This afternoon I had the great privilege of participating in the first (and hopefully not the final) "roundtable discussion" with Islanders management. Dee Karl, Tony Stabile, and I were guests of General Manager Garth Snow. There were no guidelines set or any off-topic areas to be avoided. There have never been any such rules, nor are we ever fed potential story lines by those who oversee the Blog Box. Just so you know.
I bring this up because just hours prior to our meeting with Garth emerged the unsettling news that prospect Kirill Kabanov had again been late to a team practice. While potential discipline for Kabanov falls entirely within the jurisdiction of the coaching staff, as far as I know, it does lead me into a convenient segue on a topic that I broached with Mr. Snow.
I was eager to discover how involved he is in the drafting process, since the success or failure of picks like Kabanov reflect directly on his reputation as a General Manager.
"I'm always hands-on in regards to the meetings with the scouting staff," Snow told the group. "If I don't get a chance to see a player first-hand [then] I'll see him though video." He continued in greater detail explaining the process, insisting that the communication he has with the team's regional scouts is the quintessence of the drafting process. "I go right to the [scout] that's seen [the player] twenty, thirty times."
He characterized the time leading up to the draft and the event itself as "fun." He noted that while it's an unrealistic goal, "every team wants to get every pick right," and that's his goal as well. Furthermore, he feels that he and his staff need to be especially correct about first round picks, due to their high value and ability to alter a franchise's course. By "correct" he meant in assessing both their talent and attitude.
Which brings us back to today's events.
While neither Garth nor any team officials commented on Kirill Kabanov's situation, it doesn't take much cognitive ability to realize that the Islanders are extremely upset with the young man. Garth, when speaking on other topics unrelated directly to drafting, stressed more than once how important the character of the men on the teams he builds is to him. He encapsulated that sentiment by sharing a motto of sorts: "Good people can do great things. And I believe that."
This past July I interviwed Kabanov for the first time. By now you all know his basic story: A 1st-round hockey talent that fell in the draft due to off-ice issues. In my brief assessment of him I noted how Kirill charmed the media, saying the right things. If you read the entire piece, though, I wondered if he was really as genuine as he wished to appear.
While Kabanov hasn't committed unforgivable transgressions, I am beginning to believe that my initial "read" of him was accurate. His actions are speaking for him, and not well. On the bright side, though, as fans, many of us are forgiving. Hopefully for his sake, Garth Snow's, and the team's, his youth works in his favor and not against him. He still has time to correct his immaturity and learn from this camp experience.
With respect to Garth Snow, this is only the first of many topics that were covered during the roundtable chat. There will be other installments following this one on various subjects. Garth was generous enough to give us about an hour of his time (and almost as much recorded audio!), so we still have a lot to cover.
Hopefully I'll see some of you at Saturday (9/25) morning's scrimmage. Don't be afraid to stop, say hello, and talk Islanders hockey with me!