Maple Leafs captain John Tavares on cusp of milestone as Toronto visits NY Islanders

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

John Tavares reached several career milestones on Long Island as a member of the New York Islanders over his first nine seasons. On Monday night, he has a chance to hit another prestigious one as the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Entering tonight's game, Tavares is sitting on 998 career points, having scored 434 goals and 564 assists in 1,053 career games. Through 24 games this season, Tavares has seven goals and 16, right around the point-per-game average he has hovered around throughout his 15 year career.

The 33-year-old Tavares averaged .928 points per game in 624 games with the Islanders, and the number has ticked up to .982 in five-plus seasons with Toronto, though he's playing on a more offensively talented team with the Leafs than he did in his early seasons on Long Island.

When he hits the mark, Tavares will become the 34th player in NHL history to amass 1,000 points without a 100-point season. His career-highs were 88 points in his first season with Toronto and then 87 points with the Islanders during the 2014-15 season when he was a Hart Trophy finalist.

"I think anyone [who’s done it], coming into the league, growing up and watching players and guys that accomplished that milestone obviously [were] really significant, really impressive, said Tavares in The Boston Globe. "So I’m just trying to keep my head down, going to work and playing well, and let that happen when it happens. But no doubt, I think it’s a special milestone.”

If the moment happens, it could make for another awkward interaction between Tavares and the fans who viewed him as the face of the franchise for nearly a decade. Would the arena acknowledge the moment on the scoreboard knowing what the reaction of most fans would be?

Tavares' game-winning OT goal in Game 6 of the Leafs' first-round matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning last spring advanced Toronto in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004. He ended a similar drought for the Islanders in 2016, also in O.T. when his goal against the Florida Panthers at Barclay Center gave the franchise their first series win since 1993.

Despite that moment, Tavares's tenure in Toronto has fallen short of lofty expectations even if his numbers have stayed as steady as they were on Long Island. The goal has always been for Tavares, the homegrown star, to deliver the team's first Stanley Cup since 1967 and end the longest championship drought in the NHL.

Those were the stakes Tavares knew when he signed with Toronto in 2018, and to date, he and his team have failed to put themselves in a position to come close to achieving that ultimate goal.