Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tavares will get his respect this season!

Even though this blog will tend to be Canuck centric as that's the main team I follow and the main team I care about, I am also a huge fan of the NHL in general. One of my favorite things about being a hockey fan is being able to follow a player from his youth all the way through his professional career. A few of these such players include Evander Kane (who I actually named a species of sunflower I bred this summer after... I'm sure wherever Evander is, he's comforted to know there's a sunflower named after him) Varlamov, Schroeder, Hedman, Duchene, and a number of others. However the number one player who excites me this season has to be John Tavares.

John Tavares has been a hockey prodigy his entire life. However his body and his skating not being prepared for the NHL last season. He only got 54 points last season (because that's considered mediocre now for an 18 year old kid...) and the buzz in the hockey world last season was largely about Matt Duchene. Also it doesn't help that Islander fans are the most cynical people on the face of the earth, and through years of having a front office seemingly conceived in Hunter Thompson's imagination are afraid to express any kind of optimistic thought.

However I think people are vastly underrating John Tavares. The amount of disrespect he gets amongst the league's fans is staggering, especially since his campaign on the Island last season was exceptional. In the games I watched of John Tavares this past season, I saw a kid who has borderline miraculous hockey intelligence. Each game Tavares seemed to have 2 or 3 perfect blind passes into the slot to a winger who inevitably whiffed or fouled up the gift wrapped pass. You also have to consider that Tavares had absolutely no support last season. Tavares was first in scoring on his team with 54 points with a 20 year old Kyle Okposo behind him at 52,  defenseman Mark Streit in third place with 49 points (seriously, start the letter writer campaigns now to declare Streit the most underrated player in the league) and Matt Moulson (an AHL journeymen turned Taylor Pyatt) with 48. Just for a frame of reference, in Sidney Crosby's first year he had Mark Recchi, John LeClair, Ryan Malone, and Zigmund Palffy. I think the case could be argued that there isn't a former 1st round pick in the last decade who's come to a team and had to play with less talent than John Tavares. Also Tavares was expected to carry the Islanders last season while most prospects are eased into the line up.

I am buying NHL Center Ice this season for a lot of reasons, and that's a rhyme. One of the main reasons is I want to see Tavares progress this year. From game one to game eighty-two, it should be a heck of a roller coaster ride for hockey fans. There's something really special going on in Long Island with this kid, however a lot of hockey fans are missing out on it.

My take on Tavares

John Tavares's playing style reminds me of a hockey jedi. His hockey vision and IQ is insane. He's capable of three or four beautiful passes a game. His ability to score in close is second to none among even established vets. The one thing that's concerning about Tavares's game is that he seems to only be comfortable scoring from one spot in close on the net. This is something that got him a lot of punishment last season (by game 30 teams were out right gooning him which was a significant contributor to his mid-season slump) and also was easy to stop once teams figured this out. However they say it's much easier to teach a guy who plays in close the permitter game rather than vice versa. I would project Tavares to have 30-40-70 this season and probably in all likelihood a -10. I also expect him to take a significant leap in his physical development and skating.

Also if anyone out there has any articles or info on what training Tavares is doing this off-season, let me know. I've been looking for info but can't find it.

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