It wasn't any sort of a surprise Monday when Islanders general manager Garth Snow named John Tavares as the team's new captain.
But the official designation of what was a foregone conclusion after Mark Streit departed for the Flyers still felt like a change. Tavares is only the Islanders' 14th captain, but he is the first homegrown Islander to wear the "C" since Bryan McCabe was captain for the 1997-98 season.
With the Islanders' modest success last season, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and Tavares being named a Hart Trophy finalist for the NHL's most valuable player after scoring 28 goals and 19 assists in 48 games, the change had already begun.
"It just has a different feel going into camp, and Johnny being named captain is a part of that," Travis Hamonic said after the news conference at Bethpage State Park before the Islanders' charity golf outing. "There's a little buzz around the team and there's expectations among the guys. Maybe things are turning here a little bit."
Tavares began that turnaround when Snow selected him first overall in the 2009 draft. As his game grew on the ice, Tavares showed his maturity and determination off it by signing a six-year, $33-million extension before the 2011-12 season, shutting down any talk he might force his way off the Island after his entry-level deal expired.
"There's a misperception about the Islanders," Tavares said. "I think a lot of that is changing."
Snow solidified the core of the team this summer, signing Hamonic and Josh Bailey to long-term deals. With the head of that young core now captain -- and two others, Hamonic and Kyle Okposo, likely to wear "A" as alternates -- the Islanders are led by their 20-somethings, not by veterans brought in from outside.
Tavares turns 23 Sept. 20 and he will be the second-youngest captain in the league, older only than the Avalanche's Gabriel Landeskog, who turns 21 in November. Even as the way people view the Islanders has changed, Tavares' focus has not.
In 241 games over four seasons, Tavares has totaled 249 points (112 goals, 137 assists).
"He's maybe gotten more vocal since I've been here, but he still wants to win more than anyone I've ever coached and he still works as hard as he ever did," Jack Capuano said. "Guys feed off that. For us, he's the perfect choice to be captain."