On April 10, four days before the lottery, I wrote a post entitled “No Reason To Vic Around.” (I liked that headline). Basic premise: if the Islanders won the lottery, they should declare John Tavares right then and there. Not get all nuts like Tampa Bay did last summer with the Stamkos billboards and all, mind you. Just start the relationship between cornerstone prospect, organization and fan right away.
Reaction was mixed from blog readers, mostly negative in some parts of the Country and met with some snickers in the hockey offices of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The nose-thumbers said it was outrageous!
“What if their player suffered a career-ending injury in the junior playoffs”?!! (Uh, pick the next guy when you have to actually draft on draft day. No one would complain – not the kid with the ripped up knee, not the kid who’s now the No. 1 pick in the draft).
“How can you not wait to see all the great offers that are guaranteed to pour in”?!!! (Yep, we’ll still waiting. Can’t wait to hear about them).
The attitude of the draft purists was summed up in one encounter I had in Penn Station a week after I wrote the post. I ran into an influential fellow with strong connections to the Islanders. The lecture went like this: “If Garth did what you suggested, it would disrespect the scouting process.”
Okey-dokey. So where are we today after more than two months of process?
On Friday, 65 days after winning the Draft Lottery, Islanders GM Garth Snow admitted to Bob McKenzie of TSN that the player he wanted in mid-April is still the player he wants today.
“I said at the time that I had a pretty good idea but that I wasn’t firmly committed to it until we went through the process of doing our due diligence on all the top guys,” said Snow. “Let’s just say the process re-affirmed what I thought back then. We want the same guy now that we wanted back then.”
Okay, so let’s take a look at the process.
Victor Hedman: Hockey season was over before draft lottery. Islanders met with Hedman for team-allotted 20 minutes and watched him do the Presidential Fitness Test at the Draft Combine. Victor, his dad and his agent visited with the NYI for three hours earlier this month.
Matt Duchene: Played 11 post-lottery playoff games for Brampton, including one before Snow and Islanders owner Charles Wang. Draft Combine. Two nights lodging at Chez Snow, plus golf and meetings.
John Tavares: 5 post-lottery playoff games for London, including a visit from Snow and Wang. Two nights at Chez Snow, plus golf, meetings and breakfast with Doug Weight.
The Islanders knew who they wanted before all of the above. Now they’re really sure. Cool. Fair enough.
As for this idea that the Islanders are waiting to announce their pick on Friday because it has put them in the league spotlight, has it really? I mean, having the first overall pick always comes with some buzz, of course. The drama has been gold for Point Blank and all Islanders blogs, but where else but the Country has this been talked about every day for the last two months? Nowhere. This week, however, the spotlight will shine when Garth Snow arrives in Montreal mid-week. You asked for it, old friend! Ha!
As fans, hope the Islanders take the best player on Friday. Hope the Islanders are not the talk of the league on Friday night. Been there, done that. Here’s the irony: if the Islanders do the smart, safe unspectacular thing on Friday – oh nooooooooo! – they’ll move a few thousand ticket packages this summer without having to proactively make the phone calls.
The pick must be John Tavares. It’s one thing for the Islanders’ staff to not know Snow’s selection for the last two months. I’m sure they continue to have no idea. But it’s another to promote a draft party as “Islanders history” and work hard enough to get a possible capacity crowd into the Coliseum for the event.
Latest Islandermania poll results: Tavares 431, Hedman 46, Duchene 13. (Couldn’t help but notice that Duchene got a few extra votes on the team’s offical message board since Friday…hmmm).
There could not possibly be such a disconnect in the Islanders’ executive offices. It would be the worst on Long Island since…well, since Thursday in Bethpage, when the USGA proved with their initial raincheck response that they don’t live on the same planet as the rest of us.
Excellent point yesterday by Larry Brooks. If the Islanders are not drafting Tavares, better declare Duchene or Hedman early this week. Stay away from the “implicit danger of allowing the Tavares Bandwagon to roll down Hempstead Turnpike without brakes, only then to have it crash without warning into a dead end in Montreal on Friday night.” Larry concludes that the closer we get to Friday, the more likely the pick is Tavares. Yup.
The pick is Tavares. Hey, didja hear the news? For what it’s worth, a majority of the hockey world also believes he is the best player available.
Comments. Please follow the Comment Guidelines and treat fellow posters with respect. Moratorium called on all tearing-down-the-Coliseum jokes. Details on RC Dugans’ Post-Draft Draught Celebration a few threads down.