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Islanders Left in the Dust by Tavares

This is going to be one of the hardest things I’ve had to write in my time here at Double G Sports.  John Tavares is a Toronto Maple Leaf.  He took his talents back home, home to where his heart seemed to be all along.  He left the Islanders in the dust after nine seasons.  Islander fans are not happy right now;  They’re actually fuming.  Whether it be wishing ill upon Tavares in his return to Toronto, or the hundreds of Twitter videos of burning his jersey, it’s safe to say this is one of the lowest moments in Islanders history.

How did we wind up here?  How could a team that’s been so down on its luck let their franchise cornerstone and captain walk away for nothing?  How can a team be so incompetent that they let a player appease them for over a year and then give them a kick in the boot?

There’s a lot to blame to go around for this entire debacle, including Tavares himself.  To be completely honest, there probably wasn’t much the Islanders could have done, as Tavares’ mind seemed to have been made up months ago.  It’s a classic case of too little too late.

Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky were too complacent 

We’ll start at the top for the laundry list of reasons why John Tavares spurned the Islanders.  Co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky were absolutely too complacent in their dealings with Tavares.  Scott Malkin put an order out to not trade Tavares before this year’s trade deadline (that was not Garth Snow’s orders).  The two owners agreed with the Tavares camp not to talk contract extensions during the season, and played right into his hand once he got to free agency.

The biggest mistake Malkin and Ledecky made was not giving Tavares an ultimatum at the end of the season.  The trade deadline was one thing, and they could have gotten a lot more for him then, but to just let Tavares do whatever he wanted leading up to free agency is asinine.  They followed every request from the Tavares camp and got burned because of it.  The least they could have done was call his bluff and make him come to a decision after the season was over.  They would have gotten a good haul for his rights, and this entire #TavaresWatch would have been avoided.

Garth Snow and the Islanders hockey operations failed Tavares on the ice

Garth Snow will go down as one of the worst GMs in Islander history.  He made some great moves (Eberle for Strome, Leddy and Boychuk steals, flipping Griffin Reinhart for Barzal & Beau) but was never able to put a consistently good product on the ice.  After another trade deadline of depth deals, it was clear that the writing was on the wall for Snow.  Snow was finally relieved of his duties early in June but the damage had been done with Tavares.

On top of never addressing the defense after Calvin de Haan went down last season with a shoulder injury, Snow constantly tried to “garbage pick” and take underachieving forwards and throw him on the top line, hoping that playing with Tavares would automatically solve all their issues.  Guys like Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Tyler Kennedy, and Cory Conacher all got turns on the top line with JT, and that’s just not going to cut it if the Islanders ever planned on making it to the playoffs.

The Islander fans had so much frustration with Garth Snow for reasons like this;  He would constantly get defensive about how good their prospect pool is but never used his prospects for a legitimate winger, instead going the “garbage picking” route and hoping for the best.  In addition, a lot of those draft picks (Michael Dal Colle comes to mind) never amount to anything and it’s a vicious cycle of promising the future and never delivering on it.

John Tavares never wanted to stay here anyway

For as much flak as Garth Snow and the owners deserve, they can’t be blamed for John Tavares not wanting to stay loyal to the franchise that drafted him and did everything in their power to keep him.  The Islanders fired Snow and head coach Doug Weight in favor of the Stanley Cup winning pedigree of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz.  The Islanders have the Calder trophy winner Mat Barzal, a 40 goal scorer in Anders Lee, and an All-Star in Josh Bailey.  They are absolutely loaded with prospects (ironic as it may be given what I just said about the future) and just signed on last year to build a new arena at Belmont Park.

If Oliver Ekman-Larsson can sign an eight year extension with the Arizona Coyotes, who don’t really have a home, have been even worse than the Islanders over the past five years, and have an even smaller fanbase, did Tavares ever actually want to stay?  As things started to trickle out Sunday about Tavares’ decision, it seemed like his mind was made up long ago, even if he said it was the “toughest decision” of his life.  A tweet from John Shannon proves such is true:

To dissect this tweet a bit, it seems like the factors that Tavares was well aware of months ago was the reason why he left the Islanders?  The Islanders have Belmont coming in three years, will surely find a goaltender and aren’t all that far away from competing.  Tavares also tweeted a picture of himself as a kid sleeping in his Maple Leafs bed gear with the quote “Not everyday you can live a childhood dream”:

If that’s not telling as to what his intentions were the entire time, then you’re a fool.  The worst part about this situation was that everyone read Tavares wrong from the start.  Most people, including some very esteemed members of the media, thought he would stay because he’s an extremely loyal guy.  Islanders fans never thought he would go to Toronto because it would be too much pressure and he’s a low key guy.  Other people thought he was only going through this meeting process to appease his representative, CAA, and was going to re-sign with the Islanders immediately.

Unfortuantely, Tavares ruined his legacy with the Islanders because of this ridiculous #TavaresWatch.  He knew exactly what he was doing and refused to be traded by the Islanders at the trade deadline to get even more leverage.  He stated countless times that he wanted to stay on Long Island and hoped that everything would work out.  Most Islander fans aren’t mad at Tavares for leaving, they’re mad at him for the way he left.  He did no one any favors by dragging this process out for days.  In many minds he was the golden child and can do no wrong in the eyes of the fans, but that’s all gone now.

It’s been a very weird and interesting day for Islanders fans.  They feel grateful for having him, upset for losing him, angry for the way they lost him, and hopeful that Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee can carry the franchise without him.  It’s not going to feel real for most until they see that first game with Tavares rocking a different blue sweater.  It’s a weird thing losing your franchise player for nothing.  You feel unwanted, and shocked that they left.

The Islanders have been a dysfunctional franchise for many years, and will continue to be that until they start winning some games.  There is a losing culture to fix, and Lamoriello and Trotz are the guys to turn that around.  Regardless of how most feel now, let’s hope that John Tavares will never lift a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  There’s a lot of work to be done, but all hope is not lost with this franchise.  It was a complete mess, and there are so many people at fault for this, but life goes on without John Tavares.  As Larry Brooks of the New York Post stated, “The more things change on the Island, the more they stay the same”.  Maybe one day they’ll learn.  Adieu to you John Tavares.  I look forward to beating you in the playoffs.

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