggled over the years, but many just want to blame Mike Milbury, and the owners before Charles Wang. Some of you want to blame Wang, and the inexperience of Snow as a GM. If you really want to analyze the beginnings of the poor performances of this franchise, look no further than the architect himself, Bill Torrey.
Bill Torrey’s tenure has been well documented with the drafting he did to build the Islanders into a dynasty. However, there may only be a handful of older fans who will remember the following people that were drafted with the Islanders pick in the first round: Brad Dalgarno, Derek King, Tom Fitzgerald, and Scott Lachance. Those four players were the only ones drafted in the first round to make ANY kind of impact for the Islanders between 1984 and 1991. That’s almost 8 straight years of okay to poor drafting by Torrey. The only success the Islanders had between those years was the 1988 division title. While the Dynasty players were getting older and being waived, retired, or traded, Torrey couldn’t replenish the talent pool with the first rounder’s, which set the Islanders up for more losses in the near future. So while Torrey should be honored for his early works, fans should also note his work after the Cups.
Torrey was replaced by former Ranger Don Maloney in 1992 and remained at his post until 1995. Many fans cringed by this thought, but for the four years he was in charge of the draft, he did collect a good brand of first rounder’s: Kasparitis in 92, Bertuzzi in 93, (Brett) Lindros in 94, and Wade Redden in 95. Lindros will always be an incomplete grade because of the numerous head injuries he suffered that ended his career prematurely, but Kasparitis went on to have a memorable career, and the others are still playing…… just not for the Islanders. Unfortunately, Maloney (in my opinion) was trade happy, and ended up trading Pierre Turgeon for Kirk Muller, and thus the beginning of the end for Maloney. Maloney would go on to trade many of the core players of the 93 squad, and others tested free agency, thus leaving the Islanders with a very young, and inexperienced team.
This brings us to “Mad” Mike Milbury. I’m not even going to go down the list of players. All of you know the stories, and many continue to talk or write about him, but I’m going to say this about Milbury, he was a bad mix between Torrey and Maloney. Milbury drafted okay, but if they had potential, they were traded before they could prove themselves to him. In the 11 years that Milbury was General Manager, he had a few good choices with the first round pick, but some were horrible. The good ones would be Tim Connelly, Raffi Torres, Roberto Luongo, Eric Brewer, Taylor Pyatt, Rick DiPietro, Sean Bergenheim, and J.P Dumont. That’s eight out of fourteen players that were drafted in the first round by Milbury, and are having decent careers in the NHL. Out of the eight mentioned only Connelly, DiPietro, Bergenheim, and Brewer played more than 80 games for the Islanders. That’s four players in the last 11 years to have ANY impact for this once proud franchise that use to thrive on drafting, developing, and winning with good players.
So now fans we have Garth Snow (Neil Smith was there for too short of a time. He’s more of a footnote. If anyone gets credit for drafting Okposo, give it to assistant GM Ryan Jankowski). Former goaltender turned General Manager. What has he done? Traded down from 5th to 7th to 9th for a player they wanted all along in Josh Bailey in last years draft. Snow received a slew of extra picks to help replenish the organization, which was bone dry with talent, and now has the first overall pick in this upcoming draft, along with multiple picks in each of the first three rounds. People are already threatening to not sign up for season tickets if John Tavares is not drafted, yet Snow has the potential right now to draft like the old Bill Torrey of the seventies, and early eighties, and not trade current players like “Mad” Mike Milbury, and Maloney did. Snow has been given praise by the fans for his free agent signings, and developing of young players. Don’t threaten him now, if one player who has not played a single game in the NHL yet, is not drafted by the Islanders.
Most fans may not know this, but whoever is drafted with the first overall pick, and if this player plays next season, it will be the first time since 1995-1996 that the Islanders will have 5 or more players that they drafted in the first round to play at one time. That is a 13 year drought of poor drafting first round talent. What Snow is doing is what every good GM should be doing: researching, scouting, not giving in to the media, nor the fans, and building a team the way it should have been built years ago….through the development of the young players. He’s not going to trade these players, like the aforementioned GMs did. He will pick whoever best fits this organization both for the present and future. This organization, if it wants to get back its winning ways must draft correctly every year. Who knows, maybe Snow is thinking the same way the fans are. He has not steered away from his plan, and as of now has no intentions of. We as fans should only support what Snow does because his predecessors did not leave him with much to begin with. And when the Islanders are once again primed for a Stanley Cup, you’ll look back and thank Snow for a job well done.