Toronto Maple Leafs: Criticism towards John Tavares confusing

In just his second season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, John Tavares has been getting some criticism and it’s tough to understand why.

When July 1, 2018 came around there was no telling what was in store for the Toronto Maple Leafs, that was until this announcement was made.

The bombshell was a big one for many reasons as the Leafs drastically improved at a crucial position and made one of the biggest free-agent signings in recent memory. In his first season in Toronto, John Tavares scored a career-high 47 goals (his first with more than 40) and he had 88 points which also set a new personal best.

This season, Tavares was forced to miss time with a broken hand but despite that, he is on pace for 31 goals in 75 games. Now with the NHL season on pause, the Leafs captain is making sure people are playing their part in following the guidelines set out by the government. 

Lately, it seems like there has been a lot of criticism thrown towards Tavares which started with some in the media questioning whether he should have been named captain. When the debate of who should be named captain was happening, there weren’t many opposing the idea of giving Tavares the
“C” but now there appears to be a problem.

It’s easy to forget that Auston Matthews was the frontrunner for most until his incident last off-season and other than him, Morgan Rielly was the only other that was being given serious consideration. It probably would not have been a wrong choice to make Rielly captain either way but it’s tough to say Tavares wasn’t the right choice either.

Now with COVID-19 taking away the ability to watch games, there was a video posted by TSN looking at where the Leafs “rebuild veer off path?” and you can guess where that conversation went. In fairness to Craig Button, his reasoning is sound logic because the Leafs didn’t need to add more offence.

Here is the thing, the Leafs were in a position to improve their strength down the middle at a time where acquiring a centre of Tavares’ calibre would cost a lot on the trade market or would need a top-10 pick in the draft. It’s hard to blame the team for seeing the opportunity in front of them and he’s delivered when asked.

Could the Leafs have used the cap space to sign some defencemen, yes they could have but what options were available?

Based on The Hockey News’ 2018 free agency class ranking Mike Green was the top available option on the board. The options then go down to Calvin De Haan, Ian Cole, John Moore, Jack Johnson and Roman Polak.

If there was a defenceman with the same pedigree of Tavares available the Leaf would have probably made it a point to try and sign them but that’s not the reality they had to work with. As seen with trades for Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie, the Leafs have tried to improve the blue line but of course, they have limited space with the salary cap.

Button would go on to say that by giving Tavares $11 million it set the bar for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner but that wasn’t the only reason why both players asked for that number. Players like Connor McDavid (I know you shouldn’t use him as a comparison), Jack Eichel, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Anze Kopitar set the bar for elite players to get more than $10 million a season so it shouldn’t just be on Tavares to “should the blame,” as it’s being suggested.

When it comes to his play on the ice, you can see it in his effort that Tavares wants the team to succeed and it’s apparent with other players in the league that play against him.

No player should be free of criticism but there has to be fairness when dishing out that criticism too. At this point, if people think Tavares is the Leafs problem then they should be pointing out how his play on the ice has been inadequate, but that hasn’t been the case.

Next: Brendan Shanahan provides thoughts on team’s performance

What do you think about the criticism being dished out about Tavares? Is it fair or justified? Let us know in the comments below. 

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