Every team relies on more than just one player. In the case of the New York Islanders, John Tavares is the mainpiece that keeps the wheels spinning on Long Island, but one mustn’t lose sight of reality: the Islanders, like any other team, are deeper than just one player.
That’s right. While the Islanders would seem doomed without their superstar, it wouldn’t be fair to say Tavares is the only reason for the franchise’s turnaround. Other pieces, such as Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey, were arguably just as important (if not more so) to the team’s success down the stretch of the season.
Looking forward to the 2013-14 season, the Islanders are going to need more pieces than one to step up into bigger roles. If not, the dream of having the Stanley Cup returned to Long Island could be over before the end of April. For this edition of Isles X-Factor,” Eyes on Isles analyzes the importance of Pierre-Marc Bouchard to the Islanders, and how his success impacts the Islanders future success.
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The spot alongside John Tavares on the Islanders first-line has been a revolving door for right-wingers in recent years. From 2010-11 to 2011-12, it belonged to P.A. Parenteau, who earned his money on Long Island, and then chased it to Colorado. During the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Brad Boyes filled the position at ¼ the price Parenteau was asking for, and his production was up-to-par with his predecessor. However, by the summer of 2013, the Islanders were [once again] asking the question, “Who fills the void next to Tavares?”
In a perfect world, I think the Islanders would love to see Ryan Strome playing next to the Islanders superstar, but his time has, most likely, not arrived. A little bit of AHL seasoning will get him there, but, barring a fantastic training camp, the Isles top prospect is not ready for NHL-action. And that’s why the Islanders signed Pierre-Marc Bouchard to a one-year, $2M contract this summer.
Like the previous players to occupy that first-line right-wing slot, Bouchard comes to Long Island with an immense amount of offensive ability, and at a cheaper cost.
Bouchard is a former 60-point scorer, maxing out with 50 assists in 2007-08. Although he only achieved 20 goals in a single season once (2006-07), PMB could have the playmaking prowess necessary to push Tavares and Matt Moulson to new career goal-scoring totals.
Of course, there’s a catch.
He also comes to Long Island with questions about his health. The last time the diminutive winger completed a full season in the NHL was in his career-best year of 2007-08, playing in 81 of the scheduled 82 games. While Bouchard did manage to play in 71 games during the 2008-09 campaign, it was that season where he suffered his first major concussion, keeping him out for the remainder of that season, plus all but one game in 2009-10. The end result has led to consistent missed time ever since.
If the Islanders are depending on Bouchard to perform alongside Tavares, obviously they will need him to stay healthy. If he can, that obviously bodes well in the Islanders favor. If he cannot, then it could create unbalance in the Islanders equilibrium (if the Islanders do indeed plan on placing him on that first-line).
If the injury bug continues to plague him, the Isles will find themselves scrambling for a top-line winger. Does Cal Clutterbuck, a career third-line player, but JT’s former linemate in Oshawa, step up in his place? Do the Islanders consider breaking up the successful Josh Bailey-Frans Nielsen-Kyle Okposo line to give Okposo another shot at becoming the top-line power forward the Islanders hoped they had in him? Perhaps the Isles feel an extreme need for offense, and are forced to break their development plans with Strome by rushing him to the NHL.
While the 29-year-old Bouchard is most likely a stopgap in the long-term future of the New York Islanders, Long Island’s hockey team will need the shifty forward healthy for 2013-14 if they want to make a true run at lengthy playoff success.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard will be a true “x-factor” for the Islanders in 2013-14.