Thursday night will be the Islanders’ final home game at Barclays Center this season. It may also be John Tavares’ last in an Islanders uniform at an Islanders home game. I hope all fans can agree on this open letter to the Captain.
Dear Mr. Tavares,
On behalf of Islanders fans across Long Island and beyond, I ask for 5 minutes of your time. You are among the greatest players to play our incredible game today.
Your hand-eye coordination, skating, shot, and netfront presence make you stand out from among the crowd. You have been the backbone of this team for nearly ten years.
Unfortunately, however, your time on Long Island hasn’t gone as you expected. In the last nine seasons, the team has only made the playoffs three times, won only one playoff series (thanks to your incredibly timely goals), traded and drafted poorly, and underachieved. Other teams have taken steps forward while we have taken steps back.
Now you have a chance to abandon ship, flee to teams like Montreal, Vancouver, or Ottawa and have a chance at a deep playoff run or even a Stanley Cup. Yet, as I’m sure you know, this team should be destined for greatness too, but we need you to be part of the equation. We have the money to give you.
You deserve upwards of $12 million. For eight years, not seven.
We are the only team that can afford to give that to you for eight years. Long Island is a beautiful place to raise a family and you are looking to start one yourself. The team is moving back to Long Island with games at Nassau Coliseum for the next three years and at Belmont Park afterwards. The best fans in hockey will no longer need to venture out to Brooklyn to see one of the greatest talents in the league.
Younger Islanders are starting to fill roster spots. Players like Barzal, Beauvillier, Aho, and Pulock are making an impact and even more talented youngsters should be on their way up to the NHL in the foreseeable future. The league is trending to young talent and the Islanders, especially with two lottery picks in this year’s draft, have some of the most among the 31 teams. Us fans envision a lineup similar to the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Penguins, one with you and Barzal centering the top two lines, with players who want to contribute benefiting from your talent.
Look at Josh Bailey. He thrives with you on his line. He has been able to find open spots on the ice and convert scoring opportunities but only because he had your help. Not many players can do for him what you can.
We had one of the best offenses this year, and you were a tremendous part of that. I think my point is that our team is trending in the right direction. Our arena situation is settled, our prospect pool is deep, and we can afford to sign you to the contract you deserve.
Long Island also boasts the best fans in the NHL. No, we may not be as large as Montreal or Toronto, but Long Island has always been a place where fans and players have a connection. It’s a suburban area. Everyone knows everyone.
We’re a community. We’re a family.
We all ride the train to Barclays together. We all tailgate at the Barn together. We all chant Yes! Yes! Yes! together. You can’t find that anywhere else, and I think it makes Long Island a special place to play hockey.
Our dearest captain, leader, superstar, mentor, and friend, we appreciate all that you have done for us these past nine years and if you decide to pursue your dream of lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup elsewhere, so be it. We’ll love you only a little less.
But we ask that you look hard at all the good that is in store for this franchise and decide to spend the next eight years helping all Long Islanders get our parade down Hempstead Turnpike.
With much love and sincerity,
The entire New York Islanders fanbase.