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Don Cherry on the Maple Leafs: Matthews is GREAT, After that? Crapshoot

Don Cherry was a national icon for almost 40 seasons on Coaches Corner. He’s still around at 87. What does he think about the Maple Leafs?

Don Cherry “Grapes” makes me look young! He’s now – believe it or not – 87 years old. It’s been almost two years since he was fired by Rogers for his comment about immigrants to Canada – “You People” as he called them when he scolded them with his belief that they ought to wear poppies on Remembrance Day. 

Anyway, these days he’s doing his own much-smaller-than Hockey Night in Canada gig. And, although he knows no one wants him back speaking nationwide under his rules, he’d still like the chance. That said, he says he’s good. He had almost a 40-year “run” on the show. 

Don Cherry apologizes?
Don Cherry would come back “on his terms”

In a neat article from Saturday in the hockey blog “Between the Posts,” Howard Berger interviewed Cherry and wrote what Cherry had to say about the Toronto Maple Leafs. So, what did Cherry say?

Related: Even If Maple Leafs’ William Nylander Isn’t Your Favorite, He’s Amazing

Point One: Cherry Isn’t Ready to “Anoint” the Maple Leafs Champs

Although Cherry really liked the Maple Leafs, he really didn’t know whether they were a team that could win at all this season.

He noted that, “The Leafs look really good but the playoffs is an entirely different ball game.”

He added that in hockey these days “You cannot have a runaway best team in this era. That’s why it’s nearly impossible to predict what’ll happen in the playoffs.” 

Cherry assessed the Maple Leafs as “talented and they’ve toughened up a bit. But, still, no one knows what they are capable of. And, don’t pay attention to anyone who thinks they know. Especially in this season, where teams haven’t played outside their Divisions. It’s a crapshoot, for sure.”

Point Two: Cherry Is Sold on Matthews as a Player

Cherry believes Matthews is the real deal, but he’s not so sure about the rest of the team. 

As Cherry noted, “Matthews may be the greatest natural scorer in Leafs history; he’s definitely the best I’ve seen in my years around the NHL.” 

Cherry dug back into history to recall that “Lanny [McDonald] was pretty good. So was [Rick] Vaive and [Wilf] Paiement.”

However he believed Matthews was at a “different level. I think he has the ability and drive to continue his scoring into the playoffs. … He won’t have as much room to maneuver and the checking will be tighter. But, he’s too good a shooter.” 

Point Three: Cherry Believes Goalie Play Will Be the Difference-Maker: He Likes Campbell

Cherry believes goaltending will decide who wins the Stanley Cup. Although Cherry is an Andersen supporter, he believed that “Jack Campbell is the starter and he looks pretty good.” 

Cherry added that, “You go with him until, or if, he falters. Then you come back with Andersen, who can still be dynamite. But, it’s Campbell’s net right now. He has earned the No. 1 role.”

Jack Campbell, Maple Leafs

About Campbell, Cherry noted that “We don’t know how he’ll fare in the playoffs because he’s never been there. But, lots of young goalies have done well in their first Stanley Cup year (Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, and Jordan Binnington won the Cup as NHL rookies).’

In the end he believed that “Campbell looks pretty confident to me. I think he’ll do a good job.”

Maple Leafs’ fans hope Cherry, whether they agree with his politics or now, is right about this season’s Maple Leafs.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Short Shots: Mikheyev, Kerfoot & Foligno [Will Foligno Stay?]

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