Once upon a time when Bill Parcells walked out the door in New England after chafing over his lack of control over personnel issues, the two-time Super Bowl winning coach uttered memorable words.
“If they want you to cook the dinner,” Parcells said in January of 1997, “at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”
Well, the Islanders are cooking, my friends, up 2-1 on the Flyers in their second-round series that continued Sunday night in Toronto. They have already won six playoff games (not including the three in the qualifying round victory over the Panthers), which represents the most for the franchise since the 1992-93 club won nine in going to the conference finals.
And while there is no doubt that Lou Lamoriello holds the exalted title of Executive Chef with Barry Trotz operating at Sous Chef, do you know who did the shopping for most of the groceries?
Why, that would be Garth Snow.
Lamoriello’s imprint on the roster construction is dramatic. He signed both Matt Martin and Leo Komarov after having them both during his three-year tenure as Leafs GM. Both of these role players, disparaged in Toronto, have been essential parts of this playoff drive. Lamoriello acquired Andy Greene, who has become a stabilizing force on the blue line.
He made the decision not to re-up Robin Lehner last summer and instead signed free agent Semyon Varlamov, who has been outstanding through this run. (Lehner, of course, has been equally impressive for Vegas in the Western bubble). And last summer, Lamoriello signed Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle — half of the team’s top six forwards — to fairly pricey long-term contracts before they could escape as free agents on the 2019 open market.
And of course, most critically, Lamoriello hired Trotz, a kindred soul.
So there is all that. And there is all that structure and sense of seriousness and purpose that appeared to be missing under Snow’s regime that encompassed the 12 seasons from 2006-07 through 2017-18 that produced four playoff appearances and 11 playoff game victories. There is stability behind the bench with 21-year veteran and Cup-winner Trotz following a stretch in which three of the four coaches hired by Snow following the dismissal of Ted Nolan — Scott Gordon, Jack Capuano and Doug Weight — had no experience behind an NHL bench.
But the ingredients…
Josh Bailey, who is currently the second-longest professional athlete in New York behind Henrik Lundqvist, was drafted by Snow. So were Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. So was Nelson. So were both Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, “P’s” on the first-pair pod who have been so effective under the bubble while primarily matched against the opposition’s top lines.
Scott Mayfield was a Snow draft pick and so was Devon Toews. There’s your second pair. Remember the time that the then-GM said that a shoulder injury that sidelined Toews for the second half of the 2017-18 season — while the defenseman was in his second pro season at AHL Bridgeport — was a major factor in the Islanders’ failure to make the playoffs?
Lee was a Snow draft selection, a sixth-rounder in 2009 who has emerged as one of the most respected players and voices around the league. Nelson was a Snow pick as well, a first-rounder in 2010 with whom Snow was patient through development years. Good thing, too, the way Nelson has evolved into a responsible, 200-foot, second-line center.
There were, of course, the canny trades that added Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, the former now Greene’s partner while the latter has essentially been bumped from the lineup by Greene. But there is no doubt that Leddy and Boychuk were important pieces of the plank that allowed the Islanders to get from there to here.
And, you know, the Islanders traded first-rounder Nino Niederrieiter after a couple of years of completely botching his development. There is little excuse for that. But Snow at least acquired Cal Clutterbuck in the deal with Minnesota, No. 15 having been a mainstay on the famous Martin-Casey Cizikas-Clutterbuck fourth line. Cizikas is a Snow-man, as well.
It is not at all unusual for a GM of a successful team to have reaped the rewards of his predecessor(s). George McPhee, for example, received accolades when the Caps went to the Cup final in 1998 in his first year, but the team had been almost entirely constructed by David Poile.
These Flyers, now under the direction of GM Chuck Fletcher, are an amalgamation of the work done by himself (coach Alain Vigneault, Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen) and by predecessors Ron Hextall (Carter Hart, Joel Farabee, Tomas Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim) and Paul Holmgren (Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek) and even Bobby Clarke (Claude Giroux).
But here are the Islanders, at their most formidable in almost three decades, cooking with many of the groceries purchased by Garth Snow.