New York Islanders: Would you look at that, the Islanders don’t need “him”

New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders and their fans finally have closure in regards to what was a rather upsetting summer. After a dominating win, in a powerful environment, they proved they don’t “him” after all.

The New York Islanders beat the Toronto Maple Leafs by five goals after scoring six unanswered on Thursday night. It was probably the most dominating performance of the entire season and they got outstanding play from every line and Robin Lehner. The win allows the Islanders to magically stay atop the Metropolitan Division standings.

As much as I would love to report this as a normal game, that is just not the case. It is so rare that in an 82 game regular season that there is this much emotion and this many moving parts. But, when there is, the team best be ready to react.

On Thursday night, the Islanders did. As much as I didn’t think this should have been about John Tavares or who I have dubbed as “him” the game was about him. All week there were polarizing videos all across social media about how fans should treat Tavares when he hit the ice in Nassau Coliseum for the first time since his also polarizing departure.

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What also did not help were the sports columns that almost told fans what they should do at the game, should the boo, should they cheer. Due to all of that, it became more and more important to me, and this Islanders column, that I didn’t mention any of things. This is FanSided. A site for the Fans by the Fans. I understand the value of the fans. I wouldn’t have anyone to write to if the Islanders did not have fans.

So, my approach was to treat this as a normal game. As much as I didn’t want to. I just knew that Islanders fans were going to react however they wanted and that they had that right. As fans of this team, we don’t have contracts that expire. We don’t test the markets and go from team to team to jump ship. We stay with the Islanders. We root for the Islanders not matter how dark things get. John Tavares chose to not stay with the Islanders, it was a different situation for him. That is fine. That is his right, the whole cliché.

However, no argument, no narrative, no bashful rhetoric, no take resonated with me more than the “Islanders are better without Tavares: take I am sure you have heard a version of it. As the season has turned out, I would have agreed with that take. Mathew Barzal has done a fine job being the next face of the franchise. Brock Nelson has filled in admirably as the premiere top line center.

However, once the deadline rolled around, I got confused. The Islanders were expected, or at least thought to, go out and get scoring help. This team needed scoring help to get them over the hump this season.

Yet, “him,” who is an elite goal scorer and point producer in this league, was not needed? That is where things got interesting to me. But, I suppose that isn’t actually the story. The story has always been about how “him” left, not that he. Or, even how the whole process went down.

I still do not think any of that matters. The Islanders had a franchise player. “Him” happened to be there for nine years. Most of which he was a perennial All-Star and in some seasons, an MVP candidate. “Him” could retire after the current contract he is on expires and he still would end his career having spent more seasons on the Island. That should not be forgotten.

Why I’d boo him….

I think the whole idea, and I am speaking for myself here, was the fear after he left. The fact that the Islanders had a rare superstar, a superstar associated with the franchise, was encouraging. It had been so long since the Islanders had one. They almost never did. The ones prior to “him” were just random prizes from incompetent GMs, they never had the same hype or skill as “him.”

So, when he left. I felt fear too. Fear that not only would the Islanders stink, but that they wouldn’t recover. Fear that Mathew Barzal would one day leave too (which is still possible, but I shouldn’t have had to worry about it so soon) and fear that no free agents would want to ever sign with the Islanders ever again after seeing how easy it was for “him” to go.

“The Islanders don’t need “him,” and “him” does not need the Islanders, that is okay, there is some sort of sweet justice to that. This saga is now over well before it should’ve been.”

However, they won this game. If the Islanders do not beat the Maple Leafs in the way that they did, if the crowd was not the normal crowd at the rowdy Coli on a normal night times a million, then this is a non-story. Then I would have almost nothing to write. I didn’t write anything before the game so I wouldn’t have had to eat my own words, but the biggest game of the year for the Islanders would have gone story-less. That is a sin.

