Buffalo Bandits captain John Tavares, the NLL's all-time leading scorer, is still undecided about returning for a 23rd season. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Now that the Buffalo Bandits have hired 2013 NLL Head Coach of the Year Troy Cordingley, the attention in "Banditland" has shifted to captain John Tavares, the NLL's all-time leading scorer and one of the best players to ever pick up a lacrosse stick, whose status for next year is still unclear.
The 44-year-old struggled with injuries during the 2013 season and saw limited action in just 12 games while posting a career-low 39 points (14+25). By the end of the year, Tavares was visibly hobbled by a calf injury while only being used in certain offensive situations.
Buffalo News Bandits beat writer Budd Bailey, the 2011 NLL Media Person of the Year who covers the team on a regular basis, recently gave some input as to what the future might hold for "JT."
"What will John Tavares do?" Bailey asked in the Buffalo News. "Tavares, who has played for the Bandits since 1992 and who holds every major scoring record in National Lacrosse League history, suffered a torn calf muscle near the end of the regular season for Buffalo. He has not played summer lacrosse so far this season. Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich said he expects Tavares to take the summer off and make a decision before training camp."
“He’s taking the summer off to get his body as healthy as possible,” Dietrich told Bailey in another Buffalo News article. “He is hoping to return. It’s going to be completely up to him and up to his health. He was frustrated last year. He came in with an injury and that set a bad tone for the year.”
Tavares has flirted with retirement for the last few offseasons but as each year passes, the inevitable end to a dream career gets closer to becoming a reality.
"If Tavares does determine that he can't play any more, what's next?" Bailey added. "One of those observers guessed that Tavares would wind up as a Bandits assistant coach under Troy Cordingley. From JT's standpoint, he'd have the chance to maintain a connection to the game. Tavares also would get to explore the coaching business without the pressure of stepping right into a head coaching job - and he probably would like that."
The Bandits are hopeful but are taking a "wait-and-see" approach on the future first-ballot Hall of Famer's decision. And if Tavares decides not to play in 2014, there might be space for him on the Bandits bench. And undoubtedly a place for his jersey number 11 in the rafters of First Niagara Center.