There have many heroes during the 2014-15 season for the New York Islanders. Who is the team MVP when John Tavares is taken out of the equation?
Out of the dark doldrums that was the 2013-14 season come New York Islanders fans.
Like a freight-train it hit us.
While the 2014-15 Islanders season has yet to showcase the final story, what we’ve witnessed thus far has canceled much of last season – a season that saw so much value lost thanks to Thomas Vanek. A season filled with such promise after a playoff appearance in 2012-13, giving the Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins everything they can handle.
This season has been a freight-train of success filled with so many pleasant surprises and heroes. How could it not be realizing they’ve already won 44-games, the most in franchise history since 1984?
Of course John Tavares is the guy. His 34 goals and 40 assists amassing 74 points leads the NHL.
He’s the captain of the team, the possible MVP of the entire league, and at still at only a ridiculous 24-years of age, has such an incredibly bright future.
The exciting question looms beyond Tavares.
Who is the Islanders 2014-15 regular season MVP not named John Tavares?
There are a few candidates.
The prime suspect is a guy who made his first All-Star team this season and has finally found a home. With a record of 35-15, a 2.38 goals against average and 9.14 save percentage, Jaroslav Halak has been everything Garth Snow could have hoped for once acquired last spring.
He’s been the backbone of a defensive unit that rough, tough and in your face.
Feb 10, 2015; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy (2) controls the puck against Edmonton Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov (10) during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The one thing that bothers the New York Rangers is the ferocity and physical presence that the Isles come at them with early in games. We’ve witnessed it in all five-games this season.
Two candidates are all of a sudden insanely rich.
Defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy also fall into that “money acquisition” category. Both having been acquired via trade prior to the season, Snow has shoved all his chips into the middle of the table on this team.
Nobody can get on Snow for the lack of upcoming draft picks now – for Boychuk and Leddy make up such a critical part of a championship team’s success.
Boychuk has tallied seven goals and 25 assists with a +11 to go along with one of the top weapons on the power play. Leddy is coming in with 10 goals and 19 assists with a +18.
On defense there is no argument against these two. They are the newest addition to the club of “shutdown pairings” in the league. Both can play physical, nasty, and with a skilled flare some offensive guys simply cannot handle.
The last MVP candidate is Kyle Okposo.
When Okposo went down with that scary detached retina, the Isles lost something big. For how skilled the team is both ways, their attitude and work ethic is truly their heart.
Okposo symbolizes the identity of this squad.
Playing only 53 games Okposo has netted 15 goals and 31 assists.
What is the answer to our very non-important question? Well, it hit us recently as Leddy was sidelined.
There’s no question Halak means a world to this group. The fact that he doesn’t rank in the top 10 in either GAA or SV% has to hurt his resume. Also, with the Isles ranking a lowly 20th in goals against with 2.72 per game, the team hasn’t been winning on defense.
"However, if you take out Leddy from that defensive equation, the Isles possibly become an above average team."
This guy is so good, and at only 24-years old and already winning a Stanley Cup in Chicago, he is the second best player on the team and has proved it this season.
The Islanders struggled mightily without him in the lineup, and hope to never have to face that situation again.