By Cole Parkinson
Westwind Weekly News
It feels like it’s always been if and not when Auston Matthews would break Rick Vaive’s Maple Leafs’ 54 regular season goal total. It certainly seems like he would have done that if not for the COVID-19 pandemic, but with this season going back to a full 82 game schedule, and Matthews scoring pretty much every game, it’s no shock he finally scored 55.
The Maple Leafs have been around for over 100 years and as a Leafs’ fan, I can honestly say Matthews is the best player to ever wear the uniform. He’s big, strong, can score at will, plays great defence, has great vision with the puck on his stick, and he’s quick for how big he is. The man can do it all and the fact he also plays centre is crucial.
This season, Matthews has been on another level and he’s the front runner for the Hart Trophy, and if he scores 60 goals (and it certainly looks like he will), I think it’s his to lose. He’s a generational talent that the Leafs have been missing for years and the fact he’s surrounded by a great team helps, but it’s no secret who the top dog is on this team. But that doesn’t mean he’s done it on his own. Mitch Marner, Michael Bunting and Matthews have been a line for the majority of the season and they have been instrumental in getting Matthews to this mark, and Marner himself is having himself a spectacular season.
It’s been an incredibly interesting and entertaining regular season for Matthews and it looks like he’s cemented himself as one of the best players in the game. And I know it hurts other fanbases to admit a Leaf can be one of the best players in the league, but it’s true. If he played for any other team, he’d be loved —I mean look at Connor McDavid. The majority of NHL fans love his game (unless you’re a Flames fan, then of course you hate everything about him). The same can’t be said for Matthews, and I get the coverage Toronto gets hinders that, but he’s a special player playing in one of the biggest markets in the league. And he thrives on that which is incredibly refreshing. While NBA, NFL, and MLB players all seem to flock to the big markets, NHL players love to play where there’s no attention and the less media, the better.
And I love the fact Matthews is already saying he’s happy and all to break this long-standing record, but the Leafs have lots more work to do. Despite Matthews and Marner destroying in the regular season, we all know where the focus is on this team. The playoffs are on the horizon and while breaking the record is fantastic, if the Leafs face plant again in the playoffs, this season will be remembered much like the last several.
But with only a few regular-season games remaining, it’s totally fine to relish in this great achievement as a fanbase. It’s not often teams get a player of Matthews’ calibre and when they do, it’s easy to take it for granted, so enjoy it right now while it’s happening. Playoff success is going to come for the Leafs. I know it’s been disappointment after disappointment in the last few seasons, but I do think this year will be different. Maybe that’s just my Leaf brain speaking, but NHL teams have gone through similar things (think Washington) before they broke out. And this Leaf team is really good. They have faults sure, but with the salary cap, every team will have some sort of negative they hope can be glossed over by their positives.
If this regular season is showing anything at all, I hope it’s showing that Matthews and the Maple Leafs are more than ready to overcome those playoff challenges.