There Is Hope for the Islanders After Tavares’ Departure
The New York Islanders may have lost their franchise player last week, but in the process they may have gained an identity they haven’t had for decades. It may sound crazy, but losing John Tavares may have been the best thing in the long run for the Islanders.
I’m going to break down why in just a minute, but please know that I’m not necessarily saying the Islanders are more skilled without John Tavares. What I’m saying is him leaving opens the door for a new regime and a fresh start this franchise has been looking for for a very long time.
Accountability is real
The accountability on Long Island is at its peak with Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz at the helm, with or without John Tavares. However, now that he’s gone and there’s a huge leadership void, it makes other players step up in roles that they normally wouldn’t.
Tavares was a good captain and led by example, but you could tell when the wheels started to fall off last season that there was no accountability for actions from the very top on down. The Islanders would have listless periods, stretches of completely undisciplined and honestly embarrassing play, and zero heart.
Having no captain (at least now having a different one) and new leadership is a breath of fresh air that the Islanders needed to get out of their rut. If Tavares had stayed on, there would be more accountability, but this situation forces guys like Anders Lee, Johnny Boychuk, and Josh Bailey to be more vocal. It could lend itself to be a good thing having some new voices speak up.
No more excuses
The Garth Snow/Charles Wang/John Tavares era is now over, so there’s no more pity party or trading third round draft picks for meaningless players to plug holes. As Lamoriello and Trotz both stated in recent interviews, they’re trying to build something special here through the draft, acquisitions and trades.
The Islander team you see now will not be the team you’ll see on Opening Night. Lou literally said himself they’ll be acquiring other players, so please be patient. Picking up guys like Valteri Filppula and Leo Komarov seem like backwards moves with advanced statistics, but they’re big locker room guys and will help bring a toughness the Isles have lacked.
The biggest part of this no excuses mantra is the fact that the Islanders can no longer rely on Tavares to get them out of a bind. Too many times you saw Snow acquire a mediocre player (Brad Boyes, PM Bouchard, Cory Conacher), throw them on the top line and hope Tavares just made them a better player. The team no longer revolves around him and the Isles will all be forced to step up their play if they’re going to be competitve.
A chip on the shoulder
Piggybacking on the new acquisitions, the Isles are looking for guys who bring a bit of an edge to their play. Trotz and Lamoriello love defense, and there will be a commitment to that first and foremost.
Too many times over the past few years I saw Jaro Halak get iced in the crease and not have his teammates come to his defense. The Islanders were pushovers in that department, and now that they have a massive chip on their shoulder after their captain spurned them, they will surely be a tougher team to play against.
No player will say it, but there was most certainly a Tavares contract hangover the second half of the season last year. It was on everyone’s minds and it was a huge distraction.
“We’re not worried about him anymore,” as Andrew Ladd eloquently put it,
This situation will light a fire under this young team’s ass and give them an edge they haven’t had since Matt Martin left.
At the end of the day, the Islanders are most certainly a more talented team with John Tavares as their captain. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a better TEAM. The team is stacked with young guys trying to prove other teams wrong, starting with two of their draft picks this year, Oliver Wahlstrom and Bode Wilde.
It’ll be interesting to see where the Islanders go from here, but it’s a new day in Islander country and at the end of the day, the team is in good hands. Without John Tavares, they have a different identity, and that identity may lead them to bigger and better things. It can only get worse before it gets better, but good things are coming for this young Islanders core.