New York Islanders center John Tavares took a major leap in the right direction during the 2011-12 NHL season. Now, he aims to take an even bigger leap in the 2012-13 season and hopefully it carries his team into the 2012-13 postseason.
Tavares spent the majority of the 2011-12 offseason working on improving his skating. He spent time working with renowned skating trainer, Dawn Braid, in Toronto, Canada. Tavares' skating was lacking behind his other skills. “John had a very awkward, clunky, some might have said slow stride,” Braid told NHL.com. “He was very off-balanced.”
The result? Tavares has become one of the best skaters in the league and has developed into one of the league's best players. With the improvement of his skating, Tavares saw his point production skyrocket from 67 points in 79 games to 81 points in 82 games.
If you watch clips of Tavares from both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, it's not hard to tell the difference. He looks like a completely different player. In the latter, you can clearly see he is one of the best skaters not only on the ice but in the entire league.
Tavares has not been satisfied with just becoming one of the best skaters. He wants to improve in other areas. According to Dan Rosen of NHL.com, Tavares has been working with his trainer, Richard Clark, to improve his shot. Clark has created sport-specific exercises to strengthen muscles used when taking a slap shot on the ice.
In addition, Tavares and the Islanders have really worked on strength training. They trained with director of sports performance, Sean Donellan. The Islanders joined Donellan and members of the New York Giants, including wide receiver Victor Cruz, for a training session in Mahwah, New Jersey.
John Tavares and the Islanders are hoping their hard work pays off as they look to make their first playoff appearance since 2007.
Christopher Benini is a New York Islanders Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and can be followed here.