Leafs captain John Tavares
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Leafs make shocking decision regarding captain John Tavares

Published February 21, 2024 at 2:02 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs are preparing for a clash with the Arizona Coyotes tonight at Mullett Arena in Arizona and if today's line combinations at practice are any indication, we have some pretty big news to announce.

Not only does it appear as though Ryan Reaves is coming out of the lineup in favour of the speedy Noah Gregor on the 4th line, but it would also appear as though Leafs captain John Tavares has been demoted. Rather than playing in his usual spot as 2nd line center, Tavares was taking rushes on the 3rd line at practice today between Bobby McMann and Nick Robertson, while Max Domi took over 2C duties next to Tyler Bertuzzi and William Nylander

Tavares has struggled mightily this season, showing undeniable signs of a pretty steep decline in his age-33 season, managing just 15 goals and 40 points in 52 games, a pace well below his career average. At this point, with less than 30 games remaining in the season, it seems highly unlikely that he'll finish at or near a point per game.

The Leafs also appear to be giving Marshall Rifai another go on the blueline as well, as Rifai continued to skate on the 3rd pair with Maxime Lajoie. Rifai had an impressive NHL debut against St. Louis on Monday afternoon, with Sheldon Keefe singing the 25-year-old undrafted blueliner's praises, stating that he skated well, managed the puck well and didn't make any glaring mistakes.

The top two pairs saw no changes, with T.J. Brodie remaining on the top pair with Timothy Liljegren. The team's 2nd pair of Simon Benoit and Jake McCabe also remained together.

The Leafs have gone 4-0-0 without Morgan Rielly in the lineup while he serves his 5-game suspension. A win tonight would keep the Leafs perfect with Rielly sidelined before they head to Vegas and Colorado to close out their road trip before returning home to host Vegas again on February 27th.
February 21   |   686 answers
Leafs make shocking decision regarding captain John Tavares

How many points will John Tavares finish this season with?

45-5021931.9 %
51-5519929 %
56-6026839.1 %
61-7000 %
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