Garth Snow has taken plenty of heat since he took over as Islanders general manager seven years ago, especially during the five-year playoff drought.
He's not ready to gloat about the Isles' limited success this season, with their return to the playoffs and a hard-fought, six-game loss to the Penguins in the opening round. But Snow's patience with his team's lengthy rebuilding process has started to pay off.
"We knew there would be some tough times when we started down this path five years ago," Snow told Newsday on Monday. "We're starting to see the fruits of our labors now.
"I'm obviously disappointed, just like the players, coaches and fans, that we didn't advance to the next round. There are some good signs on our club, though, and I'm extremely proud of the way our guys competed and played the last two months."
Snow and his staff will complete their exit interviews Tuesday with the players, who will disperse for the offseason. But the GM expects to see many of the same faces back for training camp in September. Snow has no plans to go for broke on the free-agent or trade market this offseason, not with the solid core he's built through the draft and waiver wire.
"I don't think there will be too many changes," Snow said. "We want to continue down the road we started. We're just as excited about the prospects we have as the team that played this season. We've had some really good drafts and we have a prospect pool we like, not just some of the players at Bridgeport. It bodes well for the future."
Snow had contract extension talks with the agents for all three during the season and that will continue up to the July 5 start of free agency. The fact that all three want to return is another good sign. Snow has struggled to hit pay dirt on the free-agent market while the Islanders were a perennial draft lottery team; he might find a new welcoming attitude from agents for big-name players when the market opens in July.
"Winning answers a lot of questions that players have," Snow said. "The certainty of knowing we're staying in the area at Barclays Center in two years helps, and being part of a winning team helps, too. Time will tell."
Snow would not divulge coach Jack Capuano's contract status, nor that of his assistants, but did say, "I expect the entire coaching staff to be back."
Snow got some consolation in the texts and emails he received from fellow executives and former teammates congratulating him on the Isles' run. But after Tuesday, the focus turns to the June 30 draft and to build on this first step back toward respectability.
"We want to stick with the plan of building from within," Snow said. "If there's an opportunity to improve the club through trade or free agency, we'll leave no stone unturned. We know we need to get better and we're going to address it."