The last thing Islanders fans want to hear right now – after watching their team stumble through another season, after watching Thomas Vanek flee for greener pastures, after watching John Tavares crumble to the ice in another team’s jersey – is “look at the bright side.”
But what other choice do they have?
After suffering what looked to be a debilitating knee injury in Sochi, Tavares got word Monday that his partially torn MCL will not require surgery. Instead, he will undergo 8-12 weeks of rehab and come back, ideally, stronger than ever. It was a small victory in a season of disappointments.
At the very least, it was a fee renegotiated, a payment lowered. For this looked a lot worse just five days ago. When Tavares lay crumpled in the corner at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, Islanders fans feared the worst. Torn ACL. Torn MLC. Torn LCL. The diehards probably assumed it was all three. They would know.
And so they were mad. And so they were crushed. And so they were pissed off at the Hockey Gods, wondering in resent, why us again? Like Milton from Office Space, they were resigned to the misfortune. They’d come to expect it.
So to get the news that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed? That Doomsday had been averted? That’s money back for the Islanders, a settlement they never saw coming. With this kind of luck, Vanek might sign tomorrow…for a hometown discount.
That’s what the bright side means to Islanders fans. A small break – even inside a crippling blow – is cause for optimism. Maybe the Gods are just, after all. (Or maybe, all along, the Islanders have simply been paying for those four consecutive Cups they won in the early 80’s.)
And if they must pay through sacrifice, then what better time than now? The Islanders are twelve points out of the playoffs and slipping. They are soon to lose their second-best player in Vanek, and probably their second-best defenseman, too, in Andrew MacDonald. Even with a healthy Tavares, this team was destined for the golf course in early April.
So there’s no opportunity lost here – only a very good player, and only for a short period of time. He’s done for the year, yes, but so was this team. As the Islanders come under the knife in the coming week, Tavares, fortunately, will not.
When he returns next season, the Isles figure to be a more well-rounded bunch. The assets they have right now will be used to obtain the pieces they’re missing. Meanwhile, their best player can rest over the next month and a half and prepare for rehab this summer.
The Islanders, and their fans, might be mad at the circumstances. But they’re hardened enough to know how much worse things could be.