As we’ve all come to hear the last few days Leafs star centremen Auston Matthews hurt his shoulder at the beginning of the 2nd period, in what would become a comeback win for Toronto(Video above). The Leafs found out the next day that their star centre would be out 4 weeks, and oh boy did LeafsNation begin to cry. The Chatter of William Nylander has already begun, but GM Kyle Dubas stated “The injury changes nothing”. I believe Dubas is right. The Leafs showed they can score still without Matthews in a comeback win over the Winnipeg Jets, the same night of Matthews injury. Scoring goals 3 goals in the 3rd period and 2 in less than a minute to seal the game. Monday night the Leafs were flat, but because of Matthews injury we act like the team is doomed.
Last season the Leafs went through a very difficult stretch without Matthews and put up a very decent 11-7-2 record without Matthews. Now let me explain something, the Leafs are 100x more prepared for the injury this season then they were last season. Last year Patrick Marleau, William Nylander and Nazem Kadri all split the top 2 center duties, with Kadri and Marleau getting the majority of the duties, due to their defensive abilities. That didn’t sound promising at all. This season one of the top centers in the NHL in John Tavares will take on the number one role with Nazem Kadri easily fitting back into his role last season in the number 2 slot. Kasperi Kapanen’s speed, and scoring ability will be put to the test, which I think Kapanen will have no problem taking on the role. People need to remember the reason why the Leafs went out and signed John Tavares was for situations just like this. Situations like these are where Tavares shined, his whole career his played in New York making wingers that just weren’t on his level look better and on top of that when it came to game time Tavares always had a little extra in the tank.
Let me offer you 5 reasons why the Leafs will miss Matthews, but be just fine.
- John Tavares – As I mentioned before the Leafs went out and got a player of Tavares caliber to ensure that they were a deep team at the most important position in hockey. Now with the injury the depth will pay off.
- Kasperi Kapanen – In the last couple years Kapanen would pour it on for a few games and take his foot off the gas pedal. This season he looks like he’s not giving his spot up on this Leafs roster or in the lineup. What Kapanen brings to the table is a fantastic 2-way game, absolutely off the charts speed and was looks to be a revamped shot. But the one thing that Mike Babcock has praised Kapanen for is his willingness to engage even when he’s not scoring. Babcock has said he was always noticeable and never gives up on a puck.
- Zach Hyman – This may be a bit weird for some people to see as a reason why the Leafs will be fine without Auston Matthews but let me explain. Hyman is your prototype power forward but with a lot more speed. Hyman will help Tavares get the puck quicker and allow him to do what he was signed to do. Score! People often underestimate the value of Hyman but ask the players who have played with him the few years, mainly Matthews, Nylander, Tavares and Marner what he brings to that lineup.
- Frederik Andersen – The guy is going to win you some games, in fact probably steal you a few. Let Anderson do his job, because he’s one of the best at it.
- Mitch Marner – I think this is the biggest reason. Marner has proven he can drive his own line and has the most amazing vision I’ve seen since Joe Thornton is his prime and even dating back to Ron Francis and Adam Oates. Just take a few games and watch him. The IQ is so high, the vision is off the charts, and his defence is starting to round together. What I love about Mitch Marner is he’s relentless. Always go go go.
Will Auston Matthews injury hurt Toronto was never in question, the answer to that is YES EMPHATICALLY! But around Toronto it sounds like the world is coming to a slow crash in Leaf Land, which is so far from the truth. To call Auston Matthews injury a crash and burn to the Maple Leafs is an offence to all the other talented players on this roster.