What if the Islanders were able to re-sign John Tavares? Let’s analyze three dates and rewrite history!
The Islanders re-sign captain John Tavares to an eight-year, $96 million contract. The Long Island faithful finally can breathe, as their longtime franchise player officially bought into what the new regime of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz has been advertising to the star since their arrival. Tavares states his excitement in re-joining the team he was drafted first overall by in 2009 with a short answer along the lines of “Long Island is home.” Tavares also emphasis his enjoyment of playing alongside Mathew Barzal, who just came off winning the Calder trophy.
With Tavares re-signing the Islanders do not go out and sign free agents Leo Komarov and Valterri Filppula, as the Islanders third line center role would be taken up by Brock Nelson. The Islanders still would acquire Matt Martin, as they would reunite the best fourth line in hockey once again. No other crazy free agents would be signed by the Islanders, but they do still bring in Tom Kuhnhackl and Robin Lehner due to their team-friendly contracts.
Here are what the lines would be shaking up to be:
32 14 21
The Islanders re-signing John Tavares was quite the miracle, but if this year’s team doesn’t succeed the Islanders won’t be afraid to blow things up. The Islanders have Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee as huge unrestricted free agents after this season. Also newcomer Devon Toews had a spectacular camp, but the Islanders won’t look to rush him into the NHL as he still was coming off a serious shoulder injury.
The team still rallies around Robin Lehner opening up to everyone about his past, but it may not play as major of role for this team particularly, as the Islanders have high expectations and pressure to win now that Tavares was locked in.
Not too much changes with the addition of John Tavares to the 2018-19 Islanders, realistically there are two games Tavares directly impacts. He leads the team past the Florida Panthers in Brooklyn, but has an off night in Raleigh which turns the 3-2 win against the Hurricanes to a 2-1 loss. The Islanders would end the month tied for the lead of the Metropolitan division with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In November only a handful of games change, the Islanders still drop both games in Florida, but Tavares puts the team on his back against the Montreal Canadiens turning the shootout loss (which we led 3-0) to a 5-2 victory. He also doesn’t allow the meltdown against the Dallas Stars to happen as well, turning the 5-2 loss into a nice and simple 4-1 victory in Brooklyn. The Islanders still are getting used to Trotz’s defense first scheme, but the team manages to overcome the learning curves and have dominated the first two months of the season. The Islanders drop third in the division, as the three points propel them past the New York Rangers, but not past the Washington Capitals or Columbus Blue Jackets.
The statistics due change quite a bit when adding Tavares back into the picture, players such as Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Josh Bailey all accumulate more points, but Brock Nelson’s offensive play starts to decline after “Brocktober” ends. Nelson doesn’t thrive as much as he did while being the second center, but his two way game has major improvements as he continues to fly under the radar. Not much changes for Anthony Beauvillier, he potentially loses his hat-trick against the Rangers but is given a handful of points playing with Barzal against weaker defense pairings, but rumors begin to swirl that he could be dealt for the right piece.
The month of December has the most changes so far, the Islanders absolutely tear up the NHL with this new wave of energy given by the reemergence of good ol’ Nassau Coliseum. Despite the Islanders playing with more swagger only four games truly change as the Islanders had a really solid month without Tavares, the team ends up beating the Winnipeg Jets, as the Islanders dominated them most of the game but couldn’t finish, so with the addition of Tavares the Islanders win 4-3. The Islanders also beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second game at Nassau Coliseum, as Tavares scores an OT winner during the Islanders 4 on 3 power play. The other two changes would be losses, as the Islanders would end up losing to the Dallas Stars, as the “puckluck” they had that night just isn’t there and fall 4-3. The other loss comes from the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Islanders get humbled by the Tavares-less Leafs by a total of 5-4 in overtime, turning the night from a Mathew Barzal hat-trick to an Auston Matthews four goal game. Ironically enough Matthews blows by the winded Tavares to end the game in overtime.
Thomas Hickey still gets injured, as Devon Toews comes up and still plays as well as he did last season. The Islanders remain third in the division but the gap between them and the Washington Capitals is only three points with lots of hockey to play.
The Islanders January turns out to be even better with Tavares leading the helm, the Islanders would only lose two games the entire month. The dreadful collapse against the Carolina Hurricanes doesn’t happen, as the Islanders instead continue to dominate and blow them out 5-1. The Islanders also don’t lose to the Chicago Blackhawks, as Tavares scores two goals and doesn’t allow Chicago to get close to coming back into the game. They still wind up losing to the Rangers and the Lightning at home, but the month is extremely successful as the Islanders seem to be a real powerhouse in the league. Mathew Barzal and John Tavares both get named to the all-star game in San Jose, but Barry Trotz will also be joining the two players, as the Islanders grabbed first place in the Metro. The Islanders now had a six point lead and a game in hand over the Washington Capitals, the tides have finally turned, the New York Islanders were finally one of the most respected teams in the league.
The Islanders have been an absolute powerhouse this season, but rumors are spreading that the Islanders are looking to pick up one more major piece at the trade deadline, names like Mark Stone and Matt Duchene are suggested by reporters, but for now its just speculation.
The Islanders pre-deadline looked good, but the loss to the Calgary Flames stung more than usual. The Islanders were sloppy and outplayed by the team ranking second throughout the entire league, losing 5-1. The only change up to now would be winning against the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton, rather than McDavid elbowing Leddy to the face and then scoring the overtime winning goal.
The recent losses to Calgary and Boston have really stuck out to Lou Lamirello, who truly believes the New York Islanders are one piece from winning the cup. During the final hour before the deadline is over Lamirello finally strikes, landing star Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators for a first round pick, Anthony Beauvillier, and Noah Dobson. This trade is an absolute shock to everyone, but showed the true colors of the Islanders, who now look like an honest cup contender.
The lines now look like
12-91-61 (Stone) 3-6 40-1