Burning jerseys and lost hope was the scene in New York when the news broke that John Tavares was officially not returning to Long Island. Following the signing of Tavares in Toronto by way of $77 million for seven years, the post-John Tavares era for the New York Islanders had begun.
Post-John Tavares Era Begins
On July 1st, 2018 the NHL’s Free Agent signing period opened for the summer. As it always does, it centered around a league star and where he would decide to sign for the following season. This season, all eyes were on 27-year old forward, and five-time NHL All-Star John Tavares. Following weeks of speculation under the hashtag #TavaresWatch, it became clear which teams lead the race to land Tavares.
— Frenchy (@hotlipsstewie) June 27, 2018
#TavaresWatch took over social media, ending with the delight of Toronto Maple Leafs fans hearing the confirmed news that they acquired the rights to Tavares.
The news, of course, was not as well-received on Long Island. Many fans took to Twitter to share their outcries of “fraud” and “traitor” alongside pictures or videos of burning #91 jerseys.
The Next Era
Long Island is not to lose hope. Many fans are still so angrily gazing through their clouds of steam, that they are missing what is right in front of them. Many Islanders fans are asking, “Well now what? Sell it off. Start over”, when the answer is not far away.
The Islanders have a solid group of young players who are either already on the roster or are somewhere within the system. The very player that so many fans in New York were praising weeks before the resigning topic resurfaced has flown under the radar since Tavares’ departure – rookie sensation, and 2017-18 Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal.
While he may not be the next John Tavares, he is going to be the next Mathew Barzal. Leading all rookies in points, Barzal scored 22 goals and added 63 assists for a total of 85 points – 31 more points than Tavares had during his rookie season.
Barzal is not alone, as fellow 19-year old forward Anthony Beauvillier put up promising numbers during the 2017-18 season as well. Beauvillier scored 21 goals and added 15 helpers during his sophomore season.
Within the system, the Islanders also own the rights to numerous potential stars. These players include fifth overall selection, and Memorial Cup champion, Michael Dal Colle, 28th overall forward Joshua Ho-Sang, and 2016 seventh round selection in defenseman David Quenneville. All three players played the 2017-18 season with the AHL affiliate Bridgeport Tigers.
The Islanders Response
While the New York Islanders have been marked as the biggest losers of the free agent signing period, they have made some additions. These additions do not appear flashy right away, but are decent adds to quell the panicked faithful;
As mentioned, at first glance, the responses seem half-hearted, but each of these players has something to add. On a team now focused on developing young stars, experience and veteran leadership is not to be overlooked. Valtteri Filpulla comes to Long Island with 876 games of NHL regular season experience. Tom Kuhnhackl brings two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, both successful, with him into the Islanders dressing room.
The final notable addition by the Islanders is the most beneficial. The New York Islanders have hired the former head coach of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, John Gruden. Gruden and the Bulldogs are fresh off of an OHL Championship campaign. With a team now dependant on their younger core, a man behind the bench who’s career has been working with and developing young men is sure to help the cause.
Are Islanders Fans Stranded?
Quite honestly no. Fans on Long Island have a lot to be excited about in the post-John Tavares era. Although the superstar centre has left town, the players that surrounded him on the team remain. The following players still present themselves as a competitive offense that defending teams will not take lightly.
Following his trade to the Islanders, Jordan Eberle suited up for all but one game in the 2017-18 regular season, scoring 25 goals and 34 assists, bringing his career highs to 190 goals and 251 assists respectively.
The longtime teammate of Tavares, dating back to their shared days with the Oshawa Generals, Cal Clutterbuck has also continued his strong depth play with the Islanders. During his 368 games with the team, Clutterbuck has been a pesky two-way forward with a goal scoring touch. Clutterbuck is shy of 100 points with the club on Long Island, with 47 goals and 49 assists.
A message to the fans on Long Island during the beginning stages of the post-John Tavares era is that the 2018-19 season may not be the start of a new dynasty, and it may not even be the start of a postseason run. It also will not be the end of championship hopes. The NHL is a lot like a rollercoaster ride in the sense that it takes a lot longer to get to the top of the hill than it does to fall right back to the bottom.
Success will eventually come in the post-John Tavares era, and it will not be as far away as it appears to be.
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