And on the 14th day of April, the hockey gods smiled on the Islanders and bestowed upon them a reward for years of pain and corruption, years of persecution at the hands of hockey sinners whose afterlife now includes jail and/or NESN appearances.
And it was good.
Spiritual visions emerged of Tavares, Okposo and Bailey leading a two-line forward attack...
I'm not sure the first time I thought about John Tavares or Victor Hedman, but it feels like a year ago and it feels like it's happened every day since. With each ridiculous injury (582 man-games in all), with each mounting loss (47 in regulation), it felt like this prize is what should happen -- but Islanders fans know there is always a practical joke lurking. Even once a top-two pick was assured via 30th place, many of us figured someone else's lottery ball would bounce them into first.
Why, as if to drive home that point, the NHL Network played a half-hour sit-down feature with Mike Milbury just an hour before the lottery. Trying to tell us something?
Not this time. Fortune finally gave us a break, and now the future is firmly in Garth Snow's hands. He can get cute and indulge Brian Burke's offers of scraps (What, you gonna offer Schenn and your 1st? Call me back when you have an equal asset, Irish...). Or Snow can sit with his staff and do due diligence after watching the AHL and junior playoffs to confirm which future star fits a greater need.
Either way, as Snow said last night, "We know we are going to get a fantastic player."
And for those of us thinking of the tickets and the excitement of Tavares, Snow said this is a hockey decision: “The mandate from Mr. Wang has been to bring the Stanley Cup to Long Island and to become a consistent contender.”
As I've said all along, it would be a defensible hockey decision to go with Hedman, but it would take serious cajones. I think Snow has those, but I'm not sure he'll need them. No one can tell which way he's leaning, and I believe him and Ken Morrow when they say the whole staff is involved in the debate.
But with Charles Wang appearing on radio to celebrate this morning, I half-expect him to make some announcement that makes Snow crap his pants. "We've decided on Hedman, and I've arranged a 20-year contract with his family to show our committment. Oscar Hedman is included."
It was a weird night. We were shaken by nerves in the live
game lottery thread, then we were drunk with joy. When they lifted the Islanders' card, I originally thought that meant we were picking 2nd, and let's just say my initial reaction frightened the dog. It's no shock last night was the best-attended in the short life of this blog -- it was the first real bit of good news since last year's draft. One of our new users who debuted last night went by the screen name "FireGarthSnow" and sarcastically suggested Snow will trade down for a #1 and a 2nd-rounder in 2022. That's the battered-fan environment we're dealing with.
Across the Isles blogosphere, across Twitter, it's almost like Islanders fans didn't know what to do. It's been so long since we saw a truly massive positive omen, a hint that this thing is going to turn around. A sign that required no careful argument to believe in, no caveats. This one was simple: "Yeah, this is the way. Things are gonna be alright."
LHinks and Island Reactions Galore
- Snow says Blustery Blowhard Burke just ain't his style [Newsday]
- Tavares = Lighthouse [Newsday / Herrmann]
- Official's Outlook went all out in celebration. ("They brought their toys.")
- More Snow quotes from Islesblogger and from Botta
Islanders Outsider live blogged that conference call; 7th Woman also recapped
- Puck Daddy with the live chat, too
Barry Melrose Rocks makes like an NFLer and thanks Jesus.
- Pre-lottery Tavares vs. Hedman through Isles players' eyes [Logan blog]
- Two different voices at IslandersIndependent say we're golden either way [update: and B.D. makes three, with a firm don't-dicker vote for T.]
- Once again, Botta really really wants to
sell ticketsdeclare Tavares now
- NYI Fan Central celebrates before he bows out
- Drive for Five too
- [update] Forever1940 projects the last days of Tavares' junior career.
... And many more links I missed, which -- as always -- you are encouraged to add or dicuss in comments.