Lou Lamoriello says that the New York Islanders aren’t better because John Tavares chose to leave for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s absolutely right.
The New York Islanders don’t need him. They certainly wouldn’t be worse off with him. And they’d probably be better with him. Him being Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares. The Islanders are still having a fantastic season without Tavares, but they could be even better with him.
Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello absolutely agrees. Speaking with ESPN Radio on Thursday, the Hall of Fame builder indicated that there’s no question the Islanders aren’t better off without John Tavares in the roster.
There shouldn’t be a disagreement with Lou on this. We might not like to admit it, but Tavares is one heck of a player and one that fits the Islanders “needs” list this offseason.
We’re Perfectly Fine Without Him Though
Here’s what Lou said on the whole Tavares issue this Thursday:
"Any notion that the Islanders are better off because John Tavares chose to sign with his hometown Maple Leafs instead of re-upping with the Isles last summer is mistaken, he said.“Absolutely not,’’ Lamoriello said when Kay asked him if there was any truth to speculation that he preferred to let Tavares go, rather than pay him what it would have taken to re-sign him. Tavares signed with Toronto for seven years and $77 million.“He would have been an asset to this team, there’s no question,’’ Lamoriello said, adding that the Islanders would not have tried to sign Tavares if they didn’t want him."
Would the Islanders be worse with Tavares? No.
If there’s one thing the New York Islanders needed help with this season it’s scoring. The Islanders finished 22nd in the league for total goals scored with 223. They could have used help putting the puck in the net. And with 621 points in 669 career games with the Islanders, Tavares could have helped.
Previously On The Fence
On Wednesday night I was asked the same question via our Patreon mailbag podcast. Would Tavares have made this team better or worse? And I was admittedly on the fence with a 51 percent for better and 49 percent for worse.
The argument that Tavares would have derailed the team first approach that brought the Islanders so much success made sense to me at that immediate moment in time. But the more I thought about it the less I believe it.
The selling point from Lou and Barry to Tavares last summer would have had to have been that the Islanders can achieve great things if they work as a cohesive unit. It had to have been. It was the first thing that Lou said to the media following the Tavares decision.
"Teams win, not players. Individual players win some games, but teams win championships. And that’s what we have to create."
So, in this hypothetical world where John Tavares actually stays with the Islanders then he has to have signed off on the Lou-Trotz way of playing. If he does that then he’s all in, he “bought in”.
Now, a “bought in” John Tavares within the Islanders top six would be a great thing for the team. It might mean that they don’t sign Valtteri Filppula in free agency, but that’s OK. Brock Nelson would be the obvious 3C candidate. And with the year he’s having you’d expect him to equally great things from the 2C or the 3C spot.
Just think of the benefits Tavares would have on the power play alone. How many games would the Islanders have won if they’d buried one power play goal in games where the Islanders had at least five or more opportunities? I’d say least three other games. That’s six points or a total of 109 points in the standings. Winning the Metropolitan Division.
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This isn’t to romanticize about John Tavares and what he could have brought to the team if he were still here. And it’s not to say that the Islanders aren’t good without him. Last time I checked they’re doing just fine without him. But simply answering the question of “would the Isles be better with him?” Sure.
But you could ask me the same question but replace John Tavares’ name with Artemi Panarin, Claude Giroux, or Mikko Rantanen and I’d give you the same answer.