After suffering an oblique injury in training camp, John Tavares was given a three-week recovery timeline. That suggested he would miss the first few games of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, leading to several questions about who would step into the top-six role in his absence. Now, just two weeks later, the Maple Leafs captain is expected to be ready for tomorrow’s opener after all, telling reporters including Mark Masters of TSN that he is excited to be there “right off the get-go.”
It’s a big season for Toronto after being knocked out of the first round once again, and Tavares’ health will be a key factor in their success. The 32-year-old suffered a scary concussion and knee injury in the team’s playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens in 2021 and missed a good chunk of his offseason preparation because of it.
While he still managed 27 goals and 76 points during the following season, many critiqued his play and pointed to Tavares’ $11MM cap hit as one of the biggest challenges the Maple Leafs face when trying to exorcise their playoff demons. It was a generally healthy offseason for the veteran forward until this injury, so it will be interesting to see if his play will be improved at all, or whether this recent setback will have any ill effects.
Either way, with him in the lineup, things look a bit more natural for the Toronto forward group, with Alexander Kerfoot in the third-line pivot role and David Kampf centering Zach Aston-Reese and Nicolas Aube-Kubel on the fourth.