But, they did win. There is a story. They scored six goals, gave up one, had 39 hits, killed off two penalties, and banked two points to eclipse the 80 point mark on the season right as it hits March. The Islanders are in first place. The team that has “him” while although might not actually be worse overall, are not in first place. The Islanders would have home ice if the playoffs were to start right now, the team that “him” would not.

However, this is hockey. There are so many other, bigger and better things to worry about than one player playing in one game. The elation from winning this game should already be gone. The Islanders already need to shift focus on beating the Capitals, the team breathing down their necks for the Division, not to mention Barry Trotz’s old team (albeit different story), and win again to stay at the top.

However, the Islanders still don’t need “him.” Maybe with “him” the Islanders would still be in first place, in fact they would probably still be a great team, this coaching staff has just done to well a job to let them not be this good. “Him” is talented, but that isn’t the point. He wouldn’t have any known impact on this team, thus they don’t need “him.”

Losing him, might have lit a spark under them, so maybe that did help. The Islanders were never supposed to be here, but that is par for the course this season. This is a team filled with players who grind hard, they skate well, they defend well, and they finally have competent leadership. If Anders Lee stays, which we have learned because of “him” is the opposite of a given, they will have a true leader.

All it takes is showing the world that the Islanders team is the little engine that could. That there will always be a role for players on this team, that this is the place to be. Maybe then they won’t need “him” having stayed to attract free agents, that they don’t “him” to win and score a lot.

They haven’t needed him for a while……

The culture around the Islanders is changing. The team is getting better in spite of having no “star” the fans often get ridiculed for how they have handled all of this, but they are watching their team be good for the first time in basically two decades.

The Islanders don’t need “him.” Maybe in the past they did, but they didn’t need “him” this fall when Lee was named the new Captain, they didn’t need him early this year when they put on a scoring clinic in Los Angeles, they didn’t need him, when they sent Mat Barzal to the All-Star game, and they didn’t need him when they won five straight games mid-January. They sure as heck didn’t need “him” Thursday when the Isles scored six unanswered and “him” had zero points and a 0 rating.

If the Islanders took less than nine months to realize they can do all those things without “him” then there is no limit as to what they can do now that they finally have closure.

Please note, none of this is a knock on “him” he did nothing out-right wrong, this is just giving A LOT of credit to the Islanders. Not many teams would have been able to lose their franchise player and bounce back to be in first place the first year of a new regime. The Islanders have done that.

All-in on Islanders….

Also, while “him” still might win a Cup and while “him” might still go on to have a Hall of Fame career, nothing can take away the fact that the Islanders actually don’t need “him.” They are fine without him, and say whatever you want about what they accomplished with “him.”

This is a New York Islanders team to get behind. This is a fan base to be happy for, if they didn’t care then “him” returning wouldn’t have been a story.

The New York Islanders are not one man. They are not the product of a single player. They are a team built by a guy who knows what a winning team is and coached by a guy who knows what a winning team takes.

So, so long to “him,” that was the closure we all needed.

While I’m sure he will never step onto the Long Island ice to a civil crowd ever again, it does not matter. The show just needs to go on, it’s like beating a dead horse now. We know where each team is now and we can do whatever we want with that.

Finally, things can go back to normal. Onto the next one and onto the many challenges and criticisms this team will face for the years to come. You can still spell blue and orange without “him”. That is what the real story is.

Thanks for caring, Thanks for reading this, or any article, that is all us bloggers could ask for.

So basically, this is just my take, written on the platform I love, in regards to what has emerged as a great story. I would never tell you what to do or how to act at a game or on social media. Be a fan, show your loyalty how ever you want. If you’re not a fan, watch this team, give them a shot, it is fun. Just let this team bring us all together, not divide us.

Now we know, the Islanders don’t need “him,” and “him” does not need the Islanders, that is okay, there is some sort of sweet justice to that. This saga is now over well before it should’ve been.

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So, let’s just get ready to watch the Isles host the Caps because the real story is the Isles might have a chance to win the whole damn thing there is no “him” in that.