Post-draft euphoria giving way to free agent discontent
On June 26, the New York Islanders drafted John Tavares, an incredibly talented and poised individual who gives the team instant credibility in terms of being considered better than they have been recently.
The long-suffering Islander Faithful exploded with joy when his name was called at the draft, releasing months of anxiety that New York would somehow bungle the opportunity to add such a dynamic piece to their puzzle. I'll be kind and just state that their apprehension was well founded.
However, there was no need for pitchforks and torches on the unsettled June night at the team's draft party at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. In fact, for the first time in what seems like forever, there was optimism in the air. Now that Tavares was on board, what else could be accomplished? With July 1 around the corner (the opening day of Free Agency), fans debated endlessly on the team's official message board over what other players could be added to the mix in order to improve a squad that, thankfully, would never have to finish in last place again.
Today is July 9 and, as of the writing of this column, the only free agent that has been signed by the Islanders is soon to be 40 year old goaltender Dwayne Roloson. While Roloson certainly addresses a need (franchise netminder Rick Dipietro barely played last season and his status for this year is currently up in the air), fans watched in frustration as free agents signed everywhere else but Long Island.
Truthfully, Islander fans who got their hopes up have no one but themselves to blame. Owner Charles Wang is attempting to build a massive real estate development (that would include a brand new arena and facilities for the team) and the future of the project is tied up in regional government politics. He has gone on record as stating that the approval of this project is the only way he will make a profit operating the team (thanks to an ancient lease with the building's management company that doesn't expire until 2015 which basically ensures that Wang loses money).
So, those fans who thought the wallet was about to open big time need a reality check: With the financial situation in limbo, Wang will continue to operate at the cap floor until he get some idea that he might turn a profit. Those who are criticizing General Manager Garth Snow need to understand that he is working under severely handicapped conditions. Also, they should keep in mind that there is still plenty of time to pull off a shrewd move or two.
Meanwhile, John Tavares….The Man Who Would Be King….surveys the landscape. What he sees is a village that has been oppressed for years that yearns for freedom.
They hope that the serious young man with the “wicked twisted wrister” can help them realize their dreams.
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Written by Frank Mazzola