Going into the season, there was much expected from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the last two seasons, the team had made big strides. They made the playoffs both seasons, they had a young and extremely talented offense, and finally had a goaltender that could help take the team to the next level.
Furthermore, the club went out and signed unrestricted and the most coveted free agent on the market in John Tavares in the offseason. It was pretty clear from the start that the Leafs wanted this guy badly and that they would stop at nothing to get him as they signed him to a seven-year, $77 million contract.
Once acquired, expectations were raised further on both Tavares and the Leafs. In Tavares, the Leafs now had someone who could produce, be a game changer, provide leadership, and be someone who could do it all for this hockey team.
Well, let’s just say that Tavares is doing all that and more. Tavares’s strong play has his team second in the Atlantic Division with 58 points and as the fourth best team in the entire NHL.
For Tavares, it starts with production. When he was a New York Islander, Tavares was a big point producer as he had seasons of 54, 67, 81, 47 (strike-shortened season), 66, 86, 70, 66, and 84 points in his career with the franchise.
Fast forward to this season and he is once again have a fine offensive season. Tavares has 50 points (29 goals and 21 assists), which puts him second on the team behind Mitch Marner’s 57 points.
It is clear that Tavares is on track to finish the season where he normally does in terms of points. This is guy who constantly puts up between 65-90 points and come the end of the season, he may even eclipse those totals.
Secondly, Tavares has come through in the clutch for this team just as much as he did with the Islanders. He currently leads the team with five game-winning goals and when the game is on the line, he seems to be the guy that always comes up big.
Lastly, Tavares has made guys around him better. You see players like Marner, Auston Matthews (39 points) and Kasperi Kapanen (25 points) putting up solid numbers and a lot of that has to do with Tavares.
Tavares is the kind of player who knows where everyone on his line is going to be. Being that he is surrounded by an extremely talented offense, it’s easy to see why Tavares is putting up the points that he is right now.
At 28 years of age, Tavares is still in the prime of his career, which means that he has many more years to keep up this kind of production and hit career milestones. In fact, in his team’s 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, he scored his 300th career goal and now has 671 career points in 712 games.
There is still a lot of hockey left to be played so obviously, a lot can happen between now and April. With that said, with the way both Tavares and his team are playing, the Cup seems like a realistic goal for what seems like ages.
For Tavares, a Cup would only cement the fact that he is one of the best players in the game and that the Leafs were right to sign him to his favorite hockey team growing up.