There was an interesting conversation taking place on TSN 690 today as the hosts and their guest Pierre McGuire began chatting about the impact of Auston Matthews and how the Montreal Canadiens might try to shut him down during their North Division matchup Wednesday night. The words, ‘greatest Leaf ever already’ were thrown out there.
McGuire acknowledged that perhaps no one has a better shot in the league (with the exception of Alexander Ovechkin) and McGuire did say you could make the argument Matthews is already tops in terms of players when it comes to those that have worn the Maple Leafs jersey. At the very least, he suggested you could make that argument and win that debate by the time Matthews’ career is over.
It’s an interesting statement to make considering some strong players have worn the blue and white. There’s Mats Sundin, Darryl Sittler, Dave Keon Doug Gilmour, Johnny Bower… the list goes on for a while.
The panel called Matthews “special” and they have a point. It’s hard to argue anyone has been able to take over a game like Matthews has. When he’s on, there are few better and he’s nearly impossible to stop. In only his fifth year as a Maple Leafs forward, the center has already amassed 169 goals and 300 regular season points. He’s only played in 294 regular season games. He’s been almost as productive in the playoffs, having produced 19 points in 25 total games.
This season, he’s on pace for 51 goals in 56 games. It wouldn’t be hard to find someone to take a bet he’ll come close to 50 by the time this season has come and gone.
Perhaps his lack of playoff experience is the thing that might hold him back from saying he’s the best, but an argument can be made that if he’s not No. 1 now, it shouldn’t be long until he is.
His All-Around Game is Setting Him Apart
McGuire said, “It’s not just his offence. He can play against any player in the league and shut them down, he’s that good defensively now.”
Many might have argued, based on pure offensive talent alone, Matthews was in the discussion as the greatest Maple Leafs’ offensive threat early. It was clear right away he was going to be a weapon on offense and a threat to score every year until he decided to call it a career. Most believed his rookie season of 40 goals was just the tip of the iceberg.
But, it’s his all-around game and his defensive awareness that might set him apart. Ray Ferraro recently said during the Ray and Dregs Hockey Podcast, “I think he has played at a level that is greater than at any point in his NHL career.” He added, “The way he uses his body, the way he pushes people off the puck and uses his quickness and his speed. He seems a little quicker… I think he is a legit MVP candidate.”
Where would you rank Matthews? Is he the best? If he isn’t, will he be? And, if you don’t think he is yet, but will be, how long before you’re comfortable calling him the greatest Leaf to ever play for the organization?
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