Since we're heading toward a rather quiet time from the Islanders as the NHL playoffs begin without them, I'll have a couple posts here of interviews with players from Monday's breakup day.
Today, we'll begin with John Tavares. He spoke on a variety of topics, including the chemistry "hiccup" the team suffered when Matt Moulson was traded, who he thinks might work well on his left side next season and what, if any, offseason plans he has in his first full summer as captain.
On whether he feels the current team can win: "I believe so. It’s just some things that obviously went wrong for us this year and that’s on us as players. But we’ve proven it, we proved last year we can get there. We need to do it over an 82-game season but we’ve shown we have that capability."
On what went wrong this season: "It's no secret our home record’s pretty bad. The way we protect leads isn’t very good. Special teams wasn’t very good this year. There’s many things that have shown our results. We have to be a lot better in a lot of areas, our consistency has to be a lot better. When we’re playing well and doing the right things consistently we’re a good team. We showed that last year and we showed that during the stretch from December into January and the young guys showed it at the end of this season."
Whether this season was tougher being captain: "I wouldn’t say it’s tougher in terms of the disappointment and the frustration. It’s just trying to get a better grasp on the locker room and what to do to get out of it. It’s a lot of things you’re trying to get a feel for, especially when you’re communicating with management and the coaching staff. It’s just trying to have the right guidance for the team and try to work our way out of it."
On the young forwards: "You look at Brock [Nelson] and Stromie [Ryan Strome], the difference in his game the second time he came up [from Bridgeport] and the way Brock played over the course of the whole season, they could be dominant players. Brock, with his size and his strength, he plays a lot like Fransie [Nielsen], I think. And to have that size and strength and speed he has can really be a huge factor for him. The way he shoots the puck and attacks the net is pretty spectacular."
On the chemistry change after Moulson was dealt: "It might have, at first. We didn’t play too well when Thomas [Vanek] got here those first few weeks. But guys adjusted and really liked Thomas a lot, he fit really well in the room. Certainly it was a big shakeup and it was a big shock to a lot of us in the room. We welcomed Thomas with open arms and there was some time to get that comfort level. Clearly the results didn’t show on the ice right away."
On what he'll say during his exit meeting: "We’re all extremely disappointed. A lot of things with the way we played as players is unacceptable. If we want to win consistently here, we can’t keep going through the things we have. So when we talk and we’re asked for opinions, I’ll certainly give mine and it’ll be up to them to make the changes they feel are necessary."
On the chatter that he may look to leave: "I think it’s a product of the team not winning and the perception around here from other markets is always a lot different from what actually happens. I signed six years because I wanted to be here. There’s no part of me that wants to leave. I know we’ve still got some great things we can accomplish here and my mindset hasn’t changed. I’m excited to come back next year and I’ve always loved being here."
On the faith he has in the coaching staff: "Cap [Jack Capuano] knows a lot of us really well, we’ve had success with Cap. Same with Dougie and Tommer. All those guys bring something different to the table and we had success with it last year. For whatever reason we’ll have to figure out why it didn’t work this year and we as players will have to make some changes, they’ll want to make some changes as well I’m sure. That’s why this time is good to evaluate, make sure everyone is on the same page and understand where we have to be better. We’re the ones on the ice that have to execute. Coaches can only push so many buttons for so long. Cap is always searching for ways to make us better and I’m looking forward to having him back."
On whether he'd like to have his linemates set: "It’s always nice to know, you like to know. We do have a little bit of a logjam up the middle with Brock, Stromie, myself, Frans and Casey [Cizikas]. Stromie’s made a great case for himself to be here full time next year and we all know what Brock’s done. Brock played with me on the left a little bit this year and I really enjoyed playing with him. I think he’s going to be a special player. We had some good chemistry together. Whether that happens or they make some other decisions, either free agency or trade or through the draft. You do always like to know [who you’re playing with], but I think we saw what some of the younger guys can do. I played in the playoffs last year with Josh [Bailey] a little bit, I played with Grabs [Michael Grabner] a bit. You know their games and you prepare yourself."
On whether he'll do anything different as captain this offseason: "In the offseason, you need space, some time on your own to regroup. For myself, I like to get away from the game. You spend so much time with one another, it’s good to get away and get that itch back when camp gets closer. Whatever new additions we have, I try to reach out to those guys and make them feel welcome. So there’s nothing I’ll really try to do differently."