“2009 to 2018 will always be known as the John Tavares era on Long Island. Once the distance grows between the fans and Tavares, fans will remember more about what he did and who he was and less about how he left.” – Brendan Burke
July 1st, 2018, a day that will live in infamy for Islanders fans around the world. I am a huge Islanders fan myself, and admit I hated him for a long time after it happened. However, it has been almost two years now since our former captain John Tavares left and the distance has grown. I am not saying to root for Tavares, but it is time to bury the hatchet and look back with fondness on all he did for our franchise.
Tavares said he was staying, but he did not back up his words. He could have said nothing or said ‘I might look in a different direction’, but he didn’t. He repeatedly said he would stay. After 10 years with the Islanders and a constant professional attitude, it was easy to trust the captain’s words. When he announced that he was signing for the Leafs, it was like a long-time girlfriend cheated on you. The Islanders fans acted accordingly and booed Tavares mercilessly. Some fans took it too far and threw things at Tavares, which was NOT justified. These fans do not represent the Islanders fanbase as a whole. Just like the Leafs fans who sent death threats to James Reimer’s wife do not represent Leafs fans as a whole.
Snow to Blame
Garth Snow, because he was just fired, seemed to escape this whole situation without much blame. While it made sense for Islanders fans to take JT at his words, from a GM’s point of view or a business standpoint, it did not make any sense. You absolutely need to either lock him up or trade him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Yes, Tavares repeatedly said he would not talk about his contract until the end of the season and the Islanders were trying to make the playoffs. However, you need to do anything possible to protect one of your team’s greatest assets. Snow should have given JT an ultimatum. If you do not sign a contract before the trade deadline, we are trading you. This would have either made Tavares back up his words or we would have gotten young talent and draft picks for him.
Not only did Snow drop the ball there, but he also failed to build a team around Tavares for TEN years. Think about all the linemates JT had to play with and carry over the years from P.A. Parenteau to Matt Moulson to Kyle Okposo and even Shane Prince. Do not get me wrong, I love these players (especially Okposo and Moulson), but they were not exactly elite. It’s no wonder JT took the opportunity to jump ship to play with the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and, eventually, William Nylander. If you were in JT’s shoes, after 10 years of lackluster support while being criminally underpaid, you would do the same thing. Also, the Islanders had just fired Tavares’ good friend and former housemate, Doug Weight. While this was a great move as far as winning is concerned, it must have still hurt JT to watch his good friend and mentor leave.
Can we really blame Tavares for going back to his hometown team? It is like LeBron’s move to the Heat in reverse. LeBron was leaving his hometown team to win titles, but Tavares was going to his hometown. Tavares made it clear that was the main reason from the beginning when he tweeted:
Obviously, angry Islanders fans like myself quickly mocked this. Although it won’t stop being funny when someone like Robin Lehner makes fun of this, we need to realize he wanted to be close to his family and friends in Mississauga. Tavares also obviously was planning on having children in 2018. If he wants to raise his child close to his family where he grew up, can we really blame him?
John Tavares is a very respectable and professional person. This is why it was so easy for all Islanders fans to look up to him and children to see him as a role model. He handled this situation in a very respectful manner. First, he wrote a heartfelt thank you to the Islanders organization and the fans. I would highly recommend reading if you have not already or try reading it again with an open mind. Tavares also was very classy when he returned to the Coliseum. He watched the tribute video and then saluted the crowd even though a lot of people were booing him. Afterward, he said he expected this reaction and did not get upset with Islanders fans.
Of course, all Islanders fans have known most of this for a while now. However, when you are angry, it is very easy to focus on the negatives and even create some conspiracies. It has been almost 2 years now and the dust has settled. It is time to forgive and remember the good times. John Tavares will always be an Islanders legend, like it or not. As long as you weren’t one of the people who threw something at Tavares, you do not need to apologize. Your anger was justified, but now it’s time to let bygones be bygones. Let’s remember all the great memories JT brought the Islanders, even in some of our darkest days. Next time there are fans in the stands and Tavares returns to Long Island, let’s show him the respect of this community.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes
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