Who Will Be Next To Captain The Islanders?
There have been many great hockey players who have played for the New York Islanders that were honored in wearing the C on their jersey as captain. The most recent is Doug Weight, who announced his retirement a few weeks back and has accepted a new role with the team as an assistant coach. His leadership and advice will continue to serve well in the locker room and on the ice, but it will be time for someone new to fill the void.
Many feel that Mark Streit would be fitting for the next captain. He's one, if not the most reliable veteran on the team and produces consistently as the team's offensive defenseman who quarterbacks the power play. He arguably has been one of Garth Snow's best finds through free agency and is a proven leader that his teammates look up too. However, Streit will be returning after missing an entire year of hockey due to an injury he suffered in pre-season last year. The organization may be more concerned with making sure that he returns up to speed and can play the same way that he has all along rather than pressuring him with the responsibilities of being captain. Maybe not... Streit would be the safe bet as captain for sure, but I believe that the coaching staff may feel differently.
With the exception of Snow's first year as GM of the New York Islanders, the plan has been to rebuild as a young team that would consistently compete in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup. Although they have not reached the playoffs yet, the Isles have built a strong core of young players and have continued to add to it with the selection of Ryan Strome at this year's draft. By the time Nino Niederreiter, Strome, and defenseman Calvin de Haan are all on the roster, this team will have one first overall pick, a seventh, two fifths, a ninth, and a 12th all playing together; all drafted within the past five years. The next step is making the transition from a young and inexperienced squad to a playoff team. The transition might start by giving one of these guys the captaincy.
Kyle Okposo has been labeled as future captain material since his first full season with the New York Islanders. He plays with an edge as he's not afraid to get physical and has nifty hands to go with his size. A true power forward, Okposo's hustle and drive almost go unmatched in that locker room. He plays hard on every shift and can play in all areas, whether it be the power play, penalty kill or in clutch situations like overtime or the shootout. But like Streit, Okposo missed a good chunk of playing time for the same injury and took a little while before he could get himself back to where he left off last year. This past season was supposed to be the year where KO improved on his scoring, aiming for the 60-point plateau. Due to the injury, that goal has been moved back a year. There's no question that Okposo would be an excellent captain, but it might be too much pressure for a young, developing forward that the Islanders want to see to continue emerge as a top-six forward.
An interesting choice would be the center of the rebuild in John Tavares. Many of you might raise your eyebrows to this option as he is typically a soft spoken player on the bench and in the locker room. But Tavares is incredibly mature for his age and has leadership experience as the former captain for Team Canada when he played for the World Juniors Championships. He also took a big step next year, just coming three points shy of 70 with 29 goals and 38 points in 78 games played. That's a 13 point improvement over last year where he never missed a game. Keep in mind that he scored those 67 points practically on his own agenda. He didn't have Doug Weight feeding him the puck since he was injured for nearly the entire season as well. His line mates were Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau, two players who had excellent years of their own, due largely in part to the play of Tavares. JT also showed that he cares about this team when he dropped the gloves in a game against the Atlanta Thrashers in the middle of that dreadful losing streak. Clearly, Tavares is not a fighter, but he was willing to do anything to help ignite a fire to get his team going. He also respects his teammates, as he has been seen pounding Trevor Gillies and other enforcers after they took a few fists to the face when they stood up for him in a fight.
Giving Tavares the C would also signify that the rebuild is coming to an end. The torch would officially be passed to the player that Islanders have lacked for the last decade. The next star that will lead the Islanders into the playoffs and hopefully in battle for a Stanley Cup.
There is still time for this decision to be made and it might not come until the end of training camp in September. But it will be interesting to guess as to who will have the responsibility of becoming the next Islanders captain.
All of my blogs will continue to remind all Islanders fans and Nassau County residents to make sure you are registered voters in order to participate in the August 1st referendum to pass the new arena for the New York Islanders. This vote will decide if the new arena will be built, creating thousands of jobs to help boost the economy and attract many events by turning that huge parking lot into a useful place that people will want to go to. In the end, it comes down to you, the people, to keep the New York Islanders where they belong. Do NOT take this vote for granted. If you don't vote, you could be losing the only major league sports team that we have here. It ultimately is up to you.
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