John Tavares speaks with reporters
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John Tavares responds to being benched by Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe

Published January 16, 2024 at 6:40 PM

It hasn't happened all too often during John Tavares' illustrious career, however in their 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, Sheldon Keefe benched the captain as he was limited to just 3 shifts for a grand total of 3:18 in the final frame of regulation.

The Maple Leafs blew an early 3-0 lead by allowing the next 5 goals to the vaunted Avalanche offense. Keefe reiterated that he benched Tavares because his play wasn't good enough and the captain has finally spoken up about the incident:

"You control what you can control and be ready to go out there and execute," Tavares said of Keefe's move on Tuesday as he and the Leafs await a meeting with the Oilers at Rogers Place in Edmonton. "In a situation like that, [you're] just trying to be external as well and encouraging your teammates and be supportive and making sure you are ready for when your name is called."

As expected, Tavares took the shocking move to the chin and understood that while he wasn't playing his best brand of hockey, he still had to be. A good role model and teammate as the Leafs tried to mount a comeback. He did return the following night against Detroit but played with Tyler Bertuzzi and Calle Janrkrok, marking it as the first time he had not skated with either Mitch Marner or William Nylander.

After the disappointing weekend set that saw the Maple Leafs drop both games in excruciating fashion, Tavares has returned back to his top-6 spot alongside Nylander and rookie Matthew Knies as the club looks to snap its 3-game losing streak against the red-hot Edmonton Oilers who have won their previous 10.

Tavares has struggled of late as he has just 3 goals and 5 points in his last 13 games - a stretch where the Leafs have gone 5-6-2 - and going further back, the captain only has 15 points in his last 25 games, which is a far cry from his usual near-point-per-game pace. He currently has 12 goals and 34 points, which would put him on pace for one of his worst statistical seasons of his career.

"Sometimes maybe pucks aren't bouncing or going in at the rate you'd like," Tavares said. "Big picture, there's a lot of things to my game that if you do have an off night you just focus on getting back at it and what's brought you success. Just continue to be relied upon in all areas of the game and influence the game the right way for our group," Tavares said. "As the captain you want to set that standard and understand that the details have to be there. Just continue to do good things and good process and over time, things will start to turn your way."

At the very least, his attitude has not wavered, which is a good sign that the 33-year-old is still in high spirits. He will look to not only snap out of his own funk but get the Maple Leafs back on track as they face a daunting schedule to end the month of January.

January 16   |   1220 answers
John Tavares responds to being benched by Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe

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