A Look Back at John Tavares’s Time in New York

On June 5th, 2018, Garth Snow was fired as the New York Islander’s GM.

Now, not even a month later, John Tavares is also leaving the bright lights of New York City.

John Tavares was Garth Snow’s only real success when it came to drafting; Joshua Bailey had his best season last year. He was drafted in 2008.  Kyle Okposo was drafted before Snow was promoted to GM, so he doesn’t count as a success if you’d want to call his time on Long Island that.  As for everyone else, they are either too young to tell, in another organization, or they just aren’t good at the NHL level.

Today, on the heels of the announcement that Tavares is going to play for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, we will look back at the eight years the Islanders and the Garth Snow regime wasted on Tavares’s career.

2009-10: 24 Goals, 30 Assists, 54 Points

Tavares broke into the NHL scene with 24 goals (tied for the least in a season to start his career).  He also had 54 points; again, he has never had less.

The Islanders finished in last place in the Atlantic Division, as well as third to last in the Eastern Conference.  The rookie led the team in points, was second in goals, and third in assists.  He was used a lot, as he played in all 82 games.

2010-11: 29 Goals, 38 Assists, 67 Points

The Islanders finished even worse, being second to last in the East.

Tavares led the Isles in assists and points in his sophomore season, while scoring the third most goals.

While the Islanders were terrible, they were fortunate to have one bright spot.

2011-12: 31 Goals, 50 Assists, 81 Points

John Tavares had a career-high 50 assists, which led the team, to go along with a team-leading 81 points.  He scored the second most goals and played in 82 games for the second time in his career.

The Islanders finished in last for the fifth straight season (the third to start Tavares’s career). They were once again second to last in the East and fourth worst in the NHL.

2012-13: 28 Goals, 19 Assists, 47 Points

This was a lock-out shortened season.  Tavares played in all 48 regular season games, as well as led the team in goals and points; his teammates actually produced goals, as five of his teammates had more assists.

The rising star had signed his first big contract and began a 6 year/ $33 million deal with the Islanders.

These stats in the lock-out shortened season contributed to the Islanders’ climb up the standings; they made it to the playoffs, placing third in the Atlantic and eighth in the East.  This was the first time the Islanders made the playoffs in the John Tavares era.

The first-seeded Penguins eliminated New York in six games.  John Tavares tallied three goals and two assists.

2013-14: 24 Goals, 42 Assists, 66 Points

John Tavares suffered a season-ending injury after tearing his MCL and meniscus in an Olympic game.  The Islanders finished in last place in the newly-developed eight-team Metropolitan Division (a reminder of how the divisions were re-aligned after the Blue Jackets and Red Wings moved to the East and when the Jets moved to the West).

His injury was a huge loss to the Islanders; despite his injury, Tavares finished tied for first on the team in assists with Kyle Okposo, and second in goals and points, behind only Okposo.

2014-15: 38 Goals, 48 Assists, 86 Points

Tavares came back strong and healthy, scoring a career-high 38 goals and 86 points.  His 48 assists were his second most.  He carried the team offensively, scoring 35 more points than Okposo, who had the second most points (to be fair, Okposo did suffer a career-threatening eye injury, and in the time he was on the ice, he produced).  This was also the first time in Tavares’s NHL career where he would finish a season with a positive plus/minus ration, being a +5.

The Islanders finished with 101 points, the best regular season the Isles had in the Tavares era.  They finished with a divisional spot at third place.  The Caps won the series in seven, but Tavares did score an OT winner in game three to give the Islanders a 2-1 series lead.

He finished the series with two goals and four assists.

2015-16: 33 Goals, 37 Assists, 70 Points

The Islanders packed their bags and moved boroughs into the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.  Tavares led New York in goals and points, finishing second behind Okposo in assists.  Tavares also had a career-high plus/minus, featuring a +6.

The Islanders earned exactly 100 points, which was good enough for the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.   They played against the Florida Panthers, who won the Atlantic Division.  In game six, at home, up 3-2 in the series, John Tavares scored the series-clinching goal in double overtime.

This would be the only playoff series win the Islanders would have with Tavares.

The Lightning took care of New York in the second round in five games.  This would be the last series the Islanders would play in with Tavares.

In 11 games, John Tavares averaged a point a game, scoring six goals and five assists.

2016-17: 28 Goals, 38 Assists, 66 Points

The Islanders fought until the last weekend of the year, but they missed the playoffs by one point behind the young, rising Maple Leafs (ironic looking back on this now).

Tavares was second in both goals and assists, although he led his club in points.  He had a third straight season with a positive plus/minus ratio, winding up with a +4.

2017-18

Considering how the rest of the team did, this may have been Tavares’s best season.

This would be the fourth time Tavares would play 82 games in the season.  Tavares finished just one goal and one point shy of tying his career-highs.

Believe it or not, Tavares did not lead the Islanders in goals, assists, or points this season; he was second in goals and points while being third in assists.

However, despite not being the only player to produce for New York, the Islanders as a whole vastly underachieved, as they finished with 80 points, coming in seventh out of eight in their division.  They were 17 points out of a playoff spot.

Verdict

So there you have it; although a first overall pick, especially at the center position, is expected to lead a team in points, goals, and assists, it should not be painfully obvious that pieces are missing to win as a team.  The team also should not have to be carried by one player; you don’t win much that way, as proven by the past nine NHL seasons.

The Islanders won only one playoff series with Tavares, and now between bad, expensive, and lengthy contracts (I’m looking mainly at yours, Andrew Ladd) haunting the post-Garth Snow Islanders, it totally makes sense why Tavares is going to a promising Toronto Maple Leaf’s organization with other young stars who have already proven that they have potential to win.  These contracts that Snow gave will hurt the Islanders for some time to come unless they can find a team willing to take the contracts to hit the league floor (like the Coyotes have done a few times in the past).

Not to mention that Toronto is his hometown.

In his time with the Islanders, he led them in points seven times.  He had over 30 goals four times and never scored less than 24 goals.  He scored 35 more points than anyone else on his team after tearing his MCL.

So, when we look back at his legacy in New York, you will notice a whole lot of personal success without management competent enough to take advantage of having a superstar center that constantly led the team in stats.  Kyle Okposo was the only other consistency on the Islanders throughout Tavares’s time on Long Island (and that awful non-hockey arena in Brooklyn), but even he is gone, playing mediocre hockey with the Sabres.

To put it simply, you can just say Tavares was let down continuously in the Islanders organization.

And that’s how it should be remembered; it wasn’t his fault, he just never got the chance to truly succeed.

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