What’s next for the Islanders post-John Tavares
That is the question that is plaguing the Islanders in the aftermath of their captain and franchise cornerstone, John Tavares, leaving to sign a free-agent deal with his hometown Maple Leafs this summer. With a new team president in Lou Lamoriello and a new head coach in Barry Trotz, the team has established a new identity. Both have a history of winning, which the Islanders have lacked in the past three decades.
But the on-ice product is still something that is very much in flux. The questions abound with a team that might or might not be in the middle of a rebuild.
1. How to replace Tavares?
There is no way to fill the space left by a player who was a two-time Hart Trophy finalist. Lamoriello did what he could in filling roster spots with players who he considered “high-character,” but that hardly makes up for talent.
2. Is there a goalie?
The Islanders’ biggest problem has been keeping the puck out of their own net, and they still don’t have a legit No. 1 goalie. Former general manager Garth Snow — and former backup goalie — gave Thomas Greiss a three-year, $10 million deal that started last season, and it seems to be a bust. Reclamation project Robin Lehner is hardly a good Plan B.
3. Is Barzal for Real?
Mathew Barzal is the reigning Calder Trophy winner as the rookie of the year, and the 21-year-old center has proven to be a generational talent. But he had a great year with Tavares getting most of the defensive attention, so it is to be seen if he can handle the big-time matchups that are coming his way.
4. Trotz Way or the Highway?
Coming off his first Stanley Cup victory as coach of the Capitals, Trotz is aiming to install a new system that is predicated on being hard to play against. That also includes defending, and remains to be seen if the players are going to buy in.
5. Who makes the team?
The one thing the Islanders have done is stock-pile young talent, but it’s hard to project who’s going to make the team. Talented winger Josh Ho-Sang continues to be a wild card, while the likes of Michale Dal Colle, Devon Toews, Kieffer Bellows, and Noah Dobson all have a chance to contribute.