An independent blog on the New York Islanders, the NHL and AHL by a guy from New York.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Islanders Name John Gruden Assistant Coach

Today The New York Islanders named John Gruden as an Assistant Coach.

Gruden was the Head Coach for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL for the past two years and helped the team win the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL Champions last season.  His Hamilton Bulldogs also finished with the best record in the OHL East at 43-18-4-3. Gruden’s coaching record with Hamilton was 76-45-8-7. During the 2015-16 season, Gruden coached the OHL Flint Firebirds.

Gruden has experience as a player in the AHL, IHL, Europe and NHL ranks as well as an assistant with TEAM USA’s National Team Development Program from 2011 through 2015. Gruden helped lead Team USA to gold-medal finishes at both the 2012 and 2014 U18 Men's World Championships. As a player, Gruden represented his country at the 2003 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's World Championship in Helsinki, Tampere and Turku, Finland.

Per Release, “Gruden attended Ferris State University, where he played in 155 games and registered 104 points (40 goals, 64 assists). He became the first NCAA Division I All-American in Ferris State Athletics history in 1993-94. He also was the first player in school history to achieve Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) First-Team honors and finished as the runner-up for the CCHA's Player of the Year Award that same season.”

Per Arthur Staple, “That leaves Scott Gomez and Fred Brathwaite from Doug Weight’s staff last season. Gomez and Lamoriello have a longstanding relationship, so one would believe that there’s a job for Gomez if he wants it. If Mitch Korn comes on as goaltending director, Brathwaite could remain to do the bulk of the on-ice work.

No update on Mark Hunter potentially joining the front office. Chatter around the league has gone remarkably silent on his destination, other than confirming that he does indeed have a new gig lined up and won’t be sitting out much longer.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Islanders Re-Sign RFA, Ryan Pulock

Islanders Defenseman, Ryan Pulock has agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the team.

Per Andrew Gross, “The restricted free-agent defenseman, 23, agreed to a new, two-year deal on Tuesday. Financial terms were not immediately available. Pulock, coming off a three-year, $4.28-million entry-level deal, received a qualifying offer of $874,125 but was not arbitration eligible.”

Pulock got the attention of the organization last season when the blue-chip, call-up defender helped spark the teams struggling power play and added value to their depleted blueline. Pulock had 5 PPG in 68 games with the Isles. He finished the season with 10 & 22 for 32 points and a -4 rating in an offensive first system that left team defense and goalies struggling to maintain control in their own zone. His offensive production was a career high in goals, assists and points and he finished 2nd on the team in scoring for defensemen and first for Isles blueliners in goals.

Pulock played 163 games for the Isles Major-League Affiliate in Bridgeport amassing 39 and 61 for 100 points. Pulock was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team at the completion of the 2014-15 season and was selected to represent the Sound Tigers in the 2015 & 2016 AHL All-Star Classics.

Per Release, “Pulock has played in a total of 84 NHL games and has 36 points (12 goals and 24 assists). In six Stanley Cup playoff games, Pulock has three points (one goal and two assists).

Internationally, Pulock represented Hockey Canada most recently at the 2018 World Championship in Herning/Copenhagen, Denmark. He was a member of the bronze medal winning Team Canada team at the 2012 World Junior Championships, hosted in Edmonton/Calgary.”  

Isles Notes:

Former Isles Assistant Coach, Kelly Buchberger has been named Head Coach of the WHL, Tri-City Americans.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Islanders Add Toews to NHL D-Mix & Re-Sign Burroughs

With a limited and thin free agent market this summer and trade options being explored, the New York Islanders have continued to address their roster needs for next season by looking into their farm system for depth and role-players. That trend continued today with a pair of moves.

One will give solid defensive prospect, Devon Toews his NHL shot and the other will help the organization retain a good depth D-Man on a two-way deal in Bridgeport with an option to play with the big club.

The Islanders announced that RFA defensemen, Devon Toews has agreed to terms on a two-year, NHL one-way contract. Terms were not disclosed. Per Andrew Gross, “Toews was extended a qualifying offer of $874,125 while Burroughs’ qualifying offer was for $715,000.”

