John Tavares and his $11 million AAV have been a topic of conversation since he entered the final years of his long-term contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Fair or not, critics pointed to that high salary concerning his production, even though he has been a straight-line, point-a-game producer ever since he entered the NHL. He has continued that pace since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The naysayers would say it was only a matter of time until the inevitable decline in production. Before the All-Star break, it appeared that time had arrived.
Tavares went through a ten-game goalless drought, with only a single assist, before finally scoring against the Winnipeg Jets. His production projected to be the worst since his rookie season. Though it must be noted that both he and line-mate Tyler Bertuzzi are putting up strong numbers that point to a lot of bad luck when it comes to scoring.
John Tavares Resurgence Is a Welcome Sign For The Toronto Maple Leafs
That goal against the Jets injected some much-needed confidence into Tavares and gave him the luxury of not having a prolonged slump on his mind during the team's hiatus.
The break served Tavares well. In the Leafs first game back against his former team, the New York Islanders, he scored a power-play goal and added an assist.
Then, Tavares added another power-play goal and two assists in the Leafs 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars.
The most encouraging part for the Leafs was Tavares' effort on a beautiful spinorama assist on William Nylander's second goal of the game. It turned out to be the game-winning goal. Also, it came during 5 vs 5 play.
The 5v5 of Tavares has been an ongoing source of contention.
Tavares Playing Second-Line Center is the Leafs Best Option
The Leafs signed Tavares as a free agent with the intention of him playing center on the second line. His foot speed has always been a concern, but experimenting with Nylander or Mitch Marner in the middle reeks of desperation.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe experimented with Nylander at center earlier in the year but has rightfully decided that right wing is his best spot.
Both Nylander and Marner have yet to prove they can handle full-time duty at center. Besides, they are each among the top wingers in the NHL, so why mess with a good thing?
When the Leafs had Ryan O'Reilly for the second half of last season, it made more sense for Tavares to spend some time on the wing. Now, the Leafs don't have that luxury.
The acquisition of a second-line center at the trade deadline is unlikely. The Leafs best hope is that Tavares can defy Father Time and give them the production they need.