So much changes in such little time. At the end of the season, the New York Islanders were in the least enviable position as they sat at the bottom of the NHL rankings. Their owner Charles Wang even admitted that he regretted ever buying the club.
This weekend, they will be in the most desired position of any team as they step to the podium to make the 1st overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
The Islanders have a tough decision ahead of them, but it's kind of like choosing between steak and lobster. They have two excellent prospects to pick from and there are great reasons to select either of them. So let's cut to the chase!
Why the Islanders should choose Victor Hedman:
Hedman is big, strong, and talented. It's tough to find guys who fill all of those categories. You've got guys like Mike Green who can pot 30 goals, but may leave something to be desired in defensive aspects of the game. Then you've got your Hal Gill-types who tower over forwards and plug them against the boards, yet he is lucky to score more than a goal a season. Then you've got Zdeno Chara. He is huge, shuts down the opposing forwards, and can score as well.
Zdeno Chara doesn't fall off trees. I'm not saying Hedman is or will be Chara, but his potential to be a big, strong, and offensively potent defender is there and then some. Teams build around defense and Hedman would definitely go a long, long way in helping the Isles rebuild their defense. Not to mention Hedman could help as soon as next season, a rarity for defenseman.
Why the Islanders should choose John Tavares:
How many players were scoring a goal per game in juniors? John Tavares was. How many players can boast breaking records set by Wayne Gretzky? John Tavares can. This is a player with unreal goal scoring potential. He has a nose for the net and the hands of a concert pianist. Tavares would provide an instant injection of offense to a team that desperately needs it.
Tavares is not a player that lacks motivation either. He was so anxious to play in the NHL he tried to get the league to bend their rules in order to enter the draft early. That is the type of hunger teams love to see in a player. Tavares has a desire to play and a desire to win.
Why the Islanders WILL choose John Tavares:
I would go into work two, maybe three times a week last season and say something to my buddy Joe, an Isles fan, about how his team was mercilessly thrashed the night before (On one occasion by a score of 9 to 0 by the Hurricanes!). Joe would shake his head, adorned with a blue and orange Islanders cap, and he would say "one step closer to Tavares."
Tavares has put so much excitement into this fan base that people who have never seen the kid's face are pumped. Tavares will sell tickets, Tavares will sell jerseys, but more than anything Tavares will sell hope. Islanders fans are in desperate need of feeling like their team is on the way up and not on the way out. Sure, Tavares isn't going to walk on water (the un-frozen variety) and claim the cup next season, but he'll go a long way in making a team and their fans feel like that is a possibility.
Who knows, maybe this time the Islanders will have a 1st Overall Pick that can stay healthy.