The Islanders GM on Okposo, Bergenheim, his partnership with Ted and more
The second and final part of our conversation from Monday with Islanders general manager Garth Snow.
How would you evaulate Ted Nolan's performance in his first year back as coach?
In good times or when we're struggling, you will never get a performance review on Ted from me. I don't think it's appropriate for a GM to openly discuss how is coach is doing or what his status is, especially in our case. Ted and I are in this together. We are working as a tandem, within the organization with Bryan Trottier, Ken Morrow, Ryan Jankowski and the scouting staff along with ownership, to get the Islanders back to Cup contention. Ted and I have a two-way dialogue many times a day and it didn't take long for us to mesh and work together well.
Okay, let's try it this way: considering you were brought together, instead of you hiring him, are you surprised how well you work as a team and how quickly Ted picked up after being out for so long?
Not at all, because Ted is a great leader and he doesn't have any ego. I've said it a lot: he would have been my first choice if I was here before him because I knew firsthand what it was like to play against his Buffalo teams. We're lucky Charles brought him here. My only regret about retiring as a player is that I didn't get to play for Ted.
One of the things Ted is known for is his loyalty. Chris Simon is a longtime favorite of his and Sean Hill proved to be Ted's kind of player. Can you comment on their suspensions and if they are in the Islanders' picture for next season?
Both Chris and Sean were important players for us this season. Their leadership, their dedication, their work ethic rubbed off on the rest of the team. They were also very productive in their roles. Both Chris and Sean are good men who made mistakes, but Ted and I will definitely have conversations about them over the summer.
What's the status of Sean Bergenheim, your recent first round pick who played in Europe this season when he and the team couldn't come to terms on a contract?
Sean remains a very strong prospect. We like him a lot as a player and a person. We stayed in contact with him throughout the season, had scouts on him at many of his games. We hope to have him signed this summer and on our team next season.
In hindsight, do you wish you had Sean this season?
No, not if we couldn't work out a deal that worked for both sides before the start of training camp. That would have gone against one of the principles of this organization. Consider it a lesson learned for everyone involved. There are no hard feellings on either side and we're looking forward to Sean being part of our team.
How do you rate 2006 first round pick Kyle Okposo, and are you trying to woo him to Long Island and the pro ranks?
Kyle is a very high-end prospect and an even better kid. Our fans are going to love him. But I"ll tell you this: I will never go out of my way to convince a young man to leave school. It"s a personal matter. My years at Maine were some of the best of my life, so it would be wrong for me or anyone else for selfish reasons to try a woo a kid at college to come here. There's always time. I understand it"s an important decision, but I feel it has to come from the young man and his family. We"ll be ready for Kyle when he"s ready for us.
During the playoff series, much was made of tension between the NHL office and the Islanders. You don't really think there is any kind of conspiracy, do you?
I sure wouldn't hope so. I think it was just a heated time. Stuff like that is bound to come up when you absorb a few controversial calls in a row and Colin Campbell is going out of his way to refer to me in the press as a rookie GM. Everyone on both sides needs to put it behind us, and I'm sure we will.
In the case of Brendan Witt's goal against the Sabres, our issue was never that there was a conspiracy. We simply felt the referee made a mistake and the rest of the process at the league level didn't work either. I read the other day that Colin said there needs to be a review of the process this summer. I was happy to hear that and I take that as a partial admission that he agreed with us.
* ONE-ON-ONE: GARTH SNOW (Part I)