Last Word On Hockey brings our Team of the Decade series. We will dive into the best player at each position this decade for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments of the decade. Here is the New York Islanders Team of the Decade lineup.
New York Islanders Decade Team
The first two words that should come out of our mouths when talking about the last New York Islanders decade is John Tavares. He led the franchise to their first playoff series win in over 20 years. Even scored the goal that clinched the series in overtime of game six. He wore the ‘C’ longer than anyone in the decade. He played the most games for the franchise and contributed the most points. The decade was defined by Tavares. Plus, yeah the departure from Nassau County and the Coliseum on Long Island to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
A team that won one playoff series in three appearances turned the corner from Tavares right before the decade ended. So far it has been a decent breakup for the Isles. They have won just as many playoff series without Tavares as they did with. They have hired a Stanley Cup-winning coach and General Manager and are looking for success post number 91. Here’s a look at the Islanders of the last decade.
Left-Wing: Matt Moulson (2010-2013)
Matt Moulson was not with the Islanders very long, but he was a top contributor this past decade. The three-season stretch at the start of the decade for the Isles saw him play in every regular-season game except one and was the team’s second-leading point-getter behind Tavares.
Moulson scored 30+ goals (31 and 36 to be exact) with Tavares as his centre two of the three years they played together. While Moulson never developed much after he left the Islanders his time on Long Island was productive. His ability to constantly play well on the left-wing this decade is what puts him on the list for us. Playing almost every game in one season is tough, let alone three.
Center: John Tavares (2010-2018)
This is an easy one. The best player this organization has had in a long time. He led them in all the numbers, but most important was how he played in the postseason. The game-winning goal in a series-clinching game to send the team to the second round for the first time in 23 seasons. In fact, the only thing missing from that moment was where it was played.
He was the franchise. While more playoff success would have been ideal and helpful to keep Tavares around, but for the first time in a few decades, for that moment, he brought the Islander fans something they had not seen in a long time. Right now, the relationship between Tavares and the fans is no doubt fractured. Between the 272 goals and 669 games played, Tavares is the best Islander of the last two decades.
Right-Wing: Kyle Okposo (2010-2016)
Nine years for Kyle Okposo. He went through a lot with the organization and played a long time with Tavares. A three-time 20 goal scorer and a major part in the organization’s first playoff series win in a long time as a leader in the room alongside Tavares. He chipped in with 8 points during that playoff run. Okposo’s best year as a pro he scored 22 goals and had 42 assists as a 27-year-old. He helped lead the Islanders to the second round that year.
Since leaving the Islanders, Okposo has not had as much success as he would have hoped. Both age and injuries have weighed him down a bit. However, his time here was very memorable, especially when we focus on the last decade.
Left Defenseman: Travis Hamonic (2010-2017)
Another homegrown, long-tenured talent during this decade for the Islanders was Travis Hamonic. Hamonic made his debut at 20 in 2010 and only played a complete season once, the shortened 2012-2013 season. He was a mainstay on the backend when healthy though, many times leading the Isles in minutes per game for the season. He was there for the playoff run and grew into a leader for that team before his departure.
His strong play that you could count on is what lands him on this list. Being a guy to consistently take big minutes is not an easy thing to do in the NHL.
Right Defenseman: Nick Leddy (2014-Present)
The smoothest skater of the bunch, Nick Leddy was signed during the 2014 offseason and has played in 462 games for the Isles since then. Leddy and the next man on this list are the only two that were apart of both playoffs runs for the Islanders. Three straight 30+ assist seasons, Leddy has led the Islanders in minutes and has been the quarterback on the power-play units for many years in the blue and orange.
Goalie: Thomas Greiss (2015-Present)
The goalie position for the Islanders has been inconsistent. There have been times that three goalies were on the active roster, but when Thomas Greiss is at his best, he’s been the best of the bunch. No crazy stats, in fact, the most games started in a season for Greiss was 49 in 2016-2017. He was the starter in the postseason back in 2015-2016 and has been the starter for many of the Isles big games this second part of this decade.
His numbers when he has played have also been solid. Other than an injury-shortened season, Greiss has been a reliable force in the Isles net. His tenure and consistent play lands him here.
The Islanders spent the decade as a pretty average team. They had a few playoff appearances but never made any real noise as contenders to win the Eastern Conference. Besides these guys on the list, runner ups include Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal, and Johnny Boychuk.
Although he’s no longer an Islander the team has reminders of Tavares all over it. He was the only captain, that Anders Lee has played with during his NHL career. That new Stanley Cup-winning general manager was looking for a scorer at the deadline and have been the last two seasons. This team was built for Tavares to take it into the next decade but is in the midst of rebuilding itself. It should be entertaining to see where the next New York Islanders decade takes them.