I like John Tavares as a player. Yes, his contract might be too high for what he produces, but he does produce. Over the five seasons he’s been with the team, he’s close (only six points below) a point-a-game pace.

The question I’ve been thinking about is how to help Tavares continue to produce. He has two more seasons remaining on his current contract. How can the Maple Leafs help him continue the kind of production that he’s had since he came to the team?


Ways to Help Tavares Continue to Produce Near a Point a Game

Here are six ways I believe the Maple Leafs can help Tavares continue his solid production:

Way One: Optimize Line Combinations

The Maple Leafs should strategically pair Tavares with players who can complement his playing style. He’s good at what he does. How can he be placed in the most advantageous position?

John Tavares, Maple Leafs

He would benefit from playing with a skilled passer like Mitch Marner. He’d also benefit from partnering with a strong forechecker. Finding the right linemates who can generate scoring opportunities for Tavares will enhance his offensive output.

Way Two: Increase but balance his ice time

Like all regular players, giving Tavares consistent ice time throughout the season would allow him to find his rhythm and build momentum. While this has never been an issue with the Maple Leafs thus far in his career, the team needs to avoid significant fluctuations in his playing time. He needs to maintain a consistent time on ice to have a consistent level of production.

Way Three: Utilize Tavares’ ability in front of the net

Tavares is known for his ability to create offence in front of the net. He has elite hand/eye coordination. And, he’s fearless. The team should capitalize on this strength by involving him in net-front plays and power plays. He would be able to generate scoring chances by creating screens and jumping on deflections.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Spezza, Kessel, Gio & Lucic

Way Four: Enhance Tavares’ defensive support

Although Tavares is not known for his defensive prowess, he’s also not a slouch either. The team could provide him with a strong defensive partner who could give him support from other forwards. That could help open his game up as well as help alleviate his defensive responsibilities. Allowing Tavares to focus more on his offensive game will help his offensive game.

Way Five: Improve the overall team depth

In many ways, the Maple Leafs are a high-scoring top six, with low-scoring depth players. Bolstering the team’s overall depth could create a more balanced roster and reduce the burden on Tavares to carry a heavy offensive load. In other words, if the opponent’s defence were deployed more against the Maple Leafs’ third line (for example) Tavares might become freer to have more offensive chances.

Adding skilled depth players who can score would create more scoring chances for Tavares on the team’s second line.

Way Six: Help Tavares maintain fresh legs

A tricky part is to give Tavares more ice time while giving him less ice time. It seems confusing. However, there would be times when managing Tavares’ ice time effectively might mean shaving minutes off his workload. I can see the coaching staff, if a game is out of reach either way, give Tavares some time off the ice.

John Tavares & William Nylander, Maple Leafs

Rests, even during games, during the regular season could help keep him stay fresh for the playoffs. This approach can prevent fatigue and increase his performance when it matters most.

Way Seven: Continual player development

If you’re an “old guy” as Tavares is, one way to juice up his game would be to partner him with young and upcoming stars. Working with a player such as Matthew Knies, for example, could also give Tavares some speed on his line that could help him compensate for his own declining speed, but could help him gain energy from Knies’ own energetic play.

I can see (and would encourage) the Maple Leafs to focus on asking Tavares to help develop the organization’s younger stars. That, in a way, would also help Tavares improve his own skills, skating, and versatility.

The Bottom Line

By implementing these seven strategies, I believe the Maple Leafs could help create an environment that would maximize Tavares’ strengths, enhance his offensive production, and contribute to the overall success of the team.

He remains a key player on this team – aging or not.

Related: Milan Lucic Signing with the Maple Leafs: Yes or No?

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