When New York Islanders’ star forward John Tavares left the game against Latvia early during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics due to a knee injury, every Islanders fan everywhere winced with pain.
With the news that Tavares will be out for the season due to a partially torn MCL in his knee, things just got even worse for the Islanders and their fans. The silver lining in the situation is that Tavares’ injury will not require surgery, and that the injury will create no foreseeable setbacks that will affect Tavares next season or any time after that.
But now back to the situation at hand: the remainder of the Islanders’ current season. At least for now, it seems as if the Islanders have taken after the Tampa Bay Lightning after their superstar Steven Stamkos was ruled out with a leg injury, winning their first game back after the Olympic break and showing that no Tavares is no problem for the Islanders.
In a closely fought battle against the currently playoff-bound Toronto Maple Leafs, the Islanders were able to sneak out with an overtime win without their superstar forward, who is also their leading scorer this season.
With Tavares out, many of the Islanders other important forwards will have to step up if the team hopes to finish out the season strongly, and not end up embarrassing themselves and the organization. Now crucial players like Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo will have to step up their game to even higher levels than they have been playing if the Islanders will have any hope of finishing the season with a respectable record.
Okposo now needs to fill the role that the Tavares injury leaves vacant, stepping in as not only the team’s new leading scorer, but also as the leader of the team in Tavares’ absence. With his recent motivation after being snubbed by Team USA by not being placed on the Olympic roster, and his new appointment to unofficial interim captain in the wake of Tavares’ injury, Okposo is poised to raise the level of his game and fill Tavares’ shoes in his absence.
Grabner already showed that he is capable of improving his game to fill the gap left by the injury as he had two goals and six shots on goal tonight against Toronto.
While the Islanders are still nothing short of a miracle from making the playoffs, and the Tavares injury all but eliminates them from the extremely slim chances they had to do so, the Islanders are still playing for pride and are attempting to avoid embarrassment as the worst team in the league.
While the Islanders have had a rough season this year, there is always next year. With Tavares’ return next year and a solid addition of offseason acquisitions through the draft and free agency, the Islanders can prepare to be a major contender next season.
But at least for now, even though it is only one game into the season without Tavares, the Islanders don’t seem to be missing their captain that much yet.