Greg Wyshynski, senior NHL writer: you will find few hockey things I would love to see greater than the resurgence of the New York Islanders as a Stanley Cup competition, whom I’ve said are poised to possess a Chicago Blackhawks-degree domestic nostalgic love-fest. Conversely, you’ll find not very many hockey things I would love to see more than the continuing Chicago Cubs-level drought of the Toronto Maple Leafs, as divergent forces of entitlement and futility bring balance to the center of the hockey world.

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While the Islanders might just grow, I’ve regrettably become convinced that using Brendan Shanahan along with Kyle Dubas guiding Toronto, it’s just a question of time until we visit John Tavares enhance the Cup for the Maple Leafs. I’d state it happens over another few years.

Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: I have confidence in Barry Trotz’s ability to morph a raw group to a tasteful (and defensively responsible) unit. I know Lou Lamoriello’s history of building contenders. I like watching Mathew Barzal, a person who looks like he was built from the EA Sports lab. I also understand the Islanders have a deep pipeline of ability to support him.

But when you really seen that the Maple Leafs play with this season? New York is going to arrive, however it’s going to require some time. They possess the gaudiest forwards group at the group, a goaltender in Frederik Andersen that’s able, and also the urgency of impending salary cap hell to have it done soon. The Islanders could win over the decade. Toronto should win in the next 2 to 3 years.

Dimitri Filipovic, hockey analytics writer: that I know it’s en vogue to lookahead to Toronto’s impending financial situation and wonder how they’ll can produce each one the pieces fit under the salary cap, however it is vital to remember that is ultimately a pretty nice problem to have. The reason that is even a discussion in the first place is because they happen to be blessed with numerous young pieces which are going to be bringing in their big paydays.

Needing to potentially proceed throughout the Bruins and Lightning in successive rounds merely to reach the East finals looms being an awfully tall job, but if anyone gets got the fire power to blast through this road block, it’s them. They have a goalie which will likely be considered a Vezina Trophy finalist, a defenseman in Morgan Rielly that’s making a powerful case for a Norris Trophy finalist, three officially potent scoring lines they are able to roll out without even concern and perhaps one of the most lethal power plays in the league. That is a significant formula for success. Purely because of closeness to controversy from today’s the Leafs need to become the answer here.

There is grounds legions of”Good Ontario Boys” have decided never to go back home to play the Leafs. The expectations will be higher than the CN Tower, specially when one signs that a $77 million contract. The pressure may be devastating. Friends and family are constantly bugging you to get stuff. He is on the right course for 56 aims, that would blow away his previous career best of 38. He has turned into a point-per-game player double in his career until when playing 80 matches; it would have been a stunner if he didn’t crack that ceiling if he plays with 80 in 2013. Better than advertised.

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Kaplan: When you’re a forwards with a max contract, then you’re likely to put up league-leading numbers. Entering the Christmas break, only Alex Ovechkin along with Jeff Skinner had scored more goals than Tavares’ 24, and Tavares added two more on Friday night.

But Tavares is surpassing expectations because he’s making everyone else around him too. Mitch Marner went from ascending gift to a surely multimillion-dollar man by playing Tavares (Marner is the only Maple Leafs player ever to possess 50 points before Christmas). Tavares has shouldered social media scrutiny (and initial flurry of speculation regarding the captaincy) with elegance. He also helped this staff degree up. That message has been definitely received.”

Filipovic: He is currently on pace for 56 aims and 95 points, both which would easily develop into brand new career bests. All his per-minute metrics have seen a significant uptick too, indicating he is doing more with less, atleast in regards to usage, though perhaps not fundamentally centered on the grade of his teammates. The fit along side Marner has been a match made in heaven, with the 2 immediately with transported the Leafs’ crime to a larger degree than has been expected because of Auston Matthews‘ injury and William Nylander‘s hold out. Contemplating Marner probably the very talented pure play maker he’s had in his wing regular, it is not all that surprising that Tavares is accumulating the goal totals he is. He has personally directly place up 12 of Tavares’ 1 9 5-on-5 goals and 16 of his 26 total tallies. That shouldn’t reduce Tavares’ human performance, however, because he’s been every bit as effective as advertised.

Sachin Chandan, ESPN The Magazine writer Tavares has surpassed expectations, because he’s on pace for his very best season. In case he can score 56 aims, as Greg cites, it would be second-highest single-season total in Leafs history. He has scored or assisted by 30 per cent of most Leafs goals, leads the NHL in 5-on-5 targets and can be averaging 3.71 shots a match, the highest rate of his career. His presence has raised team-mates Marner, who has assisted on 16 of Tavares’ 26 aims, and defenseman Morgan Rielly, who has assisted on 10. His shooting percentage is abnormally high, but at 18.4 per cent, so there should be a small regression. Tavares’ heritage will be associated with how late he plays into June, but for now he resembles the offensive engine Toronto wanted.

Wyshynski: Tough question. I’m convinced in Barry Trotz and his merry group of coaches getting the best out of whatever group is awarded to them. I’m not as convinced in Lou Lamoriello circa 2018 developing a tangible winner with absolute liberty as opposed to being in a brain trust like in Toronto. As it sounds, this particular Islanders team feels gutted, built around a franchise player that is no more with the franchise. But there’s a ton of help on the way via their potential pipeline. I figure in the long run I would say”more convinced,” but that is only because the very first feeling of devastation has escalated.

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Kaplan: I’d doubts about the 2018-19 Islanders, especially when it appeared to be Lamoriello could have lost his mind that night and signed up every available fourth-line center on the industry. But nearing the halfway mark of the season, those Islanders have left me feel ridiculous. But the defense is therefore much less leaky under Trotz (they’ve allowed, on average, roughly one less goal per game), and also the heart had been more self-sufficient than that gave them credit for. They’ll certainly be okay afterall.

Filipovic: They’ve certainly been a lot better than we had some reason to believe they had be prior to the summer, dependent on the summer they’d. Together with Trotz behind the seat, they’ve completely tightened things up after a year from hell inside their own zone last season. The combination of the top flight goaltending they’ve received from the combination of Thomas Greiss along with Robin Lehner at the very least gives them an opportunity to compete every night.

With that said, I’m perhaps not ultimately certain how much that gets these in the short-to-medium term. The system and structure being integrated are one thing, however until they’ve better ability sprinkled throughout the line up, there’s only so much they are able to do with it. It’s not completely sour grapes to claim that they dodged a bullet not needing to pay Tavares $11 million each season well into his 30s, but they’ll still need to eventually discover a solution to restore that talent that walked outside the doorway. The fantastic news is they a) drafted remarkably well past summer and also have a few intriguing prospects in route , b) have financial flexibility to get creative with and potentially earn a splash this summer, and also c) achieved a hell of a project of saving face and not completely cratering like most expected they would later being abandoned at the altar by Tavares. In general, it’s hard to observe the first few months of life without John Tavares as anything besides carefully encouraging. But there’s still lots of work to be achieved until this caveat may be raised together with no real confidence.

Chandan: My optimism in the Islanders is much more about Trotz, whose teams have a tendency to become defensively stout. The Islanders quit the most goals past season; in 2013, they’ve surrendered the second fewest. While Greiss and Lehner might be playing unsustainably well in goal, it’s apparent that this team has addressed it’s biggest weakness. They can take the following step forward the next season, since they comprise five prospects inside our top100 list, and endeavor to possess $31 million in cap space for 2019-20. Unsurprisingly, their biggest requirement will soon be a top goalscorer.


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