With the New York Islanders playoffs hopes resting on the shoulders of John Tavares, it’s become more evident that management hasn’t given him a fair shot at success.
For years, the notion of ‘as John Tavares goes, so do the New York Islanders’ has been nothing out of the ordinary. It’s been a reality for the team, and the expectation that he’d save the organization from the travesty it had become was laid upon his shoulders the moment he was drafted. The grace, pride, and outright dogged determination with which Tavares has shouldered that expectation (and burden) is a testament to his character.
For whatever reason, it’s always been understood, and in many ways acceptable, that this is Tavares’s lot in the NHL. John Tavares is a superstar and he should be able to carry his team and make others better. In fact, he has a pretty top notch history of making guys look so good they get pretty hefty contracts elsewhere. Matt Moulson, while still a sentimental favorite, gets to thank Tavares every day for a multi-million dollar contract that’s basically seen him reduced to an overpriced babysitter for Jack Eichel.
This season has been a revolving door of wingers Tavares is supposed to elevate. There’s Kyle Okposo getting the call for a good portion of the season, and he’s nothing if not steady on the right side. No one else has really answered the call or maybe, more to the point, has the actual physical ability and talent to truly keep up with Tavares.
There were flashes of cohesion and success last season with Ryan Strome and Anders Lee taking turns on the top line, but neither were able to produce with much consistency this season. This begs to question why. Was their numbers a product of Tavares’s less than stellar (by his standards) year? Or was his production a product of theirs. Tavares has shown what he can do with a talent remotely close to his stratosphere, so the latter seems a pretty safe bet.
Tavares’s star rises and falls with the Islanders successes. Right now, he’s the “King of New York,” but the narrative is the same. As John Tavares goes, so do the New York Islanders. With Thomas Greiss giving the Islanders some stellar goaltending, Tavares carried the team on his back to a first round series win. He’s been held pointless in two of three against the Lightning and the Islanders have lost both of those games.
It’s not hard to see where this narrative is going. Social media has been abuzz with how completely unfair it is for Tavares to have to shoulder this alone. There also has to be some inklings of concern for just how long Tavares can be gracious and loyal and determined to bring further success to a fanbase that loves him beyond reason, but management that refuses to provide him with support.
How long will he buy into Snow’s vision and inability to finally give him what he needs to succeed fully in the NHL. The idea that his talent is being wasted has to become part of his narrative now.
It has to become part of the question as Tavares’s impending UFA status approaches far too quickly. To paraphrase Jeff Capellini, WFAN/CBS New York columnist/editor, who has probably said it best, the position in which Tavares has been placed may be unfair, but it’s what he’ll be judged by.
And that should no longer be acceptable. Not to the New York Islanders, its fanbase, but mostly to John Tavares.