New York Islanders fans have turned on their star player after he reneged on his statements and left for Toronto.
John Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, putting an end to this chapter of his story and dashing the dreams of countless Islanders fans in the process.
In the span of an hour, Tavares reneged on months of reassurances that he would try — be thrilled, even — to remain on Long Island. In the process, he went from being the captain to the public enemy.
It’s hard to blame the Islanders’ fan base for the way they have reacted. Tavares was the captain — you know, the guy who is supposed to lead. He reiterated over and over again his desire to remain on Long Island.
That’s the biggest problem here. Tavares had never intended to re-sign with New York, yet he led fans to believe that it was his primary intention.
My message to John Tavares. pic.twitter.com/Wr7oRZ27MT
— Isles Fanatics Army (@FanaticsArmy) July 1, 2018
“This is obviously where I hope to be,” Tavares had told The Athletic’s Arthur Staple. “I think I’ve always shown my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” he told Sportsnet 590.
“I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game [that] have been able to spend their entire career somewhere.”
With his decision, Tavares chooses not to be so great for the fans on Long Island. In a sport where loyalty is everything, Tavares has failed at the most elementary of tasks.
It would have been one thing for Tavares to have said six months ago, “While I appreciate everything the Islanders have done for me and recognize everything I have done for them, I will not be re-signing with the team.”
Or, “I cannot comment on my future at this time.”
Instead, Tavares asked the Islanders not to trade him at last year’s deadline. He repeatedly claimed to want to stay on Long Island. Worst of all, he betrayed the Islanders with an unsavory last week, informing the team of his intentions mere hours before he was set to hit the open market.
“Dear John Tavares: Thanks for being so available under difficult interviewing situations,” MSG’s Stan Fischler wrote on Twitter. “Now one question: What took you so long to make this ‘toughest decision.’ Why didn’t you tell @NYIslanders owners sooner?”
“Much sooner; as in soon enough so that the club you were so devoted to could make a move to compensate for your loss? Just wondering, pal.”
It’s not Tavares’ decision to leave that pains the Isles; it’s his decision to make a decision so close to hitting free agency. That isn’t a personal choice; it’s a selfish one.
Very very very very very disappointed. If, very big IF, he was preparing for this all along he hamstrung the Isles at the deadline big time. https://t.co/zGwFyhVzdo
— Mark Parrish (@MarkDParrish) July 1, 2018
This was reflected in Lou Lamoriello’s statement on Sunday afternoon, in which he congratulated the franchise center on achieving “great individual success on the ice.” That’s not a common refrain from hockey executives. It’s a clear shot at the parting player.
The Islanders were compelled to make a number of moves because Tavares expressed interest in staying.
They fired Garth Snow and Doug Weight, hired Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz. They signed Josh Bailey — for all the things you can say about him, he has always been extremely loyal — to a six-year deal.
They offered Tavares longer term and more money than the Leafs — 8 years and $88 million, according to David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period.
They had announced plans to build a new arena near Belmont Park, and had decided to play 20 games at Nassau Coliseum this season, at the behest of the players.
They did all of these things with Tavares in mind. Not because they needed to, nor because he needed them to. Rather, they did all of these things because Tavares expressed a desire to stay here, and that’s just what you do for your franchise captain.
Your ex-captain, that is.