Monday, October 28, 2013

Snow's Gamble on Vanek Shows Desperation, Short-Sightedness

After taking twenty-four hours to digest the Islanders trade for Thomas Vanek, it's time to sound off. Many are crediting the Islanders GM Garth Snow for landing a proven elite scorer, and in fantasy land pairing Thomas Vanek and Isles elite Centerman John Tavares could be the formidable combo that puts the Islanders over the top and makes them a bona fide Stanley Cup contender.

But the 2013-2014 season won't be played in fantasy land, and the fact of the matter is that the Islanders are a fringe playoff team at best, with or without Vanek. After news of the trade broke yesterday, Snow spoke of being frustrated with his team's 4-4 start. It's commendable that Snow wants the Isles to move up to elite status after laying the foundations with a terrific infusion of youth over the last few years, but the Isles top line scoring wasn't the issue with their spotty play this year. New York is currently 2nd in the league in power play percentage, and 10th overall in goals per game.

In truth, the Islanders problem lies with a lack of depth on defense and the lack of a top flight goaltender. The team is currently 24th in the league in goals against, and Thomas Vanek, a decidedly offense-first player, isn't going to do anything to help New York in that regard.

So why mortage a chunk of the Islanders future (Snow dealt a first-rounder in 2014 and a second-rounder in 2015) for a player who at best will only marginally outperform the player they traded for him? To make matters worse, why deal that much for a player who is more than likely going to test the waters as a free agent after the season?

Worst case? The Isles get nothing in return for two top draft picks and a player who has helped them become a legitimate playoff contender with three straight 30-goal seasons. Keep in mind that Moulson is a much better value than Vanek. The centerman will probably end up signing somewhere for just over $5 million next season, while Vanek, who already makes over $7 million, will probably be looking for more.

Hockey is a business, not a riverboat, and Snow's off-the-cuff decision to neglect the teams' true needs of goaltending and defense in favor of a messiah-like forward who is reputed to be lazy on the defensive side of the puck reeks of desperation.

Does snow really consider Vanek to be the missing piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle? Does he really feel the Isles, a team that hasn't won a playoff series in 20 years, is now officially ready to forgo its future to compete now?

The move is far too risky, and the Isles, who were getting great production from Moulson and probably wouldn't have been able to do an extension easily with him, have instead handed the keys to their future to one player who will probably head for the highway at the end of the season.

With the Islanders still seeking to develop their youth and build their depth, now is not the right time for Snow to be making bets on the present at the expense of the future. The Isles are still very much a work in progress, and Snow could have found much better value for his club elsewhere.

In fact, he could have found it right in Buffalo. If he had managed to swing a deal for the Sabres' Ryan Miller, that would have been something to write home about. Getting Vanek and breaking up the Islanders undeniable first-line chemistry is not worth the risk that Snow is taking. When the season is done, he will either overpay Vanek or watch him leave. Either way it's bad business and doesn't address the Islanders real needs.