Looking ahead, when Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans, 50 years from now, review this particular era of Maple Leafs’ hockey, here’s betting that they’ll talk about the decade between 2016 and 2026 as one of the best in the franchise’s long history. If they do, one name will come up over and over again. That name is Auston Matthews.
Unless something goes horribly awry, here’s also betting that Matthews will be generally recognized as the best hockey player the franchise has ever produced. At least, that’s the way it seems as this calendar year of 2021 ends.
No doubt, there will some sort of asterik because so many recent seasons have been played in the shawdow and the impact of the pandemic. However, all things considered, it will be a golden age of Maple Leafs’ hockey.
Maple Leafs’ Life Since Auston Matthews
Talk about starting quickly. In Matthews very first game, he scored four goals versus the Ottawa Senators. The date was October 12, 2016; and, he became the first player in the modern era to score four goals in his first NHL game. It was a foretaste of what was to come.
In just over five years since Matthews has been on the team, he’s scored 215 more goals. He now has a total of 219 altogether. In just 261 games, he stands just 11 goals shy of the top 10 players in the Maple Leafs’ franchise history for all-time goals scored. He’s skyrocketing to the top in record speed, and he’s in a class by himself.
Comparing the just over five seasons before Matthews arrived on the scene to the five seasons since he’s been here, fans can see the hugh impact Matthews has had on the team. In the five seasons prior to Matthews’ arrival, the Maple Leafs’ record was 158-176-42 (for 258 points) in 376 games. The team’s winning percentage was under .500 (at .476 to be exact). Averaging the team’s overall finishes comes out to 22nd place.
In the five seasons after Matthews arrived, the Maple Leafs’ record has jumped to 206-128-46 (for 458 points) in 372 games. The team’s winning percentage has been far above .500 (at .616 to be exact). Averaging the team’s overall finishes comes out to eighth place. With Matthews in the lineup, in four fewer games played the team has won 48 more games and totaled 200 more points.
Matthews Has Become the Face of This Franchise
Prior to Matthews’ arrival the franchise was – in a word – bad. And that was the case for many seasons. He’s now one of many good Maple Leafs’ players; and, just by being in the lineup, he attracts other good players to come to Toronto to play.
Veterans like Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton know that any team with Matthews in the lineup is a good bet to have at least a run at the Stanley Cup; and, that’s attractive when you come to the end of your career and that’s a quest that has eluded you.
More to the point for Maple Leafs’ fans, Matthews has become the face of this franchise. He’s certainly the main force in what’s been an incredible turnaround for the Toronto team.
Auston Matthews brings incredible hope to Maple Leafs’ fans that perhaps – for the first time since 1967 – there might be a run at Lord Stanley’s cup on the horizon.
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