I was born on Long Island in 1980.
Yes, as an unborn fetus in Momma's belly, on a late night run for smokes and vodka, I mean pickles and ice cream, I watched the Philadelphia Flyers team bus drive home from Nassau Memorial that fateful Saturday evening.
It was the start of something great. No not my birth, the first of four consecutive Stanley Cups for the blossoming franchise. The impact of that dynasty produced roots that have held strong, although weakened somewhat, through miserable years of unsuccessful professional hockey.
Mistake after mistake, bad decision after bad decision from poor management have relegated this franchise to what it is now, a worse than mediocre hockey team playing in a rundown building with a fanbase that's had just about enough.
This draft could be the most important in the Isles history, or at least in the last 25 years. Definetely more important than taking goaltender Rick DiPietro #1 in the 2000 draft, (a impending problem that will need to be remedied soon).
This is a chance to turnaround all the shit that these fans have suffered through. A chance to rebuild from the ground up, considering the fact that you can't get any lower. With seven picks in the first three rounds, (two in the 1st, three in the 2nd, two in the 3rd), and the first pick in every round, the destiny of the New York Islanders lies in the hands of backup goaltender, I mean General Manager, Garth Snow.
Snow can't lose on whoever he picks at #1, as long as he picks one of Tavares, Hedman or Duchene trio, and doesn't do anything stupid like trade away the pick, or wake up late. He may surprise and upset some people with who he actually chooses out of those three, but in the end, there's going to be plenty of reasons to back your decision. Of course, there will always be reasons to shit on the choice as well, real or fabricated, but that's just the nature of the scruntiny of professional sports.
Lets take a look at some reasons, good and bad...
Of course we're here at almost the midnight hour of the draft, we have all the insight of everyone who's already written about tomorrow, we can just swoop in and steal all the research and reap the rewards.
The skinny on John Tavares...
He's been watched since he was 15 or 16 years old, he's broken Gretzky's goal scoring record in the OHL, he's got a nose for the net, good hands, a great shot, and thrives under pressure. He's also a little lazy as far as working to improve areas of his game, and he's also a little bit of an asshole, (not sure if that's good or bad). In that regard, he's been drawing comparisons to Eric Lindros' standoff against the Nordiques in '91, but Tavares has given no indication that he would pull such a move if the Isles were to draft him. But its his attitude that have compelled experts to give hard looks at Mr. Hedman and Mr. Duchene in the first choice perspective. If its already noticable now, it could be a potential problem down the road, when the Islanders aren't making the turnaround quite as quick as everyone expected and the blame game begins to play out.
The lanky on Victor Hedman...This tall drink of water has drawn comparisons to Nick Lidstrom with his hockey IQ, offensive ability, ability to close, his size, and probably mostly because Lidstrom is the best defenseman to come out of Sweden. But he, like all European imports placed under the microscope, is being questioned about his toughness and physical game. He says he can play with a chip on his shoulder if he gets riled up enough, but something tells me this kid is going to let his game do the talking.
The plucky on Matt Duchene...
The rugrat has drawn comparisons to Stevie Y and Joey Sak for his all-round game, quick feet, playmaking ability, hard work ethic, leadership ability, and 'everyman' persona. How's THAT for a slice of fried gold? Experts are tongue-tied when looking for a reason to dog the kid, which is why this duel of Tavares and Hedman has turned into a three horse race.
Predicting who's going to nose out who is anyone's guess, the Isles need everything. However Strong Island has been clamoring for JT as if he were the new Justin Timberlake. One bar out on the Island is offering $1 drafts if Johnny boy goes #1, and 25cent drafts if he doesn't.
Tavares will put asses in the seats regardless of how well the Islanders are playing, that's an instantaneous dividend for a team that's struggled to sell seats to a hockey game at a dungeon. Hedman and Duchene don't carry that same star-power even though they appear to be smarter choices for the long run. It would show a lot of balls on Snow's part to go against the grain, and pass on Tavares. Of course we all know the grain is stupid, and that its the smart hockey decision to go with Hedman or Duchene. Or do we? Besides, when have the Islanders been accused of making smart hockey decisions? Your silence is defening.
Offence or defense?
If you want defense, the choice is easy. Bill Torrey, the architect of the Isles dynasty, took Denis Potvin in the '73 draft and built the team around him. It appears that Hedman along with Duchene are cornerstones, Tavares on the other hand has the potential to become another #1 flop. But let's be honest here, Snow is no Torrey, and Hedman is no Potvin.
If you want offence, the choice gets blurry. Do you take the star power or the steady hand? Seems unfair to judge any of these kids before they even pull a professional uniform on, but once again, that's the nature of the business.
The money, and the pressure, is on Tavares to go #1. The smarter move is to take Hedman, and build from the back end out.
But it will probably play out Tavares, then Hedman, and then Duchene. Colorado needs a new Sakic, Tampa needs a new Dan Boyle, and the Islanders need a hero. Will Tavares be the next Mike Bossy?