Islanders Summer Report Card: John Tavares
By Michael Willhoft
April 23, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) looks on from the bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC center. The Hurricanes defeated the Islanders 4-3 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
NASSAU VETERANS MEMORIAL COLISEUM OF LEARNING
- Name: John Tavares
- Enrolled: 2012-13
- Age: 22
- Undergraduate: 2009
- Days Absent: 0
- Scholarship: 6 years / $33 million (expires after 2017-18 season)
- Achievements: 48 GP, 28 G, 19 A, 47 PTS, -2 +/-, 162 SOG, 17.3 SPCT, 5 GWG
Class List and Grade History
- Skating: A
- Shooting: A+
- Passing: A
- Defense: B+
- Leadership: A+
Professor’s Comments: This season, John Tavares averaged slightly less than one point-per-game in the world’s premier professional hockey league, carried a middling New York Islanders team to its first playoff berth since 2007, and was named as a finalist for the NHL’s Hart Trophy.
In related news, I only snoozed my alarm twice this morning, instead of my normal three times.
There’s not much to be said about Tavares, the likely future captain of the Islanders, that hasn’t been said by scouts, coaches, general managers, beat writers and the hockey-watching public over the past four years.
Still only 22 years old and under contract with the organization through the 2017-18 NHL season, Tavares is the face of the Isles franchise in exactly the way GM Garth Snow had hoped he would be; the front office and the fans on Long Island couldn’t have asked for a better player around which to build a perennial Stanley Cup-contending team.
After being taken at No. 1 overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Tavares spoke the magic words to the Uniondale crowd, solidifying his place in fans’ hearts before scoring a single goal in an Isles jersey:
"I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the New York Islanders. It’s a dream come true. I want to thank all the fans here and at home for supporting me and welcoming me to Long Island."
Tavares has certainly made good on his promise to restore the team to greatness, as evidenced by his development since he started his Isles career. Of note are his numbers during this past lockout-shortened season, all the more impressive when you consider the amount of pressure he puts on himself to carry the team night-in and night-out.
His 17.3% shooting percentage is by far the highest on the Isles of any player with 50-or-more shots on goal. His 28 goals were a team high, and it’s not even close. Oh, and he registered the most shots on goal of any Islanders player in both the regular season (162) and in the playoffs (21).
Short story long, Tavares is getting his shot from almost anywhere on the ice. After spending much of his first three NHL seasons with opposing defenders blanketing him and making his life miserable, Tavares is now displaying the stickhandling skills characteristic of a top NHL forward, making him a nightmare for blueliners around the league.
This season, Tavares clearly transitioned from a “primarily involving his teammates” game to a “shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later” style of play. His season-by-season assists-per-game numbers—0.37, 0.48, 0.61 and 0.41—in comparison to his goals-per-game numbers—0.29, 0.37, 0.38 and 0.58—reflect a direct correlation to his newfound insistence on dominating the score sheet since the season he first joined the NHL.
His skating and passing are still top-notch, which is a testament to his overall ability in that opponents specifically game plan to shut him down. Often times, despite the best efforts of the players on the other side of the puck, or the defensive schemes drawn up to contain him, Tavares finds a way to shine.
Professor’s Recommendation: A general rule of thumb when assessing an individual player’s performance over the course of a season: an MVP nomination often precludes a negative assessment of any part of said player’s game.
Who am I to argue?
Despite what the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association may think, Tavares fulfilled the letter of the award and was deserving of the NHL’s Hart Trophy. He was the most valuable player to his team throughout the course of the season; without him on the ice, the Islanders wouldn’t have made the playoffs.
As Tavares goes, so do the Isles.
To go even further: without Tavares on the team over the past four years, the Islanders wouldn’t be enjoying their current resurgence and would likely still be suffering through the lean years witnessed at the beginning of Garth Snow’s rebuild.
To put Tavares’s contract into perspective: some comparable salary cap hits—approximately $5 million—for your viewing pleasure are Shawn Horcoff (EDM), Phil Kessel (TOR), Shane Doan (PHX), Brent Burns (SJS) and Mike Cammalleri (CGY).
Let those sink in for a second.
Snow knew what he was doing when he locked Tavares into his current six-year deal that ensures the Islanders will be selling lots of No. 91 jerseys long after the team relocates to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
With regards to constructive criticism of Tavares’s play this season, the only recommendation the faculty at N.V.M.C.L. can offer with regards to Tavares is that of the indirect variety. (Yes, Garth—we’re looking at you.)
If the Islanders front office can find a way to pull the trigger on a deal for a high-caliber forward to put on Tavares’s right wing, the faculty is guessing that would make the Isles’ star player very happy.
Granted, Tavares wouldn’t hold it against the team if they failed to secure an upgrade for Brad Boyes—after all, Tavares is Canadian so he technically doesn’t know what “resentment” feels like—but a stronger teammate on the top line would elevate Tavares’s daily quality to highlight-reel-worthy, at minimum.
And speaking of highlight-reel-worthy performances: going forward, if another season like his 2012-13 campaign doesn’t earn Tavares the first of many MVP awards in his career, I quit hockey.
And common sense.
Poll: agree or disagree with the faculty’s assessment of John’s performance this season. Was he deserving of the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player? Vote ‘Promote’ to agree, or ‘Expel’ to disagree.