As much as the captain and superstar likes Garth Snow and Doug Weight — who were removed as general manager and coach, respectively — his heart belongs more to the Islanders, their fans and a chance to finally be part of a really good team here. The decisions that president Lou Lamoriello made on Tuesday enhanced all of the things that mean the most to Tavares.
The ball still is in the player’s court. He still might leave when he gets his shot at free agency on July 1. But the picture on Long Island looks clearer and brighter now than it has in months, or years.
What the team has now is direction. It has the leadership of a proven championship executive who exudes confidence that he will make things happen, with or without Tavares. When he was asked about the star’s situation vis a vis “relieving” Snow and Weight “of their duties”— as the news release euphemistically put it — Lamoriello said, “That certainly has not and did not enter into any of the decisions that were made.”
In other words, as president, he had to do what he had to do. Anyone who has been watching could see it was overdue.
That was especially true with Snow. Let’s be fair. He had strong moments, such as drafting Tavares, drafting Mathew Barzal, hitting on the Johnny Boychuk-Nick Leddy quinella, landing Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. Personally, I’m still convinced the Ryan Smyth deal was a good one.
Overall, though, it just did not work. In 12 years, Snow’s Islanders never developed a true No. 1 goalie, never advanced beyond just aiming to make the playoffs and hoping to win a round (which happened only once). He had so lost the confidence of the customers that owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky agreed they needed an overhaul.
With Lamoriello calling the shots, there was no room for Snow. With Snow gone, there was no place for Weight. The Islanders wisely got over the fear that Tavares would be offended by those moves.
Sure, the player was close to Weight. But Tavares had played just as hard (and often better) for Jack Capuano. If the star really were so committed to the general manager who drafted him and the teammate-turned-coach who mentored him, he would have signed long ago. He didn’t. He does not want to end up like Don Mattingly, spinning his wheels loyally and patiently for one organization without ever having a real sniff of a championship.
During a conference call Tuesday, Lamoriello said of his new organization, “The bottom line is, there are a lot of tremendous people here. There have been a lot of changes for different reasons. Right now, it’s just trying to stabilize everything, starting off with a fresh face, fresh minds, a fresh coach and going forward.”
Nowhere does it say Lamoriello is a cinch to succeed. Maybe his my-way-or-the-highway approach will not fly with today’s players. Maybe the Islanders should have replaced Snow with his former special adviser, George McPhee, who has essentially built both teams in the current Stanley Cup Final.
Regardless, the Islanders have more of a chance now than they have in a long time. Given the few weeks he has before he must decide, Tavares should see that Lamoriello is the type of guy who can finally provide him with solid wingers, a better defense and a good goalie.
“When time is on your side, you use it,” Lamoriello said. “When you know what you feel the right decision is, you make it.”
For Tavares, it is time to take a better look at a situation that looks a lot better.