John Tavares as the Next New York Islanders Captain Is a No-Brainer
The superstar center became a Hart Trophy finalist last year with 47 points in 48 games while playing a key role in ending the New York Islanders' five-year playoff drought.
Following the offseason free-agent departure of captain Mark Streit to the division-rival Philadelphia Flyers, giving Tavares the "C" should be one of the easiest decisions that head coach Jack Capuano and general manager Garth Snow make during their tenure on Long Island.
At the time of Streit's exit from the team, Arthur Staple of Newsday shared his prediction on the team's captain vacancy:
And yes, this means John Tavares will be named #Isles captain, most likely during training camp. Choices for 'A' -- Hamonic, Nielsen, Viz.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) June 4, 2013
Tavares is only 22 years old, which is a young age to take on the responsibilities of the captain role. But with that said, he has already played four NHL seasons and has earned valuable leadership experience over the last two years as an alternate captain.
The maturity and professionalism that he displays on and off the ice make him a very worthy candidate to receive the "C."
Tavares plays the game hard, clean and has earned the respect of teammates and opponents. The passion and competitive fire that the Mississauga native displays on the ice are contagious and set a tremendous example for the team. It's not easy to be the superstar on a losing team in the New York market, but Tavares has met all expectations and prevents distractions from hurting his on-ice performance.
Over the last few seasons, the NHL has become more of a young man's game, with a higher number of players being named captain without a ton of professional experience.
Some of the game's best players and recent Stanley Cup winners, including Jonathan Toews (Chicago), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), Dustin Brown (Los Angeles) and Eric Staal (Carolina), were all named as captains before the age of 25.
Not only does Tavares exhibit the leadership qualities of a veteran, he's also one of the team's most consistent performers and has a strong work ethic that is responsible for the impressive improvement he's made since arriving to New York as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
His goals- and assists-per-game averages have risen in each of the last three non-lockout seasons, and it wouldn't be surprising if he cracked the 90-point mark for the first time next year.
In his first career playoff appearance last spring, Tavares tallied five points (three goals, two assists) during a six-game first-round series loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, during which the Islanders played much better than many predicted.
When examining the best captain candidates, it's important to choose a player who will be with the club long-term. With a contract that runs for five more years at an extremely team-friendly salary cap hit of $5.5 million, Tavares has already pledged his future to the Islanders.
He wants to be part of the team's transformation into a championship contender again and earn a place in the team's decorated history. That's the type of loyalty every franchise wants from its leader.
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It's important to note that Tavares isn't the Islanders' only quality candidate for the captaincy. Newly re-signed defenseman Travis Hamonic, veteran blueliner Lubomir Visnovsky and forwards Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen should also receive consideration.
But the final step in the Islanders becoming Tavares' team is to give him the "C." The Isles made the wise decision to force their young star to earn the role with hard work, dedication and quality on-ice performances.
After four years, it's time for New York to reward him with the honor of captaining the club through what promises to be its most successful era since the dynasty years of the 1980s.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft. All salary information via CapGeek.
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