New York Islanders Examining the Sides of the John Tavares Debate

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 21: John Tavares
UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 21: John Tavares /

The New York Islanders were blindsided by John Tavares’ decision to join the Toronto Maple Leafs. Did Tavares handle his free agent search in the right way?

In an unprecedented summer, ex-New York Islanders captain John Tavares met with six teams in Los Angeles over a span of three days.

Tavares was the top priority for the teams that were lucky enough to get meetings, which means that when he took so long to make his decision, general managers were unable to proceed with the rest of their offseason.

There are two sides to this very intriguing debate. John Tavares, potentially the greatest free agent in NHL history, left the New York Islanders for nothing after a year-long circus.

As an unrestricted free agent, this was his right. The way he conducted himself, however, was very unfair to the New York Islanders. Let’s dive into Tavares’ decision and analyze both sides of the debate.

More from Eyes On Isles

The Islanders Are at Fault

This all dates back to good old Charles Wang. The actions of this former-New York Islanders owner started the dysfunction that became the norm for John Tavares.

A man who said that giving Rick Dipietro a 15-year deal was “not a big deal” can be traced back to many of the Islanders biggest problems.

In 2006, Wang hired backup goaltender Garth Snow as general manager, a decision that let to a 12-year reign of terror.

Tavares loved and adored Garth Snow. Even though he was apparently “fine” with Snow’s firing, it became clear that Snow and Tavares had a much better relationship than most people thought. Snow being fired did not make Tavares happy or increase his chances of re-signing.

"Then there’s Garth, of course, who drafted me, and, man … you know what: I could really just say I owe Garth everything, and leave it there. But one specific thing that I always think of, when I look back on what Garth did for me during my time here, is the way that he always made sure I got to be one of the boys. He knew I was in a unique situation, with these big-time expectations and this bright spotlight. But Garth just always made sure, you know, even with those things just being a fact of life for me, that I still got to grow up at a normal pace."

The Snow-Tavares romance never had to ferment into the weird love-story that it became. If Wang knew how to recognize a mistake and fired Snow years ago, a new general manager could have come in and turned the New York Islanders into a contender.

New owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky could have also bitten the bullet and ended Snow’s tenure. All it would have taken was one of these three men manning up and firing Snow, and Tavares might have re-signed because of it.

There are so many other things that in hindsight should have happened: the proposed Travis Hamonic for Taylor Hall trade, countless Trade Deadline moves that would have pushed the Islanders to the Playoffs, Kate Murray and other politicians never ripping the Islanders away from the Coliseum, and Garth Snow re-signing Tavares’ close friend, Kyle Okposo, instead of signing Andrew Ladd.

"I’ve had so many heart-to-heart conversations with Kyle Okposo over the years that had nothing to do with hockey … and I’ve always felt like I could trust him with anything. If I have a daughter one day, I hope she marries someone like him."

Any of these events could have been the spark that led to John Tavares signing a contract extension with the Islanders. It is sad to think that the Islanders are at blame, but when all things are considered, there were so many decisions that were botched over the last nine years.

A legitimate contender is all Tavares ever wanted, and he never got his wish. If he was given a true winning team in his nine seasons in the blue and orange, he would have most likely stayed.

John Tavares Is at Fault

If there was one lesson to be learned from John Tavares’ Players’ Tribune Article, it is clear that playing for his hometown team was something Tavares always dreamed of.

From the first time Tavares stepped into Maple Leaf Gardens, he knew he was home. His first ever memory was watching a Maple Leafs Playoff game on May 3rd, 1993. Tavares and the Leafs were a match made in heaven, one that was meant to be.

"And was realizing that dream a major factor in my ultimately choosing to sign with the Leafs — even over a franchise that, like I said, in many ways raised me? It was a major factor, yes."

Why did Tavares wait until playing nine years for the Islanders to recognize this dream? If he wanted to be a Maple Leaf for 24 years, it is so hard to believe that a two-hour meeting was enough to convince Tavares to jump ship.

The way Tavares left the Islanders set his ex-team back for years. After requesting not to be traded at the Deadline, Tavares reaffirmed that Long Island was his home and he had every intention to stay with his beloved team.

Tavares was a tease. Everything he said and did hinted at a long and bright future on the Island, but come late June, it was clear he had other plans. The media frenzy that Tavares and Pat Brisson caused was embarrassing and out-of-character, and the Islanders wound up paying the price.

In a perfect world, Tavares should have been open and outright. Even though he swears that he had no thoughts of joining Toronto during the 2017-2018 season (while simultaneously speaking of a childhood dream of joining Toronto), he should have not continuously lied to Islanders fans and given them false hope of a contract extension.

Honesty is the best policy, and John Tavares forgot this rule learned in kindergarten during the past year. He did not have to request a trade, but he should have informed Islanders management that he was not 100% committed to re-signing instead of lying.

Then the blame shifts from Tavares to the Islanders. If John Tavares left but was honest during this process, his legacy would have been saved and the fans would not be as mad.

"I want to apologize, from the bottom of my heart, for things not working out — and for the fact that, under my captaincy, we fell short of our ultimate goal. But I gave it all that I had … and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for how you gave me all that you had in return."

Tavares may claim to be sorry, but his actions over the last year have been completely unacceptable and unfair to the team that gave him everything he has ever known at the NHL level. If John Tavares truly cared about the “Islanders faithful,” he would have handled his free agent search in a different way.

Next: A Letter Back to John Tavares

Now that both sides of the debate have been explained, who do you think is at fault, the Islanders or John Tavares?

Thanks for reading, and be sure to comment below and let me know!