Toews has lit it up for the Isles Major-League AHL affiliate, Sound Tigers on defense for two seasons where he scored 13 and 54 in for 67 points in 106 games. Toews made the AHL's All-Rookie team after the 2016-17 campaign, led all rookie defensemen in scoring & finished fourth in the AHL amongst all defensemen in scoring. Last season, Toews represented the Sound Tigers at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic, winning the fastest skater competition with the quickest time ever recorded at 13.5 seconds.

Toews suffered a season ending injury in 2017-18 that limited his AHL campaign to 30 games (76 games played the season before) with Bridgeport, scoring 22 points and 3 PP goals at a +3 rating. Toews has been one of the top Isles D-Prospects for the last couple of years and was rumored to be an NHL contender this season for New York. A one-way, 2 year deal is pretty serious vote of confodence for a talented player coming off a serious shoulder injury. Many feel, myself included, Toews may be a difference maker and add an offensive punch to the Isles blue line.

Per BST coach, Brent Thompson, “He’s right at that Calvin de Haan level as far as being able to defend, move the puck, good reads, good stick ... He might have more offensive upside than Cal, but very similar players. If he works out as well as Calvin has, they have a hell of a defenseman.”

Per Isles release, “The 24-year-old defenseman, played three seasons with the Quinnipiac University Bobcats. He had a career year, recording seven goals and 23 assists for 30 points in 40 games in his third and final season at Quinnipiac. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound blue-liner posted 67 points (12-55-67) in 108 collegiate games, helping the Bobcats to the National Championship game in 2016.

Selected by the Islanders in the fourth round (108th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Toews played for the Surrey Eagles in the British Columbia Hockey League for two seasons before joining the collegiate ranks. The Abbotsford, B.C., native won the BCHL Championship in 2013 and was given the Coastal Conference's Defensive Award as the best defenseman.”

RFA, D, Kyle Burroughs has agreed to terms on a two-year, two-way contract.

Burroughs, 23 has 11 & 48 for 59 points in 186 games with a +9 rating for the Sound Tigers over the last four seasons. Last season, the 6’, 203# Burroughs had a career year with 25 points scoring 6 and 19 in 75 games. While down in the ECHL, he has played 18 games for the former Isles affiliate, Missouri Mavericks where he scored 1 & 6 for seven points.

Per release, “The Vancouver, BC native played five seasons in the WHL with the Regina Pats and the Medicine Hat Tigers. In 250 career games played in the WHL, Burroughs had 120 points (22 goals and 98 assists) and was a +48. He played in 19 playoff games and had six points (one goal and five assists). Burroughs was selected by the Islanders in the seventh round (196th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.”

Isles Notes:

Josh Ho-Sang has clean slate with new Islanders regime.

Brock Nelson’s arbitration hearing is slated for Aug. 3

Per Andrew Gross, “The Islanders have two RFAs still to re-sign. Center Brock Nelson 26, has an arbitration hearing set for Aug. 3 after receiving a qualifying offer of $3.5 million. He had 19 goals and 16 assists last season, his fifth with the Islanders. Defenseman Ryan Pulock, 23, who was not arbitration eligible after compiling 10 goals and 22 assists in 68 games last season as a rookie, received a qualifying offer of $874,125.”

Per Rob McGowan, “It seems like the coaching staff/mgmt may feel that Lee, Barzal, Bailey, Eberle, Beau, & Nelson will provide enough offense w/a tough & physical bottom 6. I’m just not convinced enough offense will come from that group w/o JT, or a player that can at least somewhat fill that void.”

Tavares writes a note to Isles "faithful" with a detailed explanation on why he loves the Leafs. I wrote a note to him as well on July 2nd. I think its just time to move on.

Sound Tigers Notes:

2018-19 Season Schedule.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Islanders Sign Kovar, Extend Johnston & Stock the Farm in Bridgeport

The New York Islanders announced today that forward Jan Kovar has agreed to terms on a one-year, $2M contract.

Kovar was an over, point-per-game player (97 and 189 for 286 pts.) in the KHL for Magnitogorsk Metallurg over 285 games. The 28-year-old forward matched career years with 68 point totals in the 2013-14 (54 games played) and 2014-15 season (60 games played). Kovar also played 236 games in his native Czech Extraliga.for Plzen HC, scoring 60 and 102 for 162 points, with almost a point-a-game pace (51 pts in 52 gp) in the 11-12 & 12-13 seasons.

