The Leafs need to better plan around Tavares' decline next season

Michael Sukut
May 12, 2024  (3:05 PM)

John Tavares
Photo credit: Sportsnet

John Tavares has enjoyed some big moments with the Maple Leafs, but when it comes to the playoffs, the Leafs' captain has been a bit of a mixed bag.

His series clinching goal against Tampa in last year's playoffs ended a 19-year drought, sending the Leafs to Round 2 for the first time since 2004. Similarly, the Islanders went more than two decades without winning a playoff series before John Tavares sent them to the second-round in 2016.
Still, with some big moments for the memory bank, for a player of Tavares' caliber, he has failed to get it done in the playoffs, scoring just 23 goals and 23 assists for 46 points across 62 playoff games. That is enough for a 0.74 points-per-game in the postseason.
Another alarming stat has the current Maple Leafs captain as a -14 in the plus/minus category collectively across those 62 games. He's a collective -9 in 38 postseason games with the Leafs.
There are five skaters and a goalie on the ice, plus a slew of off-ice personnel that affect the team. Plus-minus may not be the best reflection of one player's performance.
The Islanders went 1-3 in playoff series' during Tavares' tenure. The Maple Leafs have only won one of six playoff series' since they acquired number 91. Whether or not it is all on him as the team's captain is up for debate.
The 33-year-old has one year left on his $77 million contract, which carries an $11M cap hit.
Tavares is running out of time to win a Stanley Cup. He's going to be 34 next season and once you start to get into that mid-30's range, the reality and the gravity of it all begins to sink in. Perhaps that's why he opted to join Team Canada for the IIHF World Championship tournament in Prague, which is currently ongoing.
He registered a powerplay assist in Canada 5-1 win against Denmark earlier today.

Will John Tavares be back with the Leafs next season?

Tavares had previously refused to waive his NMC in his final year with the Islanders, so it's probable that he'd refuse to waive his NMC if requested by the Leafs. It's his contractual right to do so and I think everyone understands that.
The Leafs are going to need to take a step back here and re-evaluate how they're utilizing an aging Tavares and how much responsibility they're placing on his shoulders. It's clear that he's not the guy who is going to step in and take over a game anymore, even if he is prone to rise to the occasion in some very big moments.
At this point, with the veteran showing clear signs of a decline, the Leafs need to begin planning for life after Tavares, so scaling back how much they rely on the captain and adjusting his role next season will be important.
12 MAI   |   1058 ANSWERS
The Leafs need to better plan around Tavares' decline next season

Will John Tavares re-sign with the Leafs on a massive hometown discount?

Yes58255 %
No26825.3 %
He'll stay, but not on a huge discount20819.7 %
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