John Tavares is in some ways a victim of poor timing.
When you talk to the Islanders captain, there isn’t much smiling. The joking is of deadpan nature. Try to ask a funny question, and he is wry in his sense of humor. His voice? Slightly monotone.
Unfortunately for Tavares, Jonathan Toews is ‘Captain Serious’ while the New York captain is still searching for a nickname. If you line them up next each other and ask them the same questions, you’d probably get the same answers. And on tape, it would be hard to discern the two.
How about ‘That guy who is arguably the best position player in the New York area?’ for the time being.
OK, that’s a little long, but Tavares is having another solid all-around season on the Island. He has 31 goals and his 67 points are tied for the NHL lead.
He’s playing 20:25 per-night. His face off percentage is a decent 52.6 percent. His shot attempts relative to 60 minutes is at plus-8.4, so the puck possession is there, per the NHL’s enhanced stats website.
“I just try to add more tools to the toolbox,” Tavares said. “You try to be unpredictable and hard to play against. “
And that he is. He can score in pretty much any situation – on the rush, on a breakaway, in and around the net, around the circles. Tavares is as wily an offensive player as they come.
We recently sat down and talked with the Isles' leader about his team, his year and most importantly, how he will look in skinny jeans in hipster haven Brooklyn next year.
Q: It seems like the atmosphere in Nassau Coliseum has been quite raucous this year. What have you thought of it as a player?
TAVARES: That’s been a lot of fun, I think that atmosphere has been tremendous. Our fans have been great, they’ve been waiting for this (winning) for a long time. We just want to keep playing good hockey and that’s the thing you can help them out with the most.
So you’re moving to Brooklyn. Which player will have the easiest time fitting in with the hipsters?
I think Matt Martin maybe. He likes to get himself out there. I think everyone else just knows it’s going to be different, it’s going to be a change, and the new facility is going to be nice. But we’re going to miss the Coliseum for sure.
There are some New York sports fans who will only pull for teams within the confines of the five boroughs of The City. You think you can pick some of those off with the Brooklyn move?
I think we have a pretty passionate fan base. This year has been pretty special. I think those people are extremely loyal and I wouldn’t be surprised if they follow us along. There’s Islanders fans all over New York, so if we can draw some more fans it would be great of course, but we’re just happy to represent the Islanders in Long Island.
Are you over not winning the MVP of the All-Star Game in spite of scoring four goals?
I don’t think I was ever really too concerned by it. It’s just an honor to be an All-Star with so many great players and be a part of that.
I don’t think I was surprised (Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen) got it. He did more than just play a good game. He was great to all the players and all the people visiting his city and their team. (Columbus) did a great job of hosting. They did a great job. He had a few goals himself and if you score four goals you know you may have a chance at it, but I wasn’t too concerned.
You guys have continued to thrive with Kyle Okposo out since early February. How so?
I think you see the depth we have. There are guys who have been here a number of years. Some of our young players have really stepped up. Obviously they’re high draft picks, they’re starting to be big contributors at a young age. We added some veterans in the offseason right before the season that really solidified our team. So just having that depth and guys stepping up all the time has been huge.
What has it been like seeing the recent growth of this team from the low point of when they took you with the No. 1 pick?
I think it’s an adjustment for everybody leaving the Coliseum. The team was born and grew up and had a lot of success there. It had ups and downs. I think for everyone it’s going to be a transition. But at the same time I think because it has been the last year you see the people really trying to enjoy it. I think we’re trying to make something special and feed off this opportunity and we want to end it the right way.
What was the recent turning point for this organization? Was it the playoff series against Pittsburgh two years ago when you guys lost, but played them well?
I think that was part of the growth of the team. A lot of us were young. I think pretty much almost every guy in that series was playing in their first playoff series and first playoff game. It was some growth. We took some steps back last year, but you could really see the progress this year, not only with the depth we had on our team, but within the organization all the way down and that will help us be a part of it and play for the Cup every year.
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