Per release, “Kovar has represented Czech Republic internationally at five World Championships (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013), scoring 19 points (six goals and 13 assists) in 42 games. In 2008, he played on the World Junior Championship team for Czech Republic and scored over a point per game with eight (one goal and seven assists) in five games.”

Per Eric Hornick, “So newest #Isles Jan Kovar essentially trades places Kulemin; Ex-NYI Viktor Kozlov is part of coach staff of Metallurg, whose previous coaches include Mike Keenan. Kovar is a 4x 20+ goal scorer in KHL (& team's leading pt scorer under Keenan in 14-15); he was 7-28-35 last ssn.”

Sounds like a calculated gamble that could pay big dividends for the team and Kovar gets a year to prove he belongs in the NHL as a top point producer. Rumors have Kovar turning down several other teams to play for Islanders.

The Islanders also came to terms on a four-year, one-way, $1M AAV contract for F Ross Johnston.

The popular Johnston, 24, had 3 & 3 for 6pts in 24 games with the Isles last season after he was brought up from the AHL Sound Tigers to add some much-needed grit to the team. Johnston tallied 3 & 8 for 11 points in 38 games while in Bridgeport last season.

Per release, “Johnston played in the NHL, AHL and ECHL during his first professional season in 2015-16, making his NHL debut on April 10 against the Philadelphia Flyers. In 141 career AHL games with the Sound Tigers, Johnston has 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) and collected 327 penalty minutes. He has appeared in 13 ECHL regular-season games and five playoff games with the Missouri Mavericks during the 2015-16 season.”

From Part 1 of my season in review, I mentioned, “Enforcer and energy player call up, Ross Johnston may have secured a serious look for himself in camp this summer. Johnston made a physical impact from day 1 and even added a touch of offensive flair with 6 points in 24 games. Johnston answered the lack of toughness for the team this season and racked up 62 pims.” Looks like his character got him a long term, 4-year-deal with New York. Another surprise, but one thing is for sure, the Islanders will be tough to play against.

The organization made some big moves on the farm today as well.

Per Michael Fornabaio, “Huge free-agency splash for the Sound Tigers, who announce they've signed LW Chris Bourque and G Jeremy Smith, re-signing C's Ben Holmstrom and 
Connor Jones and LW Ryan Bourque.”

Per Alan Fuehring, “The #SoundTigers inked 5 players today, including former Olympian @cbourque17: 3x Calder Cup winner, 6x #AHLAllStar, 2x #AHL scoring champion, @TheAHL's active scoring leader, plus a regular season & post-season MVP.”  will now bring you to KoC on Blogspot. Thanks again for the support.

Isles Notes:

Per Andrew Gross, “Believe goalie guru Mitch Korn is close to re-joining Barry Trotz with #Isles, no announcements as of yet.”

Lou Lamoriello excited about Islanders’ future home at Belmont Park

NHL Notes:

Luke Richardson joins Montreal Candiens as Assistant Coach.

The Edmonton #Oilers have re-signed forward Ryan Strome to a 2-year deal worth $6.2 million.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Lambert Named Isles Associate Coach & Goaltender, Skarek Signs ELC

Lou Lamoriello and the New York Islanders named Lane Lambert, Associate Coach today.

Lambert spent the last four seasons as an Assistant Coach with the Washington Capitals along with Isles Head Coach, Barry Trotz. During that time, the Capitals won two consecutive Presidents' Trophies (2015-16 and 2016-17) and last season’s Stanley Cup Championship title. A first for the Caps.

Lambert was an Assistant Coach with the Nashville for 3 seasons, including a second-round playoff berth for the Preds. Prior to that, Lambert was a Head Coach for the AHL, Milwaukee Admirals from 2007-11, credited with four straight Calder Cup playoff berths and 2 West Division titles, including the highest point total in the 2010-11 (102 pts, 44-22-14 record) season for a Western team.

Lane Lambert also served as an assistant coach for the Isles major AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the 2005-06 season. The team went 38-33-0-9 that season, finished 4th in the east, losing 3 games to 4 against the WBS Penguins in round 1 of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Per release, “Lambert was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round, 25th overall, in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. He scored 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) and accumulated 521 penalty minutes in 283 career NHL games (1983-88) with Detroit, the New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques. Lambert enjoyed his most successful NHL campaign with the Nordiques in 1987-88, recording career-highs in points (41) and assists (28) in 61 contests. Lambert won an AHL Calder Cup title with the Adirondack Red Wings in 1986 and helped the Houston Aeros claim the IHL's Turner Cup Championship in 1999.”

