Tavares trade bitter pill to take

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

The Oshawa Generals should trade John Tavares. It won't be an easy decision for the franchise.

It certainly won't be a popular one, judging by the No. 91 jerseys in the crowd at the General Motors Centre.

But it's the correct move for new GM and head coach Chris DePiero and the ownership group including Rocco Tullio, former NHLer Adam Graves and Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer.

So far, Oshawa hasn't been the expected league doormat. That's delaying the decision to put the league's best player up for bid.

"We're just watching to see which way it goes," DePiero said. "We've got a lot of young guys we're developing and John's been an outstanding leader for us."

Tavares, 18, said he likes the up-and-coming talent on board. But the Generals have already swallowed a reality pill -- falling to Eastern heavyweight Belleville and getting knocked around by Western powers Windsor and London.

If Oshawa makes the playoffs, it's a stretch to see them lasting long. If the Gens trade their biggest asset and get some top-notch talent in return, they're an instant contender next year.

Tavares has put himself in shape for an extended season.

"With the Super Series and world juniors last year, I felt myself getting run down," he said."I've really tried to come in prepared and watch what I eat so I'm still strong at the end of the year."

Tavares, already with a dozen goals, will score 70 this season whether he's traded or not. He's killing penalties, playing 25-27 minutes a game and, this week, chastised himself for taking too long shifts.

"We don't have as many scorers as last year," he said. "My job on this team is to create goals however I can -- shooting the puck or passing it."

There hasn't been an OHL scoring king on anything less than a division champion in a decade. Peter Sarno won the points crown with second-place Sarnia in 1998-99 and did it the year before with a Windsor club that missed the playoffs.

The Gens will play host to the Canadian Hockey League's top prospects game on Jan. 14 -- after the trade deadline -- and Tavares will be the star attraction. They're also retiring Bobby Orr's No. 2 (not his NHL No. 4) on Nov. 27.

Tavares will be up in those rafters one day, too. There's no shame if he doesn't play his entire junior career under them.

OHL NOTEBOOK

Ottawa rookie Tyler Toffoli, selected seventh overall by the 67's last spring, has 10 points in his first 10 games. That's nine more than his old Toronto Junior Canadiens midget linemate John McFarland, the first overall pick by Sudbury . . . What happened to the boom-and-bust cycle of junior hockey? The Kingston Frontenacs and Erie Otters, basement dwellers last season, are in last place again . . . Individual performance for the first month -- Sarnia's Justin DiBenedetto scored five goals and seven points in a 7-2 victory in Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday. The New York Islanders prospect had a natural hat trick in the first 13 minutes and never stopped . . . Kitchener's Mike Mascioli and Kevin Hudes played Monday after suffering injuries Saturday evening when a pickup truck reportedly ran a red light and struck the vehicle Mascioli was driving . . . How's this as a tip-off to a new season? Belleville's Matt Tipoff had six assists in his rookie campaign. Used mostly as a penalty killer last year, he produced 11 points in 64 games. Now the 18-year-old forward has a career-high five goals and 12 points in his first 10 games and leads the Bulls in scoring. His play helped head coach George Burnett win his 400th OHL game (Niagara, Guelph, Oshawa, Belleville).


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