The narrative around the Islanders before the season began focused on one issue: John Tavares’ decision to wait on a contract extension.
From all corners of the hockey world, the assumption was made that Tavares playing out the final season of his deal was a distraction from which he, his teammates and his coaches could not escape.
Throw in the uncertainty around the Isles’ future home and the Islander season appeared doomed from the start.
So much for narrative. Tavares is third in the league with 16 goals, the Islanders are the second-highest scoring team in the league and Doug Weight’s crew is 15-7-2, two points off their 24-game start in 2014-15 that was the best opening stretch of any Islanders season since the dynasty era.
“It’s good on both counts. First, you’re fighting for your life for a playoff spot and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier in the Metro. So that’s a good position we’re in,” Weight said. “It’s also good to take some shine off of all that nonsense, focus on our team and try to keep having some success.”
Tavares’ contract situation hasn’t changed, of course. He’s still in wait-and-see mode, especially on the Islanders’ proposal to build a new arena at Belmont Park. But if there were concerns about his team and its personnel, those likely have to be eased by how well the captain and his team have started the season.
Particularly when it comes to rookies like Mathew Barzal and Josh Ho-Sang, who have made strong contributions, and how well Jordan Eberle has fit in. The future looks solid.
“It’s hard to leave a team that is expecting to win every night and is being successful,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “It’s just a different feeling from the last couple years . . . There’s a certain amount of ease as far as the group is with Johnny. There’s a clear desire for him to want to stick around with these guys and there’s a checklist of things he wants done and honestly probably those are things that a lot of the guys in this room want done. So we just let him do his thing. That’s his decision. We’re not gonna miss out on the playoffs because we’re so worried about what he’s going to do.”
Notes & Quotes: Weight said Casey Cizikas (lower body) is likely out for Friday’s game against the Senators. “He’s still pretty sore and it’s in a vulnerable spot,” Weight said. He’s hopeful that Cizikas, who did not skate on Wednesday, could be ready to return during the Isles’ four-game road trip that begins Monday in Florida.