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Maple Leafs Fans Shouldn’t Forget Matthews’ & Campbell’s Great Years

The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t get out of round one of the playoffs, but two players had special seasons. Who were they?

For NHL hockey fans anywhere, it was a crazy season. For Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fans it was even crazier. Everything looked rosy, until it didn’t.

The players are absolutely surprised that they are not in the second round of the playoffs. Even Maple Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan admitted that he’s never seen a group look so dejected as the team that came off the ice after the Montreal Canadiens’ Game 7 victory.

Matthews Shanahan Dubas
Matthews Shanahan Dubas, Maple Leafs

Really, it seems right now like a horrible season for the Maple Leafs. It certainly did not end well. On the other hand, It was a great season for the Maple Leafs. Personally, I thought the addition of the over the hill gang really added a great deal of joy to the entire season.

Jason Spezza became my new favorite Maple Leafs player! Although he didn’t play exceedingly well, Joe Thornton added a calm leadership to the entire group. it seemed as if Wayne Simmons season went downhill after his broken hand, but until then he showed a great deal of offensive punch that no one expected him to deliver.

Related: Agent Denies Zach Hyman Turned Down $5M Offer from Maple Leafs

The Great Seasons of Auston Matthews and Jack Campbell

However, perhaps the most outstanding aspect of the season has to do with the emergence of former backup goalie Jack Campbell and the continuing growth of what seems to be a generational talent in Auston Matthews. And, given the way the season ended, it would be easy to forget how very special this season was for those two players. I know I will remember the 2020-21 regular season fondly if only for those two aspects.

Jack Campbell Has Been a Joyful Joy

Because Campbell is such a joy as a person, his emergence as a goalie of note was a joy to watch. Furthermore, from an organizational perspective, his season’s coming out party might just become a tipping point for the Maple Leafs’ ability to move forward given the flat salary cap.

Coming into the 2020-21 season, if anyone would have said the team would lose its starting goalie and still come in first place in the North Division, it would have seemed foolish. But ironically the team upgraded it goaltending without changing goalies. And, when Frederik Andersen moves on as I expect he will, the organization will save over $3.35 million on their number one ($1.65 million next season for Campbell vs. $5 million they paid Andersen this season).

That Campbell so transparently wears his heart-on-the-sleeve and is such a positive personality that I’m not sure Andersen will be missed as much as should be. He’s been a contributor for the organization and certainly settled the goalie situation since he moved over from the Anaheim Ducks five season’s ago.

Sure Campbell let in a stinker – he called it the worst goal he’s ever given up in his career – in Game 7, but he also stood on his head during Game 6. The team could have and should have closed out the series on the road then and there, but they couldn’t. The rest is history.  During that game, Campbell was the Maple Leafs’ best player by far. He was the only reason the comeback in regulation even happened. He did his part the entire season and postseason.

Auston Matthews Is Up for Two Awards

How good has Austin Matthews been this season? The answer is that he’s been good enough to be up for two awards in addition to the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer.

Today, Auston Matthews was named as one of three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy. The Lady Byng is awarded annually to the NHL player who is seen to have demonstrated the best combination of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of on-ice ability.

Not only did Matthews lead the NHL with 41 goals but he added 25 assists. At the same time he only had five minor penalties in the 52 games he played. It isn’t Matthews’ first nomination for the award. He came in second in voting last season.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs

Matthews also was named as a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award as the NHL’s best player. What makes this award so special is that it’s given to the player who is judged “to the most outstanding player in the NHL” as voted by his peers – the other members of the NHLPA.Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby were named the other finalists for the award. 

All three are solid contenders. McDavid led the NHL with 105 points and for that accomplishment won the Art Ross Trophy. As noted, Matthews won the Rocket Richard Trophy with 41 goals. Crosby led Pittsburgh with 62 points, and he’s won the award three times in his career.

It might be McDavid’s season to win the award, but a case can be made for Matthews as well. He led the NHL in game-winning goals with 12, placed second in even-strength points (53; 31 goals, 22 assists), and tied for fifth place with 66 points. He also helped his Maple Leafs finish first in the North Division.

Related: Only Playoff Series Wins Will Erase Maple Leafs Fans’ Anger

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