John Tavares has always been metaphorically married to hockey, but after proposing to longtime girlfriend Aryne this month, the Isles captain is ready to add another love to his life.
Tavares said today in an interview with NewYorkIslanders.com that the proposal was the highlight of his summer, along with travelling through California with his now fiancé. Surrounding those highlights was rehabbing injuries and now training for the 2017-18 campaign. With about a month left to go in the offseason, NewYorkIslanders.com caught up with the Islanders captain to talk about his recovery, the addition of Jordan Eberle and more.
TAVARES ON RECOVERING FROM HIS INJURY:
Tavares' season ended prematurely, as he suffered a hamstring injury on March 31 vs the New Jersey Devils. It's not a typical hockey injury, so the methodical captain took his recovery slowly and diligently - about six weeks - and said he's back to feeling 100% healthy.
"Even though it's not a common hockey injury, it caused a pretty traumatic type of injury," Tavares said. "I just took things slow and even since then there's been a lot of emphasis on treatment and strengthening the muscle. It's healed really well and I've been able to be full go for quite a while - since about the end of May."
Tavares also underwent successful thumb surgery, addressing an injury that had lingered for a couple of years, but was re-aggravated this season. That too, is in Tavares' rearview.
"I've had a lot of time to get healthy and get back to 100 per cent. So yeah, I feel good," he said.
TAVARES ON THE ACQUISITION OF JORDAN EBERLE:
Personally, becoming a fiancé is the biggest development in Tavares' life.
Professionally, it may be the Islanders acquisition of Jordan Eberle.
Eberle is expected to start the season alongside Tavares on the Islanders top line. The two friends have a relationship dating back to the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship, where they won a gold medal with Team Canada and combined for 28 points. They also played together at the 2010, 2011 and 2012 World Championships and it's likely the Islanders will try to rekindle the chemistry between them.
"We know each other pretty well and have had some success playing together for Team Canada," Tavares said. "I'm excited to have him, he's obviously a very good hockey player with tremendous ability around the net, great hands and great hockey sense. He is proven as well and has done it for many years so I know he's excited about coming in and being an impact player for us."
Tavares said Eberle's impact could be most realized on the Islanders power play, which finished 28th in the NHL last season.
"His skill sets are really strong. His ability to make plays and obviously he has a great touch around the net, so he'll be a great asset to our power play which obviously struggled this past year and let us down," Tavares said.
Video: Jordan Eberle Highlights
ON TEAM CHEMISTRY/CONTINUITY AND THE START OF THE SEASON:
The Islanders missed the playoffs by one point last season and the lesson Tavares took from the experience was how important the start of the season was. The Islanders had the second-best record in the NHL after Jan. 19 (24-12-4), but it was not enough to overcome a sluggish start.
"As a group I thought we had the personalities to do a little better job coming out of the gate, but for whatever reason we didn't," Tavares said. "It is what it is and I think all of us learned from it and realized how important the start is, how we can't let things get away from you and how much effort and energy it takes to get back into it."
Tavares said a few factors may have contributed, from him missing most of training camp to play in the World Cup of Hockey (four other Islanders were also at the tournament) to turnover on the roster. There is more continuity heading into this season for the forward corps, so Tavares hopes that will translate to a better start.
"Some of the new guys from last year should feel more comfortable and really good about where things are heading into the season," Tavares said. "Obviously getting Jordan to fit in and anyone else who is coming in, whether it's some of our young guys or whatever else happens this offseason to come in and fit in with the team and get off on the right foot."
Video: Tavares stick trick leads to unbelievable goal
ON LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT SEASON
Tavares knows that the Islanders second-half surge doesn't automatically carry into the next season, but the captain did see the team's potential. That potential - and just getting back on the ice for a new season - has Tavares itching to drop the puck.
"It gives you a sense of your potential and the level we can play at and I still think we feel we can be a lot better," Tavares said. "It obviously was a great sign, but at the same time it doesn't mean much to start the year being a fresh season, we have to prove it once again and come together once again and we're going to have some more new faces this year. It's a great opportunity really to do something special and that's what we want."
"We have some good young blood wanting to be a part of that too," Tavares added. "Having that is just really exciting. For me it's just about that journey and us coming together and wanting to achieve that ultimate goal and that's what drives us all. We believe it in that locker room.
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