If you clicked on this link, you’re either all about that #HymanHustle or you saw #11’s name in the title, spared a quick moment to see what nonsense I’ve managed to pull outta my as…butt, about a guy who should’ve been demoted to the 3rd line months ago. Right? Not right.
Or maybe you’ve known me so long, you granted me a few moments of your time to put up with the jumbled mess of thoughts I’m about to unravel in front of your eyes. Maybe you’re even here because I’m just hilarious and…well, I can’t argue that, can I?
So where do we start? What haven’t you already heard from both ends of the spectrum, in most likely many, many heated arguments about the boy in question? Well, let’s crank it back a bit and give you some food for thought, yeah?
Maybe as the times are changing, with the team changing, growing, we should grow and change with it. By that I mean, a more positive outlook, an underlying- and a mere cautious- hope for the excessive amount of young guys to become something special, together. A trust in management, in Mark Hunter that he saw something in Zach, to not have your mind made up about him just yet. Not when he’s only starting up his second full year in the NHL. You know well enough that that comes with more experience, practice, reaction timing, patience, confidence. Valuable skills that’ll help him improve down the road as he becomes more confident in his abilities. Or inability to finish more often than not, if we wanna make a petty jabs here. And who better to slowly and successfully learn from than one of the best hockey players in the league right by his side
In 2015 he played 16 games, 4 goals and 2 assists for 6 points.
In 2016 He played a full 82 games (impressive, right?) for 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points.
To say he’s improved would just be me trying to sell you on something that’s just not true, as you can’t really compare a 16 game season to a full 82 game season. But, if you’ve been watching Zach as closely as I have since this season has started-going as far back as watching games twice over to pay attention to individual players that I missed, courtesy of squealing over the game itself. My fingers scrambling over my keyboard for tweets that get lost somewhere in the live tweets amongst the best of Leafs nation…you miss a lot the first time around.
Just based on point production, Hyman is already around 4-5 points above where he was last year at the quarter mark and while that may not be a huge accomplishment and definitely won’t knock your socks off, it’s a big deal for someone who got an underwhelming 28 points last year.
As Steve Dangle mentioned a while back, discussing the future of Nazem Kadri as he’d yet to get the glorious-and just damn near disrespectful- contract he has today at 4.5 mil, after ending the season with a suspension: This fits my narrative here, as he talks about a bad habit Leafs fans have when it comes to evaluating and judging a player at the start of his career.
“A lot of us had our minds made up on Kadri by the time he was twenty-one-, twenty-two, twenty-three. So early in his career we had decided this was the player he is, this is how he thinks, this is how he plays, this is how I feel about him forever.” – Steve Dangle, The Kadri Conundrum.
Which, as of late, seems to be an exact replica to what Zach Hyman is being squeezed into a little more with every shot he fans on. And yes, Zach is just a couple years younger than Nazem, (25). I stumbled upon a wonky stat found in this particular article from the CBC of the frequency polygon (a basic graph) shown below. LINK
As you can see, there’s a small dip in the average offensive performance and the plus/minus (but- but- but the plus/minus argument is pointless! right?) between 25-27 years old, which is exactly where Hyman is hovering over right now.
That doesn’t even touch on the fact that the boy is still only in his second official year in the NHL, ever. He’s just as inexperienced in that aspect as Marner, Brown etc. who still make their own mistakes and struggle with their own battles. To have expected him to become something he wasn’t because of the specific line he was on, a scoring paralysis he struggled with, every time you grabbed the ends of your hair because he just couldn’t finish a play!
It’s illogical in itself. Bashing him on a consistent basis, I mean. Let me try to explain what I’m saying here.
See, just because he’s on the first line, once an unknown name that suddenly showed up on the roster and even more surprisingly got on the 1st line in no time, had many expecting something short of spectacular to emerge within him. But that was never what Babcock saw, it was never what Hunter saw and it wasn’t what Leafs fans expected, why they put Hyman on that line in the first place. Babcock doesn’t look at lines from most important to least important, it’s a chemical balance he craves from each line, where lines 1 through 3 could be put out and go toe to toe with any other first lines in the league. 3 lines that don’t make us immediately crap out our intestines in anxiousness and worrisome.
A grinder/pest. A scorer. A passer.
Hyman. Matthews. Nylander.
Or Mitch instead of Willy…or Brownie instead of Willy…hell even Marti- you get it.
And that right there? Well that’s the point of this article. Hyman isn’t the best player on this team. He’s not even close to it, with so many other guys broadcasting their ongoing potential, battling for the last spots. So why is a 28-point player on the first with our everlasting, heart throbbing superstar and another potentially elite winger in Nylander? It’s asked constantly.
It only got worse as they signed Marleau, who a good chunk of people-and every SportsNet video-expected him to play beside Matthews. And when Babcock shut that down, Leafs Nation lost their damn marbles.
I could argue every positive thing that Hyman brings to the table but it’s more than likely you’ve been down that road more times than you’re ready to hear about again. Gets in the corners, does the dirty work, takes the hits and cheap shots so the Baby Leafs don’t have to, gets puck possession…same old song, same old dance, I sound like a broken record, right?
Here’s the thing though, whether you believe he has more cons than pros, misses more than he gets back, this is Babcock’s team and right now, Babcock is on his knees, kissing the ground Zach Hyman walks on. And in my opinion, deservedly so. Throwing insults around so carelessly will not fix that but, instead hurt the feelings of people who really support Zach and are shut down for attempting to debate on why he’s put on such a high pedestal. We’re a family, inner feelings about certain players should never result in name calling at each other.
Now, if someone is gonna take Hyman’s place, it’s gotta be someone who can do the job Hyman does, better than Hyman, faster than him, stronger than him, more determined than him – and so far he doesn’t have much competition. Frederik Gauthier looks to be headed in the right direction, though let’s just leave that for the next article, yeah?
So, let’s say Zach never improves and he never throws up 35-40 points beside Auston Matthews, let’s say he hits the 30 point mark and that’s the highlight of his career. Is that so bad? With the success that his line mates are getting, with the not-too-shabby contract for a guy who played all 82 games last year? A player who comes ready to grind, hustle and getting that puck to Matthews, Nylander, Rielly. Every. Single. Night.
A player that, when he’s on the ice, his name rings through the air more often than not. He makes his presence known. A player who made the nifty move to stop fