The GM answers your emails
The emails keep on coming, more than 2,000 of them in a little over a week. The support and positive words towards Garth and the organization have been incredible, proving once again why Islanders fans are the most loyal in pro sports.
In this batch of responses written over the weekend, the new Islanders GM tackles the issues addressed by several fans in their letters to him.
As an Islanders season ticketholder I would like to understand the signing of Chris Simon. I will admit I am a huge fan of Eric Godard and I believed he had a bright future as an Islander. Eric stood up for you guys all the time. Please tell me why Eric is not signed. I wish you luck as General Manager. I hope there will be playoff hockey in the spring.
Sec 333 Row C Seat 14 and 15
GARTH RESPONDS: I love Eric Godard, let me make that clear first. He was a great teammate. As you know, when our team decided to not give Eric a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent, I was not general manager. Eric missed a bunch of games at the end of last season because of illness and injuries. That probably led to the decision to not give him a one-way contract (paid as an NHLer whether in the NHL or AHL) and allow him to be a free agent. Eric ended up coming to terms with Calgary on a two-way contract this week. No one will be rooting more for Godsy than me.
But I'm also very happy with the signing of Chris Simon. I don't want a fourth line that's playing 2-4 minutes a game. We need to go with four strong lines and Chris Simon has taken a regular shift in the NHL for a lot of good teams for a long time. Chris is going to be a very good Islander, someone you'll be proud to have on our team.
Hey Garth, What happened to Brad Shaw?? Is he with the Islanders in some capacity?? I think he did a good job stepping up with the team last season, and I was disappointed not to see him offered a permanent job. Good luck to you in your new role.
GARTH RESPONDS: The organization offered the head coaching job to Ted Nolan, which was absolutely the best choice for this franchise at this time. I have no doubt Ted is going to be a fan favorite on Long Island. As for Brad Shaw, I agree with you. Brad did an excellent job under tough circumstances last year taking over mid-season and dealing with a constant roster shuffle because of injuries and then moves at the trade deadline. I was very happy to see Brad get an assistant coach position with St. Louis. The Blues are very fortunate to have Brad on their staff.
Garth: There is a lot of confusion about Mike Milbury's role in the franchise, especially after he went to the Mike York arbitration in Toronto. Can you finally explain once and for all where Mike fits in with your staff.
GARTH RESPONDS: I personally asked Mike to go to Toronto because the York hearing was my third day on the job and I needed to be on Long Island. I appreciated what Mike did for me.
Mike is a loyal member of the Islanders family. He has moved into a non-hockey role, one he has embraced. He's doing an incredible job at it, and I have no doubt you'll see the fruits of his labor as the season begins. Mike is quite content to be out of the day-to-day grind and pressure cooker of hockey ops. My staff is led by Ken Morrow, Ryan Jankowski, Tony Feltrin and Anders Kallur, among others, and of course I will be working very closely with Bryan Trottier and Ted Nolan.
I am a long time Islander fan that has become increasingly frustrated with this franchise. Do the players of today know what it means to put that Islander jersey on? It use to be about pride and a winning tradition, now I am not so sure. For those couple of years with Peca and Osgood it looked like the team was on the right track and included hard-nosed hockey players. Now we have some lazy hockey players collecting a check. How are you going to improve this once-proud franchise?
GARTH RESPONDS: Last year was obviously a disappointment, but I think you're being unfair to whatever players you're referring to. I know our team's returning players as well as anyone, and they take a tremendous amount of pride in wearing the Orange and Blue. And the veterans added to the lineup this summer are all intense competitors. How am I going to improve the franchise? By making sure our staff continues to find more and more players that will bond together and bring the Cup back to Long Island.
Hey Garth, maybe it didn't happen on your watch, but how can this franchise let Denis Grebeshkov go play in Russia this year? I thought he showed a lot of promise after Mike Milbury made a great move to get him and Jeff Tambellini from LA.
