Tavares Gone; Can Islanders Survive?

The great Winston Churchill once said:

A Pessimist Sees The Difficulty In Every Opportunity;

An Optimist Sees The Opportunity In Every Difficulty

England’s Churchill, the iconic hero of the Second World War, could have been talking about Lou Lamoriello today.

Now that John Tavares has bid the Islanders adieu by signing with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s time for Lou to start rebuilding the Isles anew. And that he’ll do, with gusto.

The Islanders’ boss knew that Tavares might leave which is why Plan B (as in Bye-Bye John) was invented in the first place.

Right along, Lamoriello proclaimed that the now ex-captain had the option as a free agent to fly the Brooklyn-Uniondale coop; and so he did.

Is this a sad day for Islanders fans who had been so loyal to The Tavares Marching and Chowder Society?

It should be for all the thrills, chills and spills the Captain provided. But now it’s time to look ahead and for Lou to take Churchill’s words to heart.

Seize the opportunity in change and — who knows — it could be for the better.

Stranger things have happened and even respected critics such as The Hockey News‘ lead columnist Ken Campbell have wondered out loud whether a long-term, gold-mine contract really is worth it no matter how much Tavares produced.

“From everything that analytics and an eye test tell us,” wrote Campbell, “Tavares is a player in decline.”

Granted, that’s harsh stuff, but also from an objective Canadian reporter with no ax to grind. Just one observer’s opinion.

That doesn’t mean that Tavares hasn’t got the goods; he does and has proven it in the past. But a deal that extends into Tavares’ mid-30s also could be interpreted as unrealistic.

Sure the ex-captain will be missed but opportunity knocks — for Lou and the high command.

Now is the time for an organizational rebound; the kind that Lamoriello created when he turned a beleaguered Devils team in 1988 into a contender and eventually three-time Stanley Cup-winner.

Should a more recent example be sought, try the Golden Knights for inspiration.

Like Vegas last Fall, the Isles boast a new coach in Barry Trotz who brings a track record of turning less into more, as he did with the Cup-winning Capitals.

[Fischler: Nine Challenges Facing Barry Trotz]

Instead of Tavares as starting center, Trotz will have Calder Trophy-winning Mathew Barzal and can build around the astounding rookie.

Check out Mat Barzal's best plays from this season, as the the Isles rookie won the Calder Trophy. Catch more of Barzal all week long during Rookie Week on MSG Networks!

How about Anthony Beauvillier as second line center with assorted other possibilities to go from there.

As Arthur Staple pointed out in The Athletic, the wise and insightful Trotz could very well turn the enigmatic Brock Nelson into a much more effective third center.

Right off the bat, Trotz could have three young pivots, motivated and inspired.

Not to mention (a reformed) Josh Ho-Sang and perhaps the more youthful Kieffer Bellows and — very, very, very long shot — Oliver Wahlstrom.

(Let’s not forget that when Tavares was injured late in the 2016-17 season, the Isles played their best hockey and nearly caught a playoff berth.)

Sure, the Islanders’ devoted fan base has a right sing the “Gone John Blues,” since so much emotion had been invested in Tavares-hoping, only to have it shattered at this point in time.

But the fans I’ve talked to over the past months had become: 1. Frustrated by the waiting game; 2. Dismayed by Tavares’ procrastination; and 3. Some not at all sorry to see him seek greener pastures on distant ice.

Ownership and Lamoriello did everything imaginable to persuade the JT to stay. Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky did their best.

Since Tavares turned thumbs down, it’s time to turn thumbs up for a re-invigorated Islanders sextet that surprisingly could prove successful without him.

BOTTOM LINE: Long-term, John’s non-curtain-call could be the best thing that has happened to an Isles organization now clearly in the rebuilding mode. Maybe, short-term as well.

As for Tavares, who served the franchise well and provided many heroic moments — and now is leaving our midst — it was great fun, but it was just one of those things!

John shall be missed and The Maven wishes him well.

That said, The Maven also believes that the Tavares exit could, in the long run, actually turn into a case of addition by subtraction.

Especially if Ken Campbell is right and that good-bye-Johnny already is on the down-side of his career.

[Read More From Stan Fischler]