Should the New York Islanders "Wing" It with John Tavares?

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Recently on TSN, and in an interview with Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank, Craig Button, a former NHL executive and current analyst on the network, suggested that the Islanders should pick Ryan Strome in the upcoming draft.

Button's idea here, is to put Strome at center and shift John Tavares over to the wing.

He says that he could be "a lethal player off the wing."

John Tavares, with space, is a dangerous concept. With Ryan Strome, who is quick and fast, centering that line, he'll open up the ice for Tavares.

I have a profound respect for Craig Button, and I definitely hear what he's saying.

Having said that, I have to disagree, in this case. The Islanders would be wise to keep Tavares at center, for a number of reasons.

First off, the notion that Tavares won't reach his optimal production level unless he moves to wing is, simply put, outrageous. He racked up 67 points in 2010-11, without Mark Streit chipping in on the powerplay (which, if you remember, was how Tavares got a ton of his points during his rookie campaign).

He's only going to get better, and honestly, he's going to reach the 80-90 point plateau during his prime, regardless of whether he's a center or a winger. He may not score 50 goals at center, but he'll give you 30-40 of them, to go along with 40-50 assists, per season.

Is there an Isles fan on the planet who wouldn't sign up for 80-90 points a year from John Tavares?

Besides, as Nino Niederreiter, Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson and Kirill Kabanov mature, they'll produce offensively. The Islanders won't need 50 goals from Tavares, year in and year out.

Secondly, I think, even at the center position, Tavares is doing a fine job, creating space for himself on the ice, thank you very much.

Given that he's only played two years in the NHL, Tavares' game will only improve, going forward. Look at several of the goals he scored this year, and you'll see precisely what I'm referring to (I'd specifically look at the goals he scored against St. Louis, Calgary and Colorado).

Third, John Tavares is very underrated as a playmaker. We've seen his ability to fire off those patented, no-look passes from his office, behind the net. The guy knows how to find and set up teammates.

He may be advertised as a sniper, but Tavares can find the open man with the best of 'em. That's something he won't always have the chance to do, off the wing. It's also not a given that Ryan Strome is a better playmaker than Tavares. Your No. 1 center should best exhibit that type of ability.

There's one more point I'd like to make here. If the Islanders have learned anything from the Josh Bailey fiasco (aside from not rushing prospects), it's that you don't start moving players around on the ice.

Josh Bailey was a center in Juniors, and was drafted into the NHL as a center. When the Isles moved him to wing, it made the transition longer and tougher for Bailey.

Like Bailey, John Tavares was a center in Juniors, and, he's now a center on the Islanders.

Now that Tavares has two seasons under his belt, and has really started to blossom at the position, you're going to start tweaking? Now that he's gotten his feet wet, worked on his faceoff skills and has developed into a real solid NHL pivot (who, again, will only improve over time), you're going to move him to wing, essentially throwing a significant portion of his progress away?

That's backwards-thinking, and, therefore, should not be on the agenda for these New York Islanders.

Let John Tavares continue to mature at the center position. Let him develop into the playmaker and goal-scorer we know he'll become. But, for crying out loud, just leave him be.

 

Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter and check out NYI Faceoff Circle.

Comments are welcome.

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