Sitting dead last in the soaring Metropolitan division, with a record of 11-14-6, the Isles have seen a significant drop from their 100 point season a year ago. While the season is not over, with the way the metropolitan division has been playing, the odds of the Isles climbing back up into a playoff position are extremely minimal. A handful of reasons could be used to explain their downfall, the most obvious one is management.
As we all know, the Isles neglected to re-sign long time Isles Matt Martin, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo last season, however most of the team remains with the organization. In fact, excluding the likes of Marek Zidlicky and Brian Strait, the rest of the daily lineup from 2015-16 has remained with them. In the offseason they even made moves to add LW’s Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera to help bridge the gabs left after the departure of Nielsen and Okposo.
One move I have yet been able to get my head around was the decision to sign winger Andrew Ladd to a deal worth 5.5million over 7 years when just a few hours later Okposo signed with the Sabres for 6million over 7 years. Was that extra .5million really worth that much to them? Though we can’t completely attribute Okposo’s decision to leave on the money, as there’s a lot of problems in Brooklyn that need fixing, I would have paid more to make him forget about those problems. His un-canny chemistry with the highlight of this article, John Tavares, was (to me at least) worth 6.5million over 7 years, rather than the 1 million they save with Ladd.
Another HUGE loss was Frans Nielsen. He played a major role on the specialty teams unit as one of the best penalty killers in the league, and even being able to help work the right-hand wall with Johnny T on the powerplay. Unlike Okposo, his departure can be associated with money (seeing as he’s being paid 5.25mil/5 years) although it could also be that the Isles felt Barzal would be ready to be able to crack the lineup.
With the current cap situation in New York, I could understand the need to have to let one of these guys go, but both? That’s beyond me.
If I was in Johnny T’s shoes right now, I would be looking at this; with Okposo leaving, this marks the 4th winger that had good chemistry with Tavares, leaving the Isle. That list includes: Okposo, Moulson, Vanek and Parenteau. Event thought the Vanek experiment only lasted a short while, it is important to mention that he did score 44 points in only 47 games while Tavares was healthy.
Tavares’ highest point scoring season was in 2014-15 when he put up a solid 86points. His highest assist season however, was in 2011-12, when he racked up a solid 50 apples with Matt Moulson riding shotgun to his left, scoring his career high 36 goals.
While there is no apparent explanation as to why Moulson left, all Isles fans can do now is dream about how the team could be if they had kept both Moulson and Okposo who have played best with Tavares so far. (Oh, hey sabres fans, if Johnny goes to FA maybe he’ll come your way to unite with his two buddies again ;)).
Prospect development is another thing that has hindered Johnny and his Isles over the years. Since Tavares was drafted in 2009, only 2 draft picks have managed to crack the lineup and remain in New York. Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome. Although the fountain of youth does look promising in New York, featuring the likes of Matt Barzal, Michael Dal Colle, Joshua Ho Sang and Kieffer bellows as future promising scorers, the team must make sure they don’t mess up their development.
Another essential move the team must make to try and convince him to stay is to draft and or acquire a number one goalie, who will take the reign in net. This season the Isles have been rolling with 3 netminders. Not a recipe for success. Not to mention that throughout the years that Johnny has been with the organization the team has seen 15 different goalies take the crease, in which none of them played more than 60 games in one season. The closest was Jaroslav Halak in 2014-15 when he started 59 games.
On the defensive end, the Islanders look great. With Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy both locked up long term, and Travis Hamonic signed for the next few seasons, the Isles should be poised to bounce back after this nightmare of a season. (No shortage of future blue line talent either by the way. With the likes of David Quenville, Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech, the isles should be set for the next little while.)
If I was working in an Islanders management position, I would be working on a plan to present to John Tavares as to how you are going to: 1. Acquire a number one goalie for the long term 2. Develop your prospects 3. What the plan is in terms of where the team is going to play 4. Present a significant pay raise of around 3-4 million giving him a cap hit of 8-9million dollars a year. Not to say that he is not a 10million dollar player, I do believe he is, but if he is going to stay in New York (based on the plan mentioned above) he will have to take a little bit of a paycheck cut so that management can make those things happen.
To finalize, should John Tavares leave Long Island? Well, to me, as long as the key components mentioned in the plan above start to be applied, and the team has a bounce back year next season, I stay in New York. As the face of the franchise.