The New York Islanders also announced that G, Jakub Skarek agreed to terms on a three-year ELC. Skarek was the Isles 72nd overall, 3rd round selection in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. The 18-year-old posted a 2.41gaa and a .912Sv% in 21 games with Dukla Jihlava of the Czech Extraliga last season. Skarek was noted to be one of, if not the best goalies in the Draft this summer for NHL potential.

Per Release, “Skarek led Czech's second division in wins (21) in 2016-17 and was part of Jihlava's championship run in 2015-16. Internationally, Skarek won a gold medal at the 2016-17 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and has represented his country at two straight Under-20 World Junior Championships (2018, 2017). He's also played for the Czech Republic at the 2017 Under-18 World Junior Championships and the 2016 World Hockey Challenge.”

Isles Notes:

Per @CapFriendly, “With the #Islanders signing FA goalie Robin Lehner to 1 year/$1.5M contract, we now show the club with roughly $19.8M in projected cap space based on a tentative roster of 19 (12F/5D/2G).”

On June 25th, The New York Islanders extended qualifying offers to the following restricted free agents: Kyle Burroughs, Ross Johnston, Brock Nelson, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews.

@CapFriendly, “Reminder that today at 5:00pm EST is the deadline for Player Elected Salary Arb filings, with the Club Elected Salary Arb deadline set for tomorrow at 5:00pm EST.”

Per Eric Hornick, “New #Isles goalie Robin Lehner, who played over 6,200 minutes in the last 2 seasons, was traded to Buffalo 3 years ago in a deal that included a 1st round pick that BUF got from Isles in Vanek deal.”

Andrew Ladd on John Tavares, "We're not worried about him anymore."

Lou Lamoriello on SiriusXMNHL today:

"We did everything we possibly could to keep John. He was a quality player. But now that's the past. Will get prepared for next year."

On Lenher, “I think he's a unique case and situation. He has something you can't teach, size and talent. He's determined to get himself back. I'll allow that process to take care of itself."

On Komarov, “Leo, what he brings to the locker room is not seen. What he brings to the ice, his versatility. Even the addition of Matt Martin, it's nice to have those guys because they're in the locker room. Leo is going to bring something special, and intangibles."

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

KoC Isles 2018 Free Agency, Part 2

The Islanders brought back fan-favorite, heart and soul F, Matt Martin in exchange for G, Eamon McAdam. Its been a while since then, but Martin could be reunited with line mates Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck to reform the one-time noted “best 4th line in hockey,” by Canada’s Don Cherry.

Martin, 29, spent the last two disappointing seasons in Toronto. While his offensive output wasn’t where he wanted it (8 & 13 for 21 points in 132 games) with the maple Leaf’s, he was their nominee for the NHL’s King Clancy Award. An award given to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community. As many of you know, Martin began his career on the Island and was with New York for 7 seasons before leaving as a free agent to Toronto.

Per Cory Wright, “In 570 career NHL games with the Islanders and Toronto, Martin has 109 points (50 goals, 59 assists) and 853 penalty minutes. He added four points (one goal, three assists) in 30 Stanley Cup Playoff games with both clubs.”

The 5th round, 148th overall selection of the 2008 NHL Draft won five consecutive Bob Nystrom Awards, given annually by the Isles organization to the player who best exemplifies leadership, hustle and dedication on the team. He was also well known for leading the NHL in hits in each of his last five seasons with the Islanders. Martin was also a finalist for the NHL Foundation Award, awarded annually to the player who applies the core values of hockey-commitment, perseverance and teamwork-to enrich the lives of people in his community. Character is certainly an asset to Martin’s personality and as a player for the organization.

Matt Martin had this to say when asked about his return to the Islanders, "I do think I can contribute in a similar way that I contributed before. I'm as hungry as I've ever been. Last year wasn’t a lot of fun for me in lot of ways. Sitting out is not fun. I'm motivated and excited to get back to work … [Long Island] really is a place I’ve grown to love... I’ve always had that part of me that’s cared so much about this organization even when I was in Toronto. I really am just ecstatic to be back. Not everyone gets that opportunity to come back to a team they love, so be able to have this opportunity.”

