Warning signs on the dashboard: John Tavares. I mean, this should be done by now, shouldn’t it? Heading into the off-season, we were assured that the Islanders were going to either extend their franchise player for as long as possible or, failing that, explore moving him. Instead, nothing seems to be happening, and it’s starting to feel possible that no news is bad news.
We tend to talk way too much about distractions in the sports world, but this year’s Islanders feel like a team where it could actually apply. If Tavares heads into the season without a deal and suddenly every minor thing that happens starts turning into a referendum on the team’s long-term future, things could get ugly.
That seems unlikely – Tavares still sounds like a guy who wants to stay, and there’s a good chance this whole thing gets wrapped up and then Islander fans point and laugh at anyone who suggested it wouldn’t. But as Avalanche fans could tell you, sometimes the unlikely worst-case scenario is the one that ends up happening.
Why they should be OK: They’re the best team on our list in terms of last year’s standings; remember, they finished with as many points as the Cup-finalist Predators. They were also a downright impressive 24-12-8 under interim coach Doug Weight, who now holds the full-time job. And that was before they added Jordan Eberle.
Maybe more importantly, failure doesn’t seem to be an option right now. With Tavares looming over everything, new ownership looking for a new arena, and Garth Snow’s job potentially on the line, the Islanders don’t seem like a team that can afford to be bad this year. That’s a dangerous situation, because it can lead a team into some bad long-term decisions. But it should mean that a total collapse would be unlikely, if only because Snow would do everything in his power to prevent it.
But all bets are off if…: Tavares decides he wants out, and Snow has to go into scramble mode to salvage something of the situation. Again, that’s unlikely. But among more realistic scenarios, recall that the goaltending is still a question mark, and the blue line just lost Travis Hamonic. The Metro was brutal last year, and with the Flyers and Hurricanes on the way up there won’t be much room for error here.
My take: While I respectfully disagree that the Islanders are on this list to possibly be this years Avalanche, I want to emphasize to Islanders fans that future articles like these will be the norm until John Tavares signs to an extension with the Islanders. To be honest this is not an off-based article and yes, starting slow and out of the gate this season will certainly not help matters, but without Tavares signing you can expect more of the same drama-filled articles that will get worse than as the season progresses. You can also bet that most people: experts, critics and fans (including some Isles fans) alike will have the Islanders as most likely to be a bubble team and not make the playoffs. Is this going to be a distraction? You bet and it will only get worse if Tavares is not signed before the trade deadline no less the beginning of the regular season. As I’ve stated before, I believe Tavares will resign. Until then, Islanders fans must brace themselves for even more media drama of their team, including Tavares and receive low expectations from others during this hockey season. Once the puck drops the Islanders get their chance to prove everyone wrong. It’s not even September yet, but welcome back to Islanders hockey everyone. You’ve been warned.
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