Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:There are certain things that shouldn’t surprise anyone, but still manage to.
You can put the segment of fans booing Thomas Vanek Thursday night into that category.
It started during the pre-game introductions. An audible boo could be heard from some of the 12,888 in attendance. The same thing occurred later when Vanek had control of the puck.
As strange as some people felt about the Vanek trade back in October, it was even stranger to see fans booing the guy for seemingly no reason Thursday.
Just as a reminder: In the 41 games he’s played in an Islander uniform, he’s put in 15 goals and 23 assists for 38 points. And the Isles top line of Vanek, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo was the hottest in the NHL in December and January.
Fans weren’t booing him then, so why now?
In fact, they were in love with him merely two weeks ago after he called out the officials over his disallowed goal against St. Louis.
But now some people dislike him because he wants to test free agency?
Honestly, who can blame him for wanting to test the open market? He’s been in the NHL for nine seasons and this will be the first, and likely only, time he does so. You can’t blame Vanek for wanting to experience it just once.
“It’s just me being a little selfish, I guess, and wanting to get to July 1 and seeing what’s out there,” he told Newsday on Tuesday. “It has nothing to do with this team and where we are in the standings. I think this team has a tremendous upside. Is it the right move? I don’t know. But it’s something me and my family want to explore one time and see how it goes.”
The quote that has been repeated the most since the story broke was the “it’s not you, it’s me” line he told Newsday.
“As I’ve told [general manager] Garth [Snow] before . . . It’s like a breakup: It’s not you, it’s me. And it really is me wanting to explore this,” he said.
Obviously the cynics and naysayers will say that Vanek’s comments are nothing more than empty words and are just the canned quotes that athletes have become known for. Clearly some of those people were in the stands Thursday night, but it’s hard to point to anything that indicates that Vanek hasn’t been anything but sincere during his time with the Islanders.
Snow made a gamble to trade for Vanek back in October. Did it work out completely? No, but that is not the fault of Thomas Vanek. He did what anyone could have asked for during his time on Long Island.
He played hard, worked well with his teammates and linemates, and helped the Islanders.
Vanek has even said if the Islanders were to send him an offer during free agency “this would be a place I’d consider if it gets to July 1.” Again, some may say those are just words, but who knows.
If Vanek isn’t traded by 3 pm on Friday expect the same foolhardy behavior on Saturday when the Isles play the Colorado Avalanche. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the nature of the beast that is sports fandom.
Of all the uncertainty with the Vanek situation, one thing is certain: Vanek has done nothing to deserve the boos he got on Thursday night.