Per Stan Fischler, “What I've always liked most about #MattMartin -- apart from his hustle -- is that he hits the foes so often and almost always without getting a penalty. Tough but clean. Welcome back, my favorite interview.”

Matt Martin’s loyalty, soul and urgency was never in question while he played for the Islanders and that was probably the reason they wanted to bring him back. While he probably wasn’t high on the team’s list of primary needs, he does add an element of toughness that was missing since he left. It wasn’t until Ross Johnston got a call up that New York matched the intensity of other physical teams last season.

Per Rob Taub, “Matt Martin takes a run at Tavares the first time they meet? I’m sure many of you would be very satisfied with that at the moment.”

Robin Lehner has agreed to terms on a 1-year deal with the Islanders.

Lehner, posted a 3.01gaa with a .908Sv% and 3 shut outs in 53 games with the Sabres last season.  His NHL career totals feature a 2.82gaa and a .915Sv% in 219 games with the Buffalo Sabres and Senators. The 6'4, 245# goaltender is a talented, feisty keeper who IMO, is better than his record with the Sabres last season and at 27, has upside and could use some finetuning. With the right system and guidance, he could grow into a serious NHL netminder. Rumors of Trotz trying to lure Mitch Korn to the Islanders coaching staff as a goaltending coach have surfaced over the last few days and has been sprinkled over my Isles Twitter feed.

Lehner was a 2nd round, 46th overall pick of the Senators in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, capturing playoff MVP Calder Cup Championship playoff honors for AHL Binghamton in 2011. On the International stage Lehner represented Sweden in the 2011 World Junior Championships and the 2010 World Under-18 Junior Championships. In his OHL debut in 2009-10 with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Lehner led the league with 5 shut outs and named to the OHL All-Star Game.

So far, Lehner will compete with Thomas Greiss as the the starter in net.

The New York Islanders signed depth F, Tom Kuhnhackl to a one-year contract.

Kuhnhackl, has totaled 11 and 28 for 39 points in 3 seasons (168 career games) with Pittsburgh. Kuhnhackl was a part of the Penguins back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in 2016-17. In the 16-17 campaign, he had a career high in points with 16 in 57 games. In the post season, he has 7 points (3 & 4) in 47 games. Pittsburgh didnt tender Kuhnhackl a Q.O.

In his AHL career, the 6’2, 196# Kuhnhackl has 59 points (29 & 30) with a +19 rating in 154 games along with 2 helpers in 10 Calder Cup post season contests.

The team’s recent signings of Komarov, Fillipa and Martin lends itself to two-way defensive play, PK experience and grit. All things the Isles could use more of, but not at the expense of promising prospects or the addition of a top defender or goaltender.

On the Isles pursuit of a quality defender:

Per reports, the Isles seem to be the hunt for D, Erik Karlsson along with Dallas and Vegas. Its been rumored that Bobby Ryan needs to be part of the deal with significant assets going back the other way. Thats probably why Ottawa hasn’t been able to move him yet.

Could the Islanders mix in Duchene from Ottawa if they are indeed in on the Karlsson/Ryan) package? Could they add Craig Anderson? Only my speculation, not a rumor.

Per David Pagnotta, “Ongoing contract talks continue for de Haan with multiple teams, but the field is narrowing. Leafs, Isles remain in mix, told couple other teams too.” De Haan is the best FA available, so he’s probably not in a rush to sign, unless he gets exactly what he wants on the open FA market.

UPDATE: Per Luke DeCock, “Hurricanes have agreed to terms with free-agent defenseman Calvin de Haan, per source. Four years, $18.2 million. Left-shot D completes top two pairings.”

Lou isn't doing the things I expected to see right now, but I'm sure he has a plan or maybe he is crossing some of the lesser needs he sees for the team off his list because it's a convenient time to do so.

Evaluations of personel will continue to be made, prospectes vetted and trades will be explored if they make the team better as the team gets ready for camp with Barry Trotz.

Isles Notes:

Sislo Agrees toTerms on a One-Year Contract.

Per Brenna Klak, “#Isles sign Jakub Skarek to a three-year entry level deal.”

Per Cory Wright, “In Martin, Clutterbuck and Komarov, the #Isles have three of the four most prolific hitters in the NHL. Hits since 2014-15: Martin - 1194 (1st) Clutterbuck - 1079 (3rd) Komarov - 984 (4th).”

