Life Without Tavares

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Tavares not playing the rest of the season has been a good thing.

Tavares not playing the rest of the season has been a good thing.

Since the Olympics and the sight of the New York Islanders captain John Tavares going down with a season ending injury, everything looked very bleak in Islander country. Fans knew the playoffs were not happening, Andrew MacDonald was all but gone and the Thomas Vanek trade just was the last salt in the wound. Fans were expecting a lot of losses when players like Grabner, Okposo & Visnovsky have been sidelined with injuries and at least a top 3 pick in this years entry draft. Instead, Islanders fans have witnessed a winning record since the Olympics.

Yes you read that correct folks. In 15 games the Islanders are 8-5-2. Some fans will come out and say that these games are meaningless. I have to disagree. Unless you’re playing a team like the Oilers, Panthers (twice), Flames, & Sabres you’re in the playoff hunt. Out of those teams that leaves 10 games of meaningful hockey for somebody and the Islanders are playing the role of spoilers and for pride, that has some meaning. When the Islanders brought up the scoring unit of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, there’s some who have a lot to prove they belong or some of the Islanders needed to step up to keep their jobs next year, that has meaning.  I understand where the fans are coming from, but the real word to use is pressure. The Islanders have been under zero pressure since the Olympics and the trade deadline. So with less pressure and more observation of the progress of the youngsters, how have the Islanders been able to win?

The Sound Tigers Grew Up

If there is one player who has made a huge impact it’s Anders Lee. Lee has 11 points since being called up by the Islanders. Another player whom I’m not surprised by his growth the second time around is Ryan Strome who has 10 points. Defenseman Matt Donovan, who has been up and down the system all year has 5 points. These three players along with players like Halmo, Sundstrom & Persson, and future star Calvin de Haan do not look out of place and are contributing in some capacity in every game.

Size Really Does Matter

Anders Lee 6’2″ 225lbs

John Persson 6’2″ 209lbs

Johan Sundstrom 6’3″ 201lbs

Kevin Czuczman 6’3″ 204lbs

When you add three players who have good two-way games, including hits and a defenseman who just came out of college and doesn’t look out of place and has a mean streak, that really makes a difference. Something for Garth Snow to think about when building this team for next season.

Secondary Scoring 

Love him or hate him Josh Bailey has 10 points in the last 15 games. Clutterbuck has 7, Colin McDonald has 9 and Matt Martin has 6. Travis Hamonic has finally found the back of the net a few times and Thomas Hickey continues to have a solid first full year in the NHL. Truthfully though, where was this in the beginning of the season? Why did these guys have to wait for injuries and call ups to get their games going?

Kyle Okposo & The Injured

When Tavares went down, Kyle Okposo stepped up and emerged as a true star for the Islanders. Even by not playing the last couple of games, he has 10 points and showed the skills of taking over a game. Michael Grabner picked up right where he left off from the Olympics before going down with an injury. Even Visnovsky had 6 points before going out with concussion like symptoms.

Toronto Wants Tavares In The Worst Way

But they won’t get him. If Tavares is watching, he’s already seeing that some of the Islanders future is here and are ready. They don’t look out of place with the big club and are winning without him, which should be a slight comfort as I’m sure he’d rather be winning with them on the ice. In hindsight, Tavares going out early in a no pressure season for the Islanders may be a blessing in disguise. Fans are seeing that wining can happen without Tavares, and when the pressure comes back to win next season, the last at Nassau Coliseum, he and Okposo and Grabner will be able to handle the pressure to allow the younger players to get their games progressing. Tavares knows Garth owes him a better off-season than what happened last year and I think he’ll get it. If it happens, Tavares is never leaving and life gets better for everyone.

PK @Netminder39