There was nothing about Monday’s breakup day press conference that gave the impression anything in or around the Islanders is changing. It was the same defeated rhetoric that has been spewed year after disappointing year.
As much as Jon Ledecky said that his ownership group “failed” the fan base, and as much as Ledecky tossed out the well-worn line of “evaluating all aspects of our hockey operations,” there was the resounding feeling that general manager Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight are more than secure in their jobs.
How could there not be that feeling, with the two of them sitting there at the same table with the boss — before the boss read his prepared statement and fled for the back of the room, not taking what would have been a handful of sticky questions about the men he was sitting next to.
But now the biggest question comes with John Tavares deciding whether these are the people he trusts, and if the current players in the locker room are ones he trusts to help turn around what is a very wayward ship. That is the biggest factor in the captain deciding if he wants to return to the franchise that drafted him with the No. 1-overall selection in 2009, or if he wants to test the waters of free agency come July 1.
Garth SnowGetty Images
“Obviously it’s a big decision and there’s a lot that goes into it. That’s a big reason why I’ve taken my time,” Tavares said. “I think for me personally, you realize you don’t know how many opportunities you get to get to this point and possibly see what the landscape is. And I don’t even necessarily know if that’s what I really want to do yet.
“I’ve always stated how much I love it here. It’s emotional either way. Great organization, great place to play. So obviously I want it to work out here.”
That has been the line from the preternaturally mature 27-year-old, that he “wants it to work out here.” Considering the numbers on the contract don’t seem to be an issue — and the eighth year the Islanders can offer is a nice bonus — then why hasn’t he signed it already?
Tavares has earned every right to take his time making this decision. He said he wants to consider “everything.” But if that’s separated into on-ice and off-ice, there is only one place that is left in question.
“I don’t think you say it’s only going to be about hockey. I think you look at all the factors,” Tavares said. “But all the factors here are great.”
That means he has to consider if he believes this management group can turn this team into an actual contender while he is still in his prime. That, or he has to figure out if loyalty is more important than winning.
It’s very unlikely there will be any wholesale changes to this roster, although the addition of a top-four defenseman — if not two — seems absolutely vital. There remains quite a bit of confidence in the current group that unaccountably gave up by far the most goals in the league this season. Weight said his team was “out-competed on a nightly basis,” and he took responsibility for allowing that to happen.
John Tavares has another Isles teammate trying to lure him back
Of all the things John Tavares has to consider when… But when Snow was asked about his 12 years in charge, with four playoff appearances and a single series victory to show for it, he performed his trademark sidestep maneuver. Snow defended his own job worth by rambling about the draft picks he made and the current prospect pool — the pool which supplies AHL Bridgeport, which just missed the playoffs for a 15th straight season, setting a league record.
And when Snow was asked about his level of confidence he could sign Tavares, he weaved and bobbed like Muhammad Ali, repeating one phrase over and over again.
“We want to be in a situation where [Tavares] has the Stanley Cup over his head wearing an Islanders jersey,” Snow said, “and we want him to retire an Islander.”
Tavares added he has known both Snow and Weight a long time, and “I have a lot of trust in them going forward and how they’re going to approach things.”
But is that level of trust one that makes Tavares think the same old situation is finally going to produce different results? Because that would be a large leap of faith, indeed.