By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
John Tavares wouldn't just be a colossal addition to the Boston Bruins' roster. He'd make filling out the rest of the roster much easier, too.
Before it became readily apparent that the Bruins were even meeting with Tavares, let alone that they'd be interested in the free-agent superstar center, they were in the market for a legitimate top-six right wing. Say what you want about Ilya Kovalchuk, but that's what he was going to be here. Rick Nash would still be locked in as the second-line RW if he re-signed.
Tavares is so damn good, such a move wouldn't even be necessary. Trading David Krejci would be, but there wouldn't need to be a corresponding move for a right winger to park next to Tavares. Because no matter who the Islanders have put on his line, he's been the kind of star who has elevated the play of the guys around him.
The Bruins always have the option of going internal to fill out their top-six. Adding a superstar-level talent in Tavares would certainly make that decision exceptionally easy. There's a chance, however, that pairing Tavares with David Pastrnak was part of the Bruins' pitch. They do need more secondary scoring, and breaking up their dominant first line by moving Pastrnak to second-line duties would go a long way in making that happen.
But for argument's sake, let's say Tavares doesn't need Pastrnak on his line to be convinced to sign in Boston. That would help matters, because he doesn't need All-Stars flanking him at all. It's not over-the-top to compare Tavares to Sidney Crosby, especially in the sense that he turns the players around him to gold. He makes his linemates better as well as anyone in the league, and the proof is in the numbers.
The below table shows the points-per-game of all of Tavares' linemates during his career with the Islanders, per data at DobberHockey.com. The numbers, admittedly, aren't perfect. The points are based on season averages, while their time spent on Tavares' line ranges from about 45-75 percent of shifts. But the improvement in their production playing with Tavares, compared to games played for other teams or with other centers, is stunningly consistent.
|Player Name||Pts/Gm With Tavares||Pts/Gm Without Tavares|
Not that it's shocking a player of Tavares' caliber would make the players around him better. It's just remarkable how much of a stone-cold guarantee such a boost would be if he came to the Bruins. That's why the B's could almost certainly get away with keeping the top line together if Tavares is OK playing with, say, Danton Heinen playing on his right wing.
If that's how the Bruins configured the second line, I'd take the over on Heinen and 60 points. It'd be a strong bet to take the over no matter who's over there. The B's may even be able to get away with signing a cheaper veteran winger like Michael Grabner or Vanek (both former linemates of Tavares in New York) and get top-six-caliber performances out of them.
Essentially, the beauty of Tavares is he doesn't need to be surrounded by certain kinds of players to succeed. He's the kind of star who can create his own offense, and elevate his wings in the process. He'd solve a lot of obvious problems for the Bruins, but he'd benefit them in a lot of subtle areas like this, too.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].