Petty Pedantry: On Tavares' supporting cast

Sometimes a writer drives you nuts. Sometimes he just strikes you as well-meaning but out of the loop.

Sometimes a writer's axe-grinding and shilling for the Official Position Of The NHLPA makes you wince (And sometimes you remind yourself that's just Larry being Larry).

Then sometimes, you find a writer's supporting assumptions are not exactly offensive to the humors that course through your fan conception of human anatomy, but the premise they're supporting is way off the mark.

Such are the occasions for Petty Pedantry, a random summer-boredom-inspired feature that is tailor-made for the nitpicking of blogging.

In that spirit, I don't really have a call-the-radio-show-and-rant issue with the details of THN blogger Ryan Kennedy's piece about John Tavares' lack of a supporting cast; but I do think his premise misses the point of what's going on with the Islanders. Let's dive in, shall we?

More often than not in recent years, the No. 1 pick in the draft has quickly become a savior for the franchise lucky enough to win, or at least not lose, the lottery – Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash, Ilya Kovalchuk, for example – but for sustained success, those players can’t do it by themselves.

Yes. And surely (but don't call me Shirley).

Crosby and Ovechkin have stellar supporting casts (backed up by other high draft picks such as Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Nicklas Backstrom) and have post-season success to show for it. Nash and Kovalchuk’s teams are still working on it.

Also, yes.

Which brings me to John Tavares and the Islanders. Looking up and down the New York roster right now, I’m not sure what GM Garth Snow’s master plan is. Tavares is a preternatural goal-scorer, but he can’t do it himself and the forward corps on Long Island is looking pretty thin.

Ye-- wait, what?! The master plan? You heard about the rebuild, right?

Did you not just cite four examples -- two of which are "generational stars" superior to Tavares who nonetheless took three seasons to achieve even nominal playoff success, the other two of which have never won a playoff game after six and seven seasons in the league? What just happened here? How did bottoming out last season turn to one June draft pick = serious expectations?

To give Snow his due, the re-signing of veteran Doug Weight was a great move [as a mentor for JT] ... On the ice, however, I struggle to find a first line.

Yes, this is the issue. Our first line was once something called "Mike Comrie or two old men -- whoever is healthier." One #1 pick does not a first line make. These rebuilding things take time.

[THN's] depth chart has Tavares lining up between Sean Bergenheim and Kyle Okposo. Bergenheim has 57 points in 183 NHL games and has played in four different leagues since 2005-06. Okposo is regarded very highly by Islanders brass, but is still growing his game as well.

Well, I can't be held responsible for what THN's depth chart spits out. We don't even know if Tavares will play primarily at center in his rookie year. Much of these things are to be determined through the trial and error of rebuilding.

But Okposo's "growing his game" part? That's to do with that whole rebuilding thing. And Bergenheim's "four leagues?" See, this is where the whole "out of the loop" aspect comes into play. There were contractual, agent, and ownership reasons for this (it's a long story but one all Isles fans know). But if you watched Bergenheim's season last year, you'd see his game is indeed progressing rapidly. You'd also know the Isles don't really have a first-line left wing, but there aren't really attractive options out there that fit the rebuild.

What’s more, neither winger has the physical presence to discourage, say, Colin White or Brooks Orpik from giving Tavares a mouthful of composite stick... (which means defensemen Brendan Witt and Andy Sutton will be on high alert most of the season).

Yes. But suppose the Islanders had brought in a Donald Brashear or Colton Orr: Would you really expect them to play on Tavares' wing, or would they take up meaningless fourth-line minutes while occasionally doling out the NHL's rehearsed version of theatric bullfighting crossed with WWE every time someone "disrespected" a young Islander? Whether it's Joel Rechlicz or an import, the Islanders enforcers this year won't be lining up with JT except at the end of 5-1 games -- which means blueliners like Witt and Sutton will be needed and, yes, actually on the ice with JT.

Perhaps the quiet plan is to be really bad again this year.

Um, not in so many words, but ... well ... YES. DUH! As outlined last summer, Garth Snow has determined that on a limited budget and zero free agent appeal ("worst facility in the league"), the Islanders are rebuilding from the ground up. It's not actually "quiet" and it doesn't mean outright tanking this season for a second #1 pick -- but it sure doesn't mean hijacking the rebuild for a few short-term fixes like the 8th-seed-and-out Islanders of the 2000s. We've been there, done that.

Does New York fancy itself as Pittsburgh (slightly) North? The Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks have both proven lately that the bad-to-great road works, but the depth just isn’t there yet on Long Island.

See, this is why we do Petty Pedantry. This is the inspiration: "The Pens and Hawks have both proven lately that the bad-to-great road works" -- AFTER SEVERAL YEARS OF SUCKING! So, we can say: OF COURSE "the depth isn't there yet!" It took Chicago how many years to pull its head out of its hawk? And Crosby's rookie year sure was a banner year for the Penguins, wasn't it?

And it's not like the Islanders have been stinking for years, either. Three years ago, they were a playoff team. Two years ago, they were a playoff bubble team until an injury took out their franchise goalie and forced a reality check. The following summer, the change from short-term fixes (which created playoff bubbles) to sincere rebuild was begun, which led to last year's injury-and-kid-fuelled last-place finish.

For Tavares’ sake, I hope Snow isn’t finished this summer. Alex Tanguay, Maxim Afinogenov and Vaclav Prospal are all still out there and the Isles have loads of salary cap space.

That is quite the range on the menu there, eh? A second-tier star who would help, a guy no one wanted on waivers, and a guy just bought out by Tampa Bay? Any would help marginally, but would they provide the depth needed to ... to what is it we're chasing this season again?

If not, start ordering your Taylor Hall Islanders jersey now.

Oh right, that's it. Yes, we should be so lucky.

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