Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares will be sidelined for a minimum of two weeks following an unfortunate finger injury late in Wednesdays 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals.
The news came at an inconvenient time for Toronto, as they approach a tough stretch of games, over the next two weeks. After a shaky start to the season, Tavares settled in nicely as team captain, finding himself seven points in eight games, leaving a significant void to fill in the Leafs line up. Thanks to incredible drafting and developing, Toronto has options throughout the depth of their lineup to help salvage this massive loss.
For starters, they have a veteran player who has sat five of eight games so far this season; Jason Spezza, who is now well-rested and ready for the opportunity to play with skilled wingers (finally) should look to slide in on the third line in a more offensive role. Secondly, they have a versatile Swedish winger who was drafted as a centerman way back in 2014 who has played the role sparingly, when needed throughout his career. Lastly, we can’t forget about newly acquired Alex Kerfoot, who has experience playing on the wing and at center, in a top-six role.
If Tavares is out for two weeks, the line-up should look something like this
Johnsson – Matthews – Nylander
Mikheyev – Kerfoot – Marner
Moore – Spezza – Kapanen
Timashov – Gauthier – Shore
There are a ton of opportunities to be made with Tavares out, as certain players now step into a larger role. Matthews and Marner have the opportunity to shoulder the weight of the offence and prove to the league and most importantly Maple Leaf fans that they are worth their contracts.
Even Nylander is reaping the benefits of Tavares being out, taking his bumper spot on the number one power-play unit. Kerfoot and Spezza have also adopted a more important role, as each player moves up a spot in the lineup.
This is incredibly encouraging for Spezza, who has sat in the press box more than he has played. Hopefully, with his upgraded wingers, and ice time, this can help light an eternal fire and he can continue playing a significant role for the Maple Leafs throughout the season.
Now, there is no replacing John Tavares but a line up like this can weather the storm for the time being. Frankly, this line up without Tavares should still be good enough to win games, and win them convincingly, considering the talent they still have floating around the top six.
Yes, losing Tavares is a massive blow, but it being early on in the season and such a small injury, there is a silver lining in all of this. Fans get to see what this young team is really made of.