The 2017/18 NHL season is finally here. But the questions hanging around the New York Islanders are not concerning possible lines or a potential breakthrough star, but rather where their star player and captain will be plying his trade next season.
John Tavares is by far and away the Islanders’ best player and is one of the premier centers in the NHL, but his contract expires at the end of this season. Given how disappointing last season was for the Islanders and the fact that ‘JT’ is now entering his prime at 27 years old, people wonder if he’ll want to stay with the Barclays Center residents.
So, here’s what the Islanders need to achieve this season to keep their talisman in the blue and orange of New York.
Make it to the playoffs
This is pretty much a given for any team hosting an elite player in the last year of their contract. John Tavares is good enough to demand a move to a club that will be at least have a good run at the Stanley Cup in the next few seasons. A head coach change to Doug Weight spurred the extremely lackluster Islanders to a run at a wild-card spot last season, but they came up short to the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs.
If they are to keep Tavares on the books, the Islanders will need to show him that there is at least enough talent in the current lines to make it to the playoffs; a base which can be built on in the near future to then seriously challenge in the post-season. Unfortunately, the NHL betting odds see the Islanders as +175 to make it to the playoffs this season – a sentiment felt around the league thanks to their very tough Metropolitan Division.
Potential and production
As their best player, the team needs to run through John Tavares whenever he’s on the ice. However, the rest of the team needs to step up to bolster the team’s scoring. The captain is good enough to hold down an even-strength line that doesn’t boast the team’s top two wingers. He could generate production with a veteran and a rookie either side of him, so that the lower lines could be more potent, thus creating a better overall team.
Tavares was noticeably disappointed by the club allowing Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo to leave the team last summer. Nielsen was the perfect complement to Tavares on the second line and the powerplay, and Okposo could float between the top two lines bringing goals wherever he started. While Brock Nelson stepped up at center, the likes of Anders Lee, Andrew Ladd, Josh Bailey, and the newly acquired Jordan Eberle need to provide that added pop when not alongside Tavares.
Anthony Beauvillier and Joshua Ho-Sang having big seasons are New York’s biggest chances of convincing Tavares of a great future at the club. Then there’s also the now gigantic Michael Dal Colle raring to get into the NHL from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. With the 2014 fifth overall pick now standing at 6’3’’, 198 lbs and producing well in the AHL, Dal Colle could have a similar impact on the Islanders as his draft-classmate Brendan Perlini did for the Arizona Coyotes part-way through last season.
The goaltending tandem of Thomas Greiss and Thomas Halak was volatile last season, especially when Halak was banished to the AHL for his agent’s comments about the team’s training techniques. But it doesn’t look to be much more assured this season, with both goalies seemingly having peaked already. To make matters worse, the Islanders traded their best defenseman, Travis Hamonic, away. While they did get some very nice picks in return, they lost the best part of their rather mediocre defense, which will hurt them this season.
With John Tavares on the team and some big performances from their budding stars, the New York Islanders can defy the odds to make it to the playoffs this season. Whether they’ll be able to show enough potential to keep Tavares is another matter, though.