The Nabokov Fiasco: A Closer Look

Oh Evgeni, just when we thought you would stay hidden away in Russia, you try to sneak back into the league and join forces with one of our most hated rivals. It would have been quite the clever little ruse, but like every grand heist it’s always the smallest, most mundane detail that ends up unraveling carefully laid plans. In this case, that detail was the circus act that moonlights as the New York Islanders’ organization. Maybe if you spent more time with Alexei Yashin over there in Russia, you would have been reminded the Islanders exist and have a tendency for irrational decisions (they are still paying Yashin’s bills), and hence more adequately prepared for this situation.

I’ve heard a lot of Nabby-bashing going on since the drama began, and before I get carried away with it myself let’s take a step back and look a little closer at the Islanders, a team most people stopped paying attention to after their dynasty years in the early 80s. Hopefully a behind-the-scenes look at their decision-making process sheds some light on Nabokov’s refusal to report and his poignant remark regarding their decision to snatch him from waivers: ‘what’s the point?’

Their current General Manager, Garth Snow, had some big shoes to fill when he took the job in July, 2006. His predecessor, Mike Milbury, was voted #5 on ESPN’s list of ‘worst general managers in sports history’, an honor he earned through years of trading stars like Zdeno Chara and Roberto Luongo and drafting studs like Rick DiPietro #1 overall over the likes of Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik. Milbury traded Chara along with the #2 overall pick to acquire Yashin, who quickly fell from stardom to mediocrity to defection. Oh I almost forgot, that #2 pick ended up being Jason Spezza. Granted that ESPN list is three years old, but if it were up to date Snow would be climbing fast. Snow’s eagerness to trump the Yashin mess was apparent when he immediately signed DiPietro to a 15-year deal, and we all know how that turned out. Correction: is currently turning out and will be continuing to turn out for the next millennia as the Islanders continue to reside in the NHL’s basement surviving on Ma’s meatloaf.

This barely scratches the surface, but I think you get the idea of how things are run over on Long Island. So now we come to Nabokov, a 36 year old veteran in the tail-end of his career, who volunteered for this fiasco during the offseason when he turned down any offer that came his way (which in all likelihood weren’t many) and decided to play in the KHL. What I remember most vividly about that decision was his comment in response to a reporter asking why he chose to leave the NHL: ‘Let me ask you, would you want to play for the Edmonton Oilers?’

You’d think that kind of comment would give a General Manager at least slight pause before pulling the trigger on a waiver pickup, especially when they manage arguably the only team worse than the Oilers. Oh well, you reap what you sow Nabby, and it looks like you’ll be sitting out for a while longer as the Isles can’t even trade you without you going back on waivers. But hey, keep your hopes up, because if you do get put back on waivers eventually, maybe you’ll manage to sneak by to the Red Wings this time without anybody noticing. Because after all, how many other GMs are capable of making decisions like Garth Snow?

The Sharks have their work cut out for them this year, and mine as well trying to figure them out, but man-oh-man do I feel better about having this man at the helm.

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