New York Islanders: An Open Letter to Fans Blaming John Tavares

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 27: John Tavares
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 27: John Tavares /

There is never a good time for a captain to struggle but for New York Islanders star, John Tavares, it seems like he has disappeared in the time his team needs him most. But can 91 truly be blamed for the group’s downfall?

It seems the every season, fans of the New York Islanders fans are forced to ask the same question: Where is John Tavares? While the team’s captain and superstar is who we rely on the most, we often see him entering extensive droughts. This always causes many fans, of the Islanders and league wide, to wonder if John Tavares is truly in the same class as many other NHL stars.

It is no secret that the Islanders have faced many issues since the beginning of 2018. Falling out of a playoff spot and earning the highest GAA in the league, the team was struggling to keep its head above water. However, the Islanders’ hopes seemed to evaporate completely following the disappearance of John Tavares.

Matching his career high in scoreless games at six in February, the captain looked to be facing his yearly dry spell. This occurrence is always pointed to in discussions about Tavares’ “elite” status. It’s often argued that he couldn’t possibly be on the same level as some of the other stars in the league if he goes through such noticeable slumps.

His disappearances also call into question his effectiveness on the New York Islanders. Some fans even go to the extreme of blaming their captain for the struggles they face as a group. After all, what captain can’t carry his team in times of distress?

These conversations always miss key elements of context. John Tavares is undoubtedly a member of the elite class of the NHL; he just doesn’t have the proper supporting cast.

In Elite Company

In his past 364 games, John Tavares has tallied 355 points. This puts him as the tenth overall scorer in the National Hockey League over the past five seasons. He is among the likes of Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.

As if tenth in scoring over five years isn’t impressive by itself, it becomes even more of a testament to Tavares’ skill when considering his competition. Those above him come from multiple Stanley Cup/President’s Trophy winning teams while the Islanders’ captain has only just found a winger he’s even compatible with.

Let’s hope Tavares isn’t reading this but the reality of the situation is that 91 could thrive on a team with more comparable talent. If he were surrounded by the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel like Sidney Crosby, his point production would be even higher than it is now.

Teammates like those also remove the pressure from Tavares to constantly perform. It’s unrealistic to think that any player can be at their best for every game of the season but because Tavares is the focal point of the Islanders offense, when he has a drought, it becomes glaringly obvious.

This makes it easier to pick out Tavares as a “slacking” star. Should Crosby have an off month, this slack is quite easily picked up by the rest of his team and fans are none the wiser. Because he alone carries the team, Tavares has an easy target on his back during his slumps.

The Jewel of the Islanders

While it seems ridiculous to question Tavares’ elite status, it is even more so to doubt his impact on the New York Islanders. Slumps aside, he is undoubtedly the best Islander of the modern age.

Since 2009, Tavares has breached many of the team’s top ten lists of all time, including most goals, assists and points overall. His name is listed among the team’s Hall of Famers and Stanley Cup winners.

This year specifically, Tavares makes up for over a quarter of all the points earned by the New York Islanders. Another player in the same group, with only .3% more impact than Tavares, is Nikita Kucherov, who is said to be leading the race for the Hart trophy.

Next: Ten Step Plan To Fix The Franchise

It’s hard to always see the impact of a player until they’re in a slump, especially when they lead a team that relies so heavily on them. While it’s never ideal for a captain to disappear in his team’s time of need, there it should go without saying that John Tavares is not to blame to the Islanders struggles. While some fans remain skeptical, here are the statistics to prove it.