Among those who felt John Tavares could have better handled his departure from the Islander last summer is franchise icon Clark Gillies.
The NHL Hall of Famer who won four consecutive championships with the Islanders during the 1980s ripped the former Isles captain Monday at a fan event hosted by Newsday.
When asked about Tavares not re-signing with the team and inking a seven-year, 77 million deal with the Maple Leafs, Gillies held little back:
"Forget what a great young man he is - and I think he is a great young man - I think he made a huge mistake and it cost this franchise," he said, according to Roger Rubin of Newsday. "It probably set us back a couple years."
Even with a hole left by Tavares, the Islanders exceeded expectations during the 2018-19 campaign, finishing second in the Metropolitan Division and making the playoffs for the first time following a two-season hiatus. Toronto finished three points behind the Islanders in the standings.
The Islanders begin their first-round matchup with the Penguins on Wednesday, while the Leafs take on the Bruins.
But that doesn't mean the Islanders couldn't have reaped the benefits of at least gaining something in return for Tavares last year.
"He screwed the team out of getting a first- or second-round draft pick at the trading deadline," Gillies said. "They could have traded him to a contender.
"The fact that he left [and] everybody said 'they are no good anymore' ... was a huge motivational factor for the guys that stayed behind."