A collective sigh, or booming scream from the 10,000 plus Coliseum crowd, was let out all at once when Garth Snow stood up at the podium to announce that the Islanders have selected John Tavares as the number one pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
From all the years the Islanders have walked up to the podium to announce a trade or selecting others that shouldn't have been chosen (my favorite is seeing Scott Lachance drafted second overall by the Isles and Peter Forsberg taken seventh by the Flyers...ha!), this one can go down (most likely) as the right move. Even if Tavares for some, unlikely reason turns out to be a total bust, the organization and its fans will still be able to say they made the right choice. All other 29 teams most likely would have done the same. Like I said in my last blog. You take the best player available, and that's exactly what the Islanders did.
Now we can start predicting, 'who will he play with? Bailey? Okposo? Does Tambellini get a chance?' - I doubt many of you have thought about Tambellini at a time like this, but I have to say this would be a golden opportunity for a speedster like him to redeem himself with a natural offensive talent...but we'll see how that goes.
Personally I would like to see Snow try to put Tavares along side of two proven scorers/play-makers that can get him the puck and hopefully develop some chemistry. One pairing that has been mentioned a lot are the Sedin twins. To me that would be a dynamite first line. But realistically, you have to really wonder if someone like Tavares is going to bring the same hype and open mindedness of playing for a bottom dwelling, new-arena desiring team like the Islanders. He isn't Sidney Crosby.
I do see him drawing some attention to some UFA's, but not a ton. I could be wrong, maybe all the publicity he's gotten will turn some heads. But I just don't see a lot of the big name guys suddenly putting the New York Islanders at the top of their lists. I don't see Garth Snow doing it either. I see him looking for the guys that he specifically thinks would be an asset to play with Tavares and making them an offer. If they become to hard to deal with I'm sure he'll explore lighter options. Possibly someone like Maxim Afinegenov who may need a fresh start on a team that is willing to take a chance with him.
I think it's also important to keep in mind who John Tavares is as a player. We all know he has great hands, superb vision, and is an immediate threat from the blue-line in. He's not considered a defensive forward and isn't the best skater either. Steve Stamkos was taken first overall last year after having an amazing year in the OHL as well and it took him almost half a season to finally get himself going offensively. It's very possible that John Tavares will have the same story unravel for him. Overall, if we get somewhere close to 20 goals from him, I think we can say he had a great first season. If he scores less, it just means he's going to need to continue to develop his game.
As an Islander fan I know how easy it is to get frustrated without immediate results. At the beginning of the year I was almost hoping for Okposo to be sent down to the minors for a little more conditioning because his start was so slow it made a turtle's hobble look fast. Same can be said for Bergenheim. But then by season's end the two of them were scoring goals on a nightly basis and were easily our most effective forwards every game. Heck, if it wasn't for Bergie's injury, the two of them could have been neck and neck to the end for the team lead in goals.
We have to be patient. He is not the second coming of Christ. He is not our savior and is not going to single handedly pull this team out from the doldrums and restore them back to glory. He's going to be a huge help, and the biggest leap in the right direction that this team has taken in years. All great things take time.
But I have to admit, it still feels great to say that the Islanders selected John Tavares; that this team did something right and is not a mockery. It gives this team an identity before they even set foot on the ice. Don't believe me? Season tickets were sold like they were going out of style by the time Snow walked off the podium with Tavares in Montreal.
He won't bring us the Stanley Cup next year, or necessarily a playoff series either. What he does bring, is hope.