Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
The Isles are in the playoffs, but before they begin the postseason, here is our regular-season awards ceremony:
MVP: JOHN TAVARES
No. 91 has done what true NHL MVPs have done in taking not only his own game to new heights but inspiring his teammates to follow. "I've said it a lot that I can't do it alone," Tavares has said. His 28 goals and 19 assists heading into Saturday's games were top-15 numbers, but it's the playoff berth that really catapults Tavares from best on the Islanders to one of the best in the league. Runner-up: Evgeni Nabokov
MOST IMPROVED: JOSH BAILEY
It can be difficult to remember that Bailey is only a year older than Tavares and probably was not ready for the NHL game at 18 with a team very much in the rebuilding phase. He displayed some of his talent with a strong run to the finish last season, when it didn't mean much. This season he's again finishing strong, and it matters a whole lot more. Runner-up: Frans Nielsen
BEST NEWCOMER: LUBOMIR VISNOVSKY
After the trials and tribulations involved in convincing Visnovsky to overcome his distaste for the business of the NHL (traded three times after agreeing to a no-trade clause, four-month lockout), no one possibly could have foreseen how quickly the 36-year-old defenseman would fit in and enjoy his time with the Isles. His biggest positives: a plus-12 rating in 35 games and helping to turn Thomas Hickey into a legitimate NHL defenseman. Runner-up: Brad Boyes
UNSUNG HERO: COLIN MCDONALD
One of those "high-character'' guys Jack Capuano and Garth Snow always talk about, McDonald came in to wear the "C'' for Bridgeport and ends the season as a solid third-liner, a key contributor and the sort of consistent physical player who is welcome on any roster. His locker-room presence, light and humorous, has helped break the tension with a young, focused group.Runner-up: Casey Cizikas
TURNING POINT: NABOKOV'S TIMEOUT
There are a few to choose from, but we'll go with Nabokov taking a television timeout in the first period in Montreal on Feb. 21 to go down the bench and remind his teammates what they're capable of. The Isles were down 2-0, on their way to a 6-10-1 record and more of the same Isles play. Instead of standing in a corner of the zone, head down (as most goaltenders do during those timeouts), Nabokov saw what was needed. Hickey scored the OT winner and the Isles are 17-8-5 since.
Runner-up: Cizikas' goal to beat the Panthers on March 16 after blowing a 3-0 lead.