NEW YORK– By Daniel Friedman
When John Tavares signed a six-year contract extension with the Islanders this summer, some people thought he was crazy.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. How could Tavares possibly want to stay on Long Island? What does he see in the Isles
that others don’t? What he sees is a young nucleus of talented players and a team that has the chance to do something very special in the near future.
He fits, he belongs. It’s something that cannot be explained in words, and only makes sense when you see him on the ice wearing an Isles jersey. John Tavares IS the New York Islanders in every possible way. He embodies and exemplifies just what this organization is trying to do, and is at the very forefront of that movement. When the Isles bust loose, be it in a year or two from now, it’ll be primarily because of Tavares.
As far as this season’s concerned, Tavares has proven he’s a bona-fide superstar and dispelled any notions that he might not be as good as
advertised. Unless you’re Neil Greenberg of ESPN.com, that is. Greenberg compiled a list of the top-25 players under the age of 25 and, rather unceremoniously, omitted Tavares from that list. Upon reading Greenberg’s story, Islanders play-by-play man Howie Rose had a mini-temper tantrum, declaring the writer a “house-bound agoraphobe” and then sarcastically referring to the aforementioned hockey player as the “Marginally-Talented Mr. Tavares.”
Tavares currently finds himself seventh in the NHL in scoring, having amassed 53 points in 51 contests this season. He’s bulked up and improved his skating, he’s harder to knock off the puck and he’s better on faceoffs than he was in his first two years. As a result, Tavares is producing more and showing a ton of confidence.
He can shoot the puck very well and has hands of gold, as he demonstrated during the All-Star SuperSkills competition. He’s also an excellent passer and a major reason why Matt Moulson’s been putting up 30-plus goals over the last couple of years.
To put this all in perspective, Tavares netted both goals, including the overtime-winner of a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, back on January 21st. He completely stole the win for the Islanders on a night when, perhaps, they didn’t deserve one. His impact stems all the way back to the moment he was drafted and he’s a huge part of the New York Islanders, whether anyone else likes it or not. John Tavares is not only the best player on the Isles, he’s one of the best in the game right now.
Now that the Super Bowl is over, the focus shifts from Eli Manning to his older brother Peyton. With the longtime Colts QB likely to be released by the team in favor of soon-to-be top overall draft pick Andrew Luck, the next two months of the NFL will be focused on what team Peyton will play for next season.
Will Peyton Manning go to the Redskins and oppose his little brother twice next season? Howard Eskin of NBC Philadelphia says that Manning is “very likely to be a Redskin” despite Washington publicly pursuing other signal callers. ESPN’s Adam Schefter said on Sunday that Washington will also pursue Matt Flynn of Green Bay and Kyle Orton of Kansas City. A Washington Post report said that “fans will be elated” with the team’s new quarterback.
Teams like the Jets, Dolphins and Seahawks will have interest in Peyton as well, and the story will play out over the next 60-75 days. Will Indy’s loss be Washington’s capital gain?