Islanders Josh Bailey and Johnny Boychuk are sick of hearing the team doesn't have any hope next season. And more importantly, those who believe the team will lack leadership with the exit of captain John Tavares, must think again.
These two Islanders veterans find themselves in position to take the torch, if you will, from Tavares and lead the pack. These past five seasons have been Tavares' team, but now, it is up to the collective group to work together.
Tavares may be gone, but that doesn't mean the Islanders should be deemed out of the running already.
"I've already seen some people pegging us as being in the bottom. That's just a slap in the face when I see it," Boychuk told The Athletic's Arthur Staple. "Our team is really good. I think we're going to show them we are a good team."
Bailey, on the other hand, hasn't been looking into what others are saying about the team. Being the longest-tenured Islanders player, Bailey knows exactly what his team is able to accomplish if everyone buys in this season.
"I've never really worried too much about what's being said," Bailey said. "It's about your teammates, the organization, and your fans as well. I look forward to playing a role in helping the team take the next step. We're all on board with wanting to win, that's the main focus. We just want to give ourselves a chance."
Even though Tavares doesn't return, Islanders co-owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin did set their team up to win with a few upgrades this offseason. In the front office, new team president and GM Lou Lamoriello came in to hopefully bring Tavares back. Though that wasn't accomplished, other free-agent moves were made like adding a much-needed goaltender in Robin Lehner.
Also, new head coach Barry Trotz, fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Capitals, will lead the Isles this season. Combine all this with the 2017 Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal and other young players on the roster, the Islanders are confident the loss of Tavares won't decimate their squad.
"People shouldn't be worrying about one person," Boychuk said. "In hockey, one person does not make a team. At all. One guy can't carry a whole team, be the whole team. It was an important player for us but there's 23 people on a team and you have to hold 23 players accountable to win a season, a championship.
"If you play bad as a team, one player can play good all year but you're still gonna lose. That's why it's a team sport."
Bailey is also confident with where the team is headed, and believes leadership at the top with Lamoriello and Trotz will hopefully work it's way down to play on the ice.
"We're in good hands for sure," Bailey said. "New eyes can be a good thing, maybe put some guys on edge a bit. A new start for some, maybe some motivation for others. Different isn't always a bad thing."
Boychuk added: "We're going to be a grittier team next year, I think. More sandpaper, more hard-workin. I think that's a reason for everyone to be excited."