It’s been over four years since former New York Islanders captain John Tavares left the organization for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. The past should be in the past, as the Islanders organization has taken leaps and bounds since his departure.
Although John Tavares should not be the focal point of the New York Islanders faithful every time the Islanders face off against the Leafs like they will do Monday night, every meeting with the former captain is a reminder that one similar issue from his tenure on Long Island still remains a critical issue.
And that’s goal-scoring support for the star.
When Tavares left, the kid who won the Calder, Mathew Barzal, took over as the New York Islanders star. Still, over the last four years, New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has not brought in the elite scorer Barzal needs.
Barzal has had a handful of wingers since 2018, from Anders Lee, Anthony Beauvillier, Zach Parise, Josh Bailey (both sides), and Andrew Ladd on the left, with Oliver Wahlstrom, Kyle Palmieri, and Jordan Eberle on his right.
It’s been a revolving door.
Lamoriello has brought in players, but even if they were known as a goal scorer upon arrival, like Kyle Palmieri, the consistent production hasn’t been there when alongside Barzal.
So far this season, in 19 games, Barzal has played with three left-wingers and two right-wingers.
For Tavares, he was never given that elite presence to help him out.
He had great chemistry with Matt Moulson, who was not an elite player by any means but a player who knew where to be and took advantage. He had equally strong chemistry with Thomas Vanek, who Moulson was traded for, but Vanek was a player way past his prime.
The significant difference between Tavares and Barzal is that Tavares was a goal scorer and carried the Islanders offensively. Despite having the offense with his playmaking ability, Barzal’s game needs a pure goal scorer to get the most out of him.
The Islanders are hoping that Oliver Wahlstrom could be that guy, but Wahlstrom still has a lot of growth to do before he becomes that player for Barzal, if he becomes that player.
After nine seasons on Long Island, Tavares left the organization that drafted him first overall in 2009. He joined a team with elite talent in Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner, an elite talent that the Islanders never brought in during his tenure.
Barzal has shown loyalty to the Islanders when he signed his eight-year extension before the season’s start, which kicks in next season.
The last thing the New York Islanders want to do is waste away his career by not providing him the talent that we see the elite teams around the NHL have.
This is not the NBA. One elite player doesn’t mean a championship. Just look at the Edmonton Oilers’ playoff success, an organization with the most talented player in the world, potentially of all time, in Connor McDavid, along with superstar Leon Draisaitl.
As mentioned numerous times, the New York Islanders have over $16 million in deadline cap space, and if the Islanders are in a playoff spot or close to it come the March 3rd deadline, it’s time for Barzal to get his critical complementary piece.