FYI, it appears G, Carter Hutton took less to go to Buffalo because they basically guaranteed he'd be the starter. The Isles probably wouldn’t guarantee that.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Dear John Tavares

Dear John Tavares,

Yesterday was a difficult day for Islanders Country. Actually, the last few months have been very difficult. Even more so than the shortcomings of the team for several years. After hearing quotes from your team mates about how you were staying on the Islanders, the quotes, articles and tweets saying you were leaning towards the Islanders, it was a complete shock to most of us that you would ride your departure from the team right into the July 1st open to free agency.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You’re an elite pro hockey player. Probably the biggest free agent available in NHL history. I also understand it’s your career and pro hockey is a business. Sometimes, fans forget that. Their love for the team runs so deep, they let their emotions rule them in situations like yesterday’s announcement of you signing a 7-year deal with Toronto for $11M per.

I read your statement, comments and watched your Toronto presser when you mentioned that the Isles had a bright future. You had even mentioned that ‘kid who won the Calder’. His name is Mathew Barzal. He was a team mate of yours for a couple of years and worked hard to get an opportunity to stay in the NHL and he made the most of it. As fans, we were so excited and proud of his energy and relentless play last season. He was a clear-cut winner for top rookie honors.

I’m sure this was a difficult decision to make for you. Knowing the team that drafted you first overall in 2009 had chosen you to model their franchise around and build a winning program with you as its cornerstone. I was there with my wife and daughter and I'm not ashamed to say, I teared up. I thought to myself, finally! Like you, the fans were very upset at many of the moves made by General Manager, Garth Snow. While I think he made several moves that helped bring talent to the team, via trade and through the draft, he made several mistakes as well. The bottom line is the Islanders were never a serious contender under his management. I defended him a few times in my articles along with your former coach, Jack Capuano. Capuano meant well and helped develop some of the younger guys, but was kept as head coach for too long and that hurt the team. It also burned years off the contracts you signed to remain with the Islanders. Looking back now, the missteps of Snow and Capuano are even more maddening to a frustrated, passionate fan base who have endured years of scorn and snarky comments from media and rival fans. The same snark we are enduring now from the Toronto media and their fans based on you leaving us to sign with them. And your mentor, Doug Weight probably wasn’t ready. I think the team had the talent to do more than it did, but the system failed them.

So you see, I think much of the anger of Isles fans are feeling now is more about the way you went out, not the fact that you chose to live out 'your childhood dream' of playing for the Maple Leafs. When we heard all the pro Long Island and pro Islanders quotes from you over the years, it made us proud that an elite player, our elite player, our captain thought so highly of this now struggling, once dominant franchise. A franchise that was the blueprint for a modern hockey dynasty. You know about the 19 consecutive playoff series wins, the stories of Potvin, Trottier and Billy Smith. You know of Nystrom’s goal, the intimidation of Gillies just to name a few. Oh, and the other guy who wore your number. Butch Goring was the final piece that enabled our team to dominate the hockey world for 4 straight Stanley Cups and came a series win away from a 5th. Credit to Edmonton and Wayne Gretzky for besting the Isles that season. But even Gretzky’s Oilers couldn’t win their 5 cups in a row.

Did you hear what Mike Bossy said to I saw the picture of you back in the day, meditating in front of his plaque on the wall of fame outside the old Isles locker room and it made me smile. I thought, wow, this guys really bleeds orange and blue. Anyway, here was the quote from the clip,

“An Islanders alumni himself, Mike believes Tavares could have been clearer in his intentions with the team that drafted him in 2009.

‘I do not forgive Tavares for leaving without saying so that the Islanders could have something,’ he said.

‘There, they have zero for a player they have drafted and to whom they gave 30 or 40 million for eight years,’ continued the Hockey Hall of Fame member.

‘I find it appalling for a team.”

It seems your secret was so tight-lipped, some of your teammates didn’t even expect you to leave.

Per Arthur Staple, “In exchanging texts with a few Islanders players, the reactions ranged from surprise to disbelief. I mentioned to one player that fans were posting videos of burning Tavares’ jerseys. ‘Don’t blame them,’ was his reply.”

Even the legendary Stan Fischler was surprised you went out the way you did.

“Dear John Tavares: Thanks for being so available under difficult interviewing situations. Now one question: What took you so long to make this "Toughest Decision." Why didn't you tell @Islanders 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.”
I think that’s the problem most of us have. The way it went down, ya know. You in no way belonged to us, but you meant a lot to us. You were our captain. A generation of kids grew up after the glory years and you were their ‘Bossy’. You were the reason they became an Islanders fan. Many of us were touched by the picture of you in your Leaf’s sheets at 6 or 7 years old. Billy Smith made me an Isles fan as a little kid in the heart of Rangers territory and that made me a die-hard. I thought about how many kids across the Island had a similar bedroom in orange and blue, with tributes to you, their hero as the pride of their collection. An Isles fan on Twitter, @Islesfan303 posted a picture of his 9-year-old’s room. 

Did you see it?

Mr. Fischler pointed out a blurb, but didn’t agree with it, from the Hockey news. 

Stranger things have happened and even respected critics such as The Hockey News lead columnist Ken Campbell have wondered out loud whether a long-term, gold-mine contract really is worth it no matter how much Tavares produced. “From everything that analytics and an eye test tell us,” wrote Campbell, “Tavares is a player in decline.” 

As fans, we didn’t feel this way either. We know you are in your prime, a smarter player and have more ambition now than you ever had before. We know had bad you want to win. We get it. But we wanted you to spend your career with us and retire an Islander, just like you said you wanted in radio interviews. We wanted you to take the final step with us, led by Lamoriello, Trotz and your teammates to help bring the Cup back to the Island.

Well, enough of that. You did what you felt was best for you and expressed what your time with us had meant to you. Your call to the New York press was hard to listen to. I can only imagine how hard it was for you to do. The tone of your voice showed how difficult it was. I heard you say as of January when Garth Snow said you wouldn’t be traded and you had no intentions of doing anything else but committing to help the Islanders win. But many other members of the media and angry fans keep going back to you mentioning your ‘childhood dream’ of playing for the Maple Leafs. As I understood it, you said it was an opportunity you owed yourself to investigate and I get that. But many feel you were already leaning towards "going back home.” In all due respect, you had called the Island your home for so many years, maybe a few of them got confused about what you meant.

A lot of them feel there was no way you waited until 6 days before free agency about playing for your childhood team. They feel the Islanders allowed themselves to be played by their franchise player who said all the right things at the right time and avoided signing with them to leverage yourself for free agency. As a result, you left the team you played on for 9 years with nothing but a parting quote and a sincere thank you.

Some fans support you, some don’t want to have anything to do with your memory. It took me some time to begin writing a reply to your departure due to the way it went down. You understand that it was hard to swallow. You even said you didn’t expect any of us to be thrilled about it. You were right. We weren’t and we aren’t. Remember this quote, “Asked what his priority is in making a decision, Tavares said: “I want to stay on Long Island... I haven’t thought about being anywhere except with the Islanders.” - Staple

While you won’t retire an Islander or have your #91 retired, maybe your childhood team will heap upon you all the things you hope to earn at the second half of your career. To help them win, to give their fans the thing they have wanted even longer than the franchise you left on the Island. Here’s to hoping you have no more ‘gut wrenching’ decisions to make in your career and that you can play with the talented young core put in place by Isles GM, Lou Lamoriello with the same team you grew up watching and learning to love the game.

Mr. Tavares, on behalf of the Islanders fans who would permit me to speak for them, I’d like to thank you for the impact you have had on our organization and fan base. We will always be grateful and some of us may never get to tell you how much you meant to us.

The fans in Toronto will rub it in our faces when our boys play you at Scotiabank Arena on December 29th and I’m sure the other members of Islanders Country, they will probably make themselves heard on February 28th in Brooklyn and maybe even more at the refurbished Coliseum on April 1st.

In the meantime, we will build around Barzal, the kid who won rookie of the year, Lee, Bailey, Beauvillier and all the rest of our guys, new and veteran alike. Lamoriello had a great draft and who knows, if a few signings can tighten us up and Trotz can work his proven system yet again, we might just meet in the conference finals.

Wouldn’t that be something? Best of luck to you Mr. Tavares, except when you play the Islanders of course.

Thanks for teaching all of us a valuable lesson. It’s not the leaving, it was the manner in which it went down. Sometimes the wait and faith you place in someone or something isn’t always rewarded.