We may have a grudge match on our hands on Saturday night.
It's a date that many fans in both Toronto, Ontario and in Long Island, New York have had circled on their calendar for quite some time, and for very good reason. On Saturday night the Toronto Maple Leafs will face off against the New York Islanders and although the two teams are rivals in the National Hockey League's Eastern Conference, the bad blood between these two teams has very little to do with anything that has happened out on the ice as of late.
No instead the New York Islanders and their fan base will be hoping to get some revenge on the Maple Leafs who effectively robbed the Islanders of their captain during the 2018 NHL free agency period. As we all know former New York Islanders captain John Tavares went through a lengthy process this past summer as an unrestricted free agent, a process that had him meeting with a handful of teams around the NHL as he determined his long term future. Much to the dismay of the Islanders and their fans Tavares, then the organization's captain, opted not to re-sign with the Islanders in the end and instead took his talents to Toronto where he would sign a long term deal with the Leafs.
Now even under the best of circumstances that could cause some bad blood to fester between the two teams, and this was anything other than the best of circumstances. The Islanders need all the help they can get in their current situation and the departure of Tavares did anything but help, and that is something that Islanders head coach Barry Trotz wants his players to remember this evening.
"I think that the whole decision in the summer, that's a personal decision between John and his family and what have you. I know he's got a lot of good friends in our room, but I think at the same time they have to have a little Hurt of hurt that he decided to leave. They understand it, but they would like to have him as a teammate and he decided that he didn't need them as teammates anymore."
It sounds like Tavares may be a marked man this evening.