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Critics still getting after Tavares, Isles

It's not as if the Islanders are cruising to a playoff berth, or even close enough to contention to be worthy of a lot of attention around the hockey world. The last four seasons, most of the attention has been negative, especially last season, in the wake of Scott Gordon's firing, a 1-17-3 streak that essentially eliminated them before Christmas and Evgeni Nabokov's refusal to report after a waiver claim in January.

Things are better this season, but that hasn't prevented a couple of recent slights on the team's best player and the organization.'s Neil Greenberg wrote his list of the Top 25 players under 25 on Jan. 11 (subscription required), with Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby at the top two spots. John Tavares didn't make the cut, which prompted this follow-up blog post from Greenberg to explain why Tavares wasn't on his list. Greenberg, who also contributes to the Washington Post's Capitals blog, cited some advanced statistics to back up his omission of Tavares.

There has been some disagreement, most vehemently offered by Howie Rose on Saturday's Isles telecast -- here's Puck Daddy link to Rose's comments.

Now, there's this Hockey News cover article on Tavares, who was mobbed by Toronto camera crews this morning after the Isles skate. Last season, with the Isles foundering, Tavares was always asked up here about his future and stated quite clearly he wanted to stay an Islander, despite the rumor-mongering in some Canadian media circles that Tavares had no intention of signing a long-term deal once his entry-level contract expired after this season.

Well, Tavares didn't even let it get to the start of the 2011-12 season, expeditiously signing a six-year, $33 million deal last summer to erase all doubts about where he wanted to be.

Ryan Kennedy's story in the current Hockey News is not a direct shot at Tavares' decision, more of an open question as to why Tavares wanted to stay given the Isles' lack of success. A fair question, to be sure, but it's not as if Tavares had been waffling; he said he wanted to stay, he backed it up by not dragging out contract negotiations and is now an All-Star, the unquestioned on-ice leader of an improved team.

Will the Hockey News examine whether P.K. Subban will want to re-sign with the Canadiens? Or Taylor Hall with the Oilers? The question about Tavares and the Isles runs deeper than just a lack of on-ice success, I understand, but it seems a little disingenuous to me to wonder from afar about why players choose to do what they do because the team isn't very good and the arena isn't very nice.

As Garth Snow has said often, and his players have echoed, the only thing that changes perceptions is winning. The Islanders are better this season, but they're not winners, so the critics will still tend to the negative.

New York Sports