GARTH RESPONDS: You're right. Denis is a good young player. But he is still a prospect, a kid who needs to bulk up more and continue to work on parts of his game. Denis was offered a generous contract by the Islanders. He chose instead to play in Russia. We retain his rights and hope he comes back from Russia a stronger player and committed to being an Islander. We will be watching him every step of the way.
Garth: First let me say, good luck to you - you certainly have an uphill road to travel with the fans, the press and the league. Now my question(s): How do you answer the critics of the firing of Neil Smith and your hiring? If you read (and I'm sure you did) the latest issue of The Hockey News, they treated the whole Islanders situation as a joke (and I'm afraid to say I agree). So, how do you answer the people who are lining up to see which GM fleeces you first? We've been through this before - Don Maloney was a smart, knowledgeable hockey guy but was green and got taken advantage of regularly. How do you answer fans like my friends that sit in the seats around me and vow that they won't be coming back even if the Islanders won't give them a refund?
Season ticket holder since 1981
GARTH RESPONDS: You don't really think I'm going to completely satisfy you with an answer to an email, do you? I hope not, because let's face it it's all about the body of work. It's about how I conduct myself, the team we put together, the effort you will see on the ice. That's the way it should be, Dave.
I've spoken with dozens of season subscribers over the last few weeks, including a few who have been on the fence about returning. I'm hopeful that after our conversation they will be back. I'm trying my best to communicate with as many fans as possible, such as through the website and by calling them, and explain what Ted, Bryan and the rest of the staff are going to do.
But, of course, that's just words and that may not be enough, I understand. All I can personally do is work my tail off, work smart, work with pride and work together with our staff. There are no words I can use to deflect the other stuff. It will come down to what happens on the ice. I really hope that you and any other fans with doubts stay with us. 25 years in an incredible run to be a season subscriber. I really appreciate that, Dave. It's my job to make sure you stick around for 25 more.
I'm all for moving forward. Congratulations on the new job. Now get off your butt and get that 2nd line center we need!!!!
Vienna, Virginia 22182
GARTH RESPONDS: I like our centers a lot including Alexei Yashin, Mike York and Mike Sillinger but if you're saying we could use another one, that's okay. I'm off my butt, living in my Coliseum office all day and most of the night. At some point, when the time and the deal are right, I'd like to add one forward, one D and another goaltender. I'm finding that being patient has its rewards, so you be patient, too. I'm on the case, Seth. Stay tuned.
Hey Snow! I've loved watching your feisty play for the past few years. Do you think any of your prior comments, like the back-and-forth with Sather will cause you any problems making trades? I know the Isles & Rangers don't trade too often, but I'm sure he's not the only GM you've insulted over the years. Thanks for the letter & the optimism.
GARTH RESPONDS: Whatever I may have done or said as a player will not affect my relationships with other GMs, just as it didn't when Bob Clarke went from player to GM. (And he was even feistier than me!). Glen Sather was the only GM I made a comment about, but his words and mine were just part of the rivalry, never anything personal. I have received calls from most of the GMs around the league, just calling to say congratulations. The conversations I have had about business, every GM has been very professional. I'm very proud to be one of just 30 general managers in the NHL. I have a tremendous amount of respect for each and every one of my colleagues.
Garth: My question to you is, what will you do about a backup goalie? Will you consider bringing up an inexperienced rookie from the farm system or try and get a veteran from another club? A good solid backup goalie is a necessity if the Islanders plan on having a successful 2006 - 2007 season. Thanks for your time.
GARTH RESPONDS: I can't be too specific, Herb, because I don't want to help the agents out. But I can tell you that I have a giant board in front of my desk with the names of several available goaltenders. Some are older, experienced types. There are a couple of young guys looking for an opportunity, too. I initially focused on one veteran, but I'm also considering other options. I feel confident in telling you and the rest of the Islanders fans that we will likely be bringing in another very good goaltender to go along with Rick DiPietro and Wade Dubielewicz.
* GARTH RESPONDS: PART I