Andy Graziano and I have begun our annual season review, taking a look back at the 2016-17 Islanders and analyzing each player's performance in a down season that saw the team miss the playoffs by one point.
We will be offering two reviews per week that will take us right through to the beginning of training camp in September. Of course, there are a couple of things to sort out prior, such as free agency and potential trades that could alter the look of this franchise going forward.
Contract details via nhlnumbers.com and stats courtesy of hockeyreference.com.
91 - John Tavares - Center
26 years old
Contract: $6.000 m cap hit, signed through 2017-18 (UFA)
Season: 77 GP, 28 G - 38 A - 66 Pts, 38 PIM, 260 Shots, 20:25 TOI, 52.9 Corsi
Career: 587 GP, 235 G - 302 A - 537 Pts, 281 PIM, 1853 Shots, 20:02 TOI, 51.4 Corsi
Sorry, this is not the John Tavares post you're looking for.
Still, it's worth looking back at JT's solid 2016-17 campaign, as the specter of his impending free agency creeps closer. Was it his best season? No, but it doesn't mean the captain is slowing down any time soon.
After all, Tavares was in a tough spot early in the season. John is the kind of captain who takes all the weight of being the guy on his shoulders. That's exactly what you want from your leader, but at times in 2016-17 -- during what was still a very productive season -- that may have been counterproductive.
The whole team was really flailing from October until the middle of January, and during it all Tavares was still showing up on the score sheet steadily (11 goals, 16 assists in 36 games through the end of the calendar year). But you could see he was trying to make a little too much happen to counteract the abysmal possession metrics the Islanders were up against.
Once the Isles collected themselves under Doug Weight though, Tavares seemed to relax, and it showed with a massive 14-point January (eight goals, six assists in 12 games). In fact, JT kept up a near point per game pace in the second half of the season (39 points in the final 41 games).
Of course, it helped that Josh Bailey had a career year on JT's wing, and Anders Lee has developed into a premiere winger himself. We know a large portion of that is John making the guys around him better, but I think Bailey and Lee had as much of an impact on upping John's game in the second half of the season as he did on theirs. That symbiosis is what you want from your top line mates, and the Isles had it in spades last season.
It's hard to believe that Tavares has nearly 600 games in the league already, and as he's just starting to enter his prime, there's still probably another, higher level that he can hit with his game. But now, the Islanders love who he is and what he brings to the table, and they hope to have all of it around for many more seasons.
IPB Grade: A-. Tavares gets graded on a little harder curve. Maybe that's not fair, but it's reality when you're the superstar player. And as we head into the final year of his current contract, I think we're going to see a man possessed to try to get the Islanders back to the playoffs and beyond.