John Tavares grew accustomed to the sounds of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” echoing around the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the tail end of the shortened 2012-13 season, as he lead the New York Islanders to their first playoff berth since 2008. Tavares earned his first nomination for the Hart Trophy following that season. The fans were not prophetic that year, however, as Tavares was not selected for the most prestigious individual award the NHL has to offer.
Tavares did nothing to make the Isles faithful believe he would not be in contention for the Hart Trophy again the following season, as he was on pace to shatter his personal best in points, averaging well over a point per game, but then an injury representing Canada at the Sochi Olympics ended Tavares’ season. At the time of his injury Tavares was second to Sidney Crosby, the eventual Hart winner, in points in the NHL.
18 games into the 2014-15 season and the Islander Captain is enjoying another terrific season, but there’s something different this time. The team is playing far better than any other team he has been on has ever played. The Isles sit relatively comfortably in second place in the Metropolitan Division, and fourth overall in the Eastern Conference. In recent years if the Islanders were in that good of a position at this point in the season you would expect that John Tavares was the hands down favorite to take home the Hart.
However, JT has yet to be serenaded with MVP chants from the Orange and Blue faithful and, frankly, he hasn’t earned them. This is a very good thing Islanders fans. Tavares’ team is giving their superstar more support than he has ever received, and as a result, the team is flourishing.
His supporting cast is doing such a good job that the case can be made that Tavares is not even the MVP of the Islanders to this point. He is tied for the team lead in points with Brock Nelson and Kyle Okposo, with Nelson leading the team in goals. A case could be made for both Nelson, the Isles breakout winger, and Okposo, Tavares’ deputy, as the MVP thus far. A stronger case can be made for the team’s biggest, and most improbable, offseason import, defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk has almost single handedly transformed the perception of the Islanders D corps and has provided fantastic play in all three phases of the game.
The case can be made for these men, if the votes were tallied, Tavares would still be the team MVP. He’d certainly get my vote.
Tavares does not rank within the top ten in the NHL in goals, assists or points this year, but I am confident that the 24 year old star will break into the league leaders before the season is over. When Tavares’ ascent begins, this Islander team will get very, very dangerous. When he gets hot, the Isles deep supporting cast will still be there, too, providing supplemental scoring. The Isles are where they are right now because of their supporting cast, not their leading man. That will not be the case all season long.
He may not be at his very best just yet, but he hasn’t needed to be. This is excellent news for the New York Islanders.