The Toronto Maple Leafs are still suffering from their postseason misfortune, but they at least got some good news this week.
Captain John Tavares appeared on this Thursday and said he is “doing fantastic” in his recovery process after a concussion and gruesome knee injury suffered in the playoffs last spring, and expects himself to be ready for training camp in mid-September.
"It's been a great offseason for myself from a health standpoint," Tavares said, "but even more so, I think just continue to get back to work and try to get better and recover well.
"I think [having] some time really helps. Really fortunate it wasn't anything much more than the incident and [I] really came out of the hospital doing really well ever since, and didn't really have any hiccups or any issues. Just kind of kept building from there. So it's been a good offseason and I'm doing great. The support from the hockey community has been tremendous."
Tavares was on the other end of Canadiens winger Corey Perry’s knee, in an extremely unfortunate during the first period of Game 1. The Leafs captain needed to be stretchered off the ice and did not return for the rest of the series, but was luckily able to get just one week after the injury occurred.
Before camp opens, the 30-year-old centre has been doing some informal training with his teammates.
"For me, it was nice to just kind of get back out and work on some things I wanted to work on," Tavares said, "come off the injury and be on the ice a lot, get a good feel for my game and build from there with a good group of guys."
During the 56-game shortened NHL season, Tavares was able to score 19 goals and 50 points, good for third on the Leafs, while appearing in every single regular-season game for his hometown team.
Even though he was unable to see Toronto move on to the second round for the first time since 2004, the captain understands that this is just something some teams will have to traverse through to get to that next level.
"It's obviously been disappointing,” Tavares said, “but you know how challenging it is, this level, this league, year in and year out, and many teams before us have faced their own adversity, their own challenges, their own doubts — whether that's externally or internally — and that's what makes competing and winning the Stanley Cup so special: really not knowing truly what it takes to get there until you get there, and trying to understand that part of it."
The NHL will be back to normal for their 2021-22 season. Instead of each team only facing competition within their own division, they are moving back to full travel and interdivisional action, making the Leafs’ task much more difficult in the regular season.
Toronto has been one of the more active teams this offseason, signing prominent free agents like goaltender Petr Mrazek and making bets on young talent like Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase. It will be interesting to see if this mini roster turnover will earn them their first playoff series win in almost two decades — or maybe that’s too much of an ask.
At least they have their captain back.
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