The New York Islanders may be in last place in the Metropolitan Division, but they need to make a final push to save their season, and perhaps their future.
It might seem absolutely crazy to say in January that the next three months will be one of the most important periods of time in the history of the New York Islanders. But when you really think about it, making the Playoffs this season is more important than it has ever been.
The cloud that has loomed over the heads of the New York Islanders the past year has been the contract situation of John Tavares, and to put it quite frankly, absolutely zero progress has been made on that front.
First, the deal was supposed to get done during last offseason. Then, it was said that John Tavares would put his pen to the paper midseason. Now, the future of John Tavares is in danger, and this is a scary thought.
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It is up to Garth Snow and the Islanders to prove to their Captain that he can commit the rest of his prime to the New York Islanders. There must be trades, difficult decisions made, and most importantly, the current players on the roster need to play their hearts off and get into the Playoffs.
Making the Playoffs Is a Must
If you were John Tavares, would you want to commit to a team coming off two terrible seasons with no signs of improvement? The answer is no, and that is why it is imperative that the Islanders make the Playoffs this season.
Picture it: Let’s say the Islanders solve their problems and sneak into the Playoffs in a difficult Metropolitan Division. Along the way, trades were made to address some of the team’s problems, like the defense, and those players came in and made an impact.
Some questionable decisions in the past would be justified, and Tavares can look towards the play of young forwards like Mat Barzal, and on one of the top lines in the NHL with Anders Lee and Josh Bailey. Tavares would be genuinely excited about his future in New York.
Who knows? Maybe the Islanders may even win a round or two in the playoffs, which would be the icing on the cake in Tavares’ decision. The Islanders let Tavares choose the value of his next contract this offseason, and Tavares agrees to remain an Islander for the rest of his career.
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Now think of the other side of the coin: The Islanders do not solve their defensive and goaltending issues and continue to give up an average of 3.65 goals a game to lead the NHL in that category. The depth issues are not resolved, and even though Tavares is doing everything he can to lead the blue and orange to the Promise Land, those around him let him down.
Garth Snow’s questionable contracts and free agent decisions would be put in the spotlight, and after over eleven years as GM with only one Playoff series win to show for it (a series that John Tavares stole for the Islanders), Tavares would start to question the man leading the Islanders.
Tavares would look around at teams like the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and Toronto Maple Leafs showing they are not just elite teams now, but teams that are set for the future, and he jumps ship to a team with a better chance of winning.
One of these scenarios is clearly better than the other, and if the Islanders want Tavares to be on the team past this season, it is crucial that they make a push towards the Playoffs in the next three months.
Reward the Man Who Has Given Us So Much
The rest of the season could be the catalyst that creates a disaster that will be felt for decades. If the Islanders miss the playoffs for a sixth time since Tavares has been in the NHL, it is hard to believe our Captain decides to commit long-term to the Islanders.
Making the Playoffs is not just important for the immediate success of the Islanders. Playing late into April (and hopefully longer) is something that must happen if the New York Islanders want a chance at re-signing one of the greatest players who has ever put on the blue and orange sweater.
We do not want to witness the day where Andrew Ladd or Cal Clutterbuck is the Captain of the New York Islanders. John Tavares wants to stay, but over the next three months, Garth Snow and Tavares’ teammates must give him a reason to sign his name on the dotted line.