I DO NOT hate John Tavares...
Since the Islanders selected the 19 year old center from the London Knights, friends (knowing my man-crush of Victor Hedman and my recent boarding of the Matt Duchene bandwagon) have asked me if I will cheer for Tavares. My response: "as loud as I can".
Now, before I sound too much like a hypocrite, let me just say that I never once said that I wouldn't want a player like JT on my team. What I have said multiple times in the past is that there were to two ways to approach the draft: one which would appease the fans and bring a high-profile scorer to the Island, one which we haven't seen since the days of Pierre Turgeon, or a second, which bolstered the defensive corps for years to come. Clearly, Garth went with the popular choice.
My theory about rebuilding this team, which still hasn't changed since the draft, is that defense, especially in a system which encourages defenders to join the play in the offensive zone, should be a priority for the Isles. A six foot seven inch defenseman who has a great shot from the point and skates like the wind probably would fit better in Gordons system than a center whose biggest knock on him sonce day one has been his skating (or lackthere of).
Those of you who I've spoken to about this have probably grown tired of this argument, so I'll leave it at that.
I still feel that the smart choice for the Islanders ON the ice would have been Victor Hedman. However, OFF the ice, it's hard to deny that Garth made the right choice. Almost 500 fans lining up at IceWorks at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday just to get a glimpse at the first overall pick really says something. So too does the fact that more John Tavares memorabilia has been sold than that of all other Islanders players since the draft. Tavares-mania is sweeping Islanders country, and for the first time in quite some time, Islander fans have a reason to feel good.
Was John Tavares the right pick? Who can say for sure. We will be asking this question for years to come, as we all watch the draft class of '09 blossom. Do I feel he was the right pick? Personally, no. I think they should have gone with defense (duh!).
I don't know if John Tavares will lead the Isles to the promise land. What I do know, is that I have big concerns about how his game can translate into the NHL. Take this for what it's worth, but I can really see his skating becoming a big issue in establishing himself as a true NHL threat. There's no doubt that JT has huge upside, but given the hype since he was fourteen, plus concerns which are not only held by me, but also by NHL scouts who saw him every day this past year, I see him having huge bust POTENTIAL. Not certainty, but potential.
Boy, I hope I'm wrong...