Skip to content

Pucks and PR

Because hockey is more than just a game

Source: Canadian Press via CBC

Sometimes it pays to try. For Garth Snow and the New York Islanders, that sentiment rings especially true.

The Islanders are stuck in a four year playoff drought and have spent much of that time talking about the future. John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, etc. All pegged as future difference makers and the cornerstones of a team destined for great things.

Unfortunately, since the lockout the Islanders have only once reached 40 wins. According to ESPN, during that same time the Islanders have been in the bottom three for average attendance during the regular season. Selling the future doesn’t always work.

Grabner, Okposo, and Matt Moulson are all signed long term. At low cap hits, that is a great thing. But with Tavares destined to be a RFA next summer, glass man Rick DiPietro signed as the starting goalie, and a reputation for being an undesirable signing location (anyone hear from Evgeni Nabokov lately?), the future doesn’t actually look all that bright to fans.

Charles Wang is making slow progress with his arena pitch, but the ‘use it or lose it’ strategy he employed to attract fans didn’t really work. If anything, it just brought in the neglected Canadian fans hoping to poach another failing American franchise.

So Garth Snow needs to show fans, and players, that the future is now. Cliché fully intended.

Trading for Christian Ehrhoff’s negotiating rights is a strong first step. Signing him is an even bigger one. Ehrhoff is one of the biggest defensive UFA names available. He scoffed at a contract from Vancouver that was identical in both term and dollars to Kevin Bieksa. So he wants big money. Some are even predicting upwards of a $6.5 million cap hit. Whether Ehrhoff is actually worth that is a topic for another day.

The reality is that the Islanders have ample cap space. So there is no monetary reason to not get him signed. And signing him would be huge for their image. If a top free agent chooses the Islanders over the open market, then that will be PR money in the bank for Snow.

To the fans, it says they’re serious about this. It shows they’ll spend money and take risks to be a winner. Islanders’ fans have seen championships in the past. A commitment to winning through actions could pay big dividends for the organization. But Ehrhoff is only one player. Coupled with Mark Streit, the Islanders would have a much improved defence. There is no doubting that. But Ehrhoff wouldn’t be the singular piece to get to the post season.

And that is the other impact. Sometimes image within the NHL is just as important. Getting Ehrhoff signed could drastically improve the Islanders’ hopes for landing other free agents. It might not open the floodgates, but there could be a domino effect. It becomes a selling point in negotiations. And it would show impending RFA Tavares that the team is serious about doing what it takes to win.

Having Ehrhoff locked up before July 1 would mean Snow starts free agent frenzy with an upper hand. He would have money to spend and an important endorsement from Ehrhoff.

It has been openly discussed that these are the risks Snow needs to make to get better. Actually going out and taking action could be great for the Islanders both on and off the ice.

Potentially strengthening the team and improving public perception for a fourth round pick in 2012? I’d take that chance too.


%d bloggers like this: