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|John Tavares is a big part of Isles' uncertain future|
|Written by Denis Gorman|
|Friday, 16 September 2011 15:41|
For John Tavares, the future is bright with a six-year, $33 million contract extension. For the Islanders, not so much. The 20-year-old said he's focused on making the playoffs and winning a Stanley Cup on Long Island.
John Tavares stood beside the dais and stared intently at the four poster-sized Newsday front pages that commemorated four unforgettable days in New York Islanders franchise history.
A brief study of Tavares’ silent, transfixed gaze showed the soon-to-be 21-year old envisioning what it would be like to hoist in celebration the organization’s first Cup since the night of May 17, 1983.
It was a private moment after the public announcement that the franchise and athlete agreed to a six-year, $33 million extension. The contract begins next season.
“It’d be great to come from where we’ve come and one day get back to where the team has once been," Tavares told HockeyPrimeTime.com. "It’s easy to look around because the tradition those guys built and those teams, the success they had and how special it was. It’s easy to get caught up in it. (Mike Bossy) always talks about it and you always dream about it, bringing it back one day and it’d be remarkable.”
Forty-six days after a frustrated Charles Wang and an embarrassed Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano met with reporters to discuss the electorate voting down a referendum that would authorize the county to begin a massive construction project that included a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment facility, the mood in the past-its-prime Coliseum was markedly different. This was a day to celebrate the commitment player and organization made to one another.
Especially when public sentiment was that the 2009 No. 1 overall pick would leave Long Island at the first available opportunity, despite repeated statements by Tavares to the contrary. With one signature – Tavares noted that he signed the contract a few moments before he and General Manager Garth Snow met with the media – he guaranteed that he will be part of the organization until he turns 27.
“John intimated to me that he wanted to be a New York Islander,” Snow said.
Why? The Islanders have been a punchline for years for myriad reasons – owners, Mike Milbury, the infamous Gorton’s Fisherman sweater – and last got past the first round of the playoffs in 1993. Why stay with an organization that doesn’t know if it is staying in Nassau County past 2015?
“Charles is a great owner. He’s great to all of us. Garth is great to all of us. We get treated well, with a lot of respect and a lot of dignity. They give us an opportunity to play and compete. They want us to win,” Tavares said. “We’re doing things the right way, taking our time. Now it’s (time to) show it. This is a big year for us, obviously. The more successful on the ice, people will notice us a little more and what we’re all about.”
And what are the New York Islanders all about?
“Hopefully to win a Stanley Cup one day,” Tavares said, while repeatedly expressing his assertion that the Islanders will compete for a playoff berth this season.
It is not unfathomable that the Islanders can be “in the mix,” to use Tavares’ phraseology. The Islanders won 26 of 65 games under Jack Capuano, who replaced Scott Gordon after a 4-10-3 start to the 2010-11 campaign.
Along with Tavares, the Islanders possess blossoming skating talent in Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson, Blake Comeau, Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald. In addition, the organization has three NHL-caliber goaltenders in Rick DiPietro, Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov.
Moreover, prospects Nino Niederreiter, Calvin de Haan, Ryan Stome, Kirill Kabanov, Brock Nelson, Matt Donovan and Kevin Poulin could earn NHL jobs in the near future – Niederreiter and de Haan as soon as this season.
Couple the Isles’ success under Capuano with an embarrassment of young riches and that equals Tavares’ belief that he and his teammates could compete in the franchise’s first playoff series since 2007.
Could a playoff berth and the Islanders’ long-term financial obligations to Tavares, Moulson, Grabner and Okposo convince NHL free agents to sign with the Islanders?
“I sure hope so,” Tavares said. “I hope they see all us young guys really enjoy playing here. We have a great organization and a great staff and great group of guys; a hell of a locker room that have fun each and every day and play for one another and do anything for one another. For sure we’re excited about it. We’ve all made these commitments and we’ve talked about it, what we could possibly do here, if stuff like this can prove a point to a lot of people, hopefully we can send that message.”
On Twitter: @HockeyPrimeTime and @DenisGorman
|Last Updated on Saturday, 17 September 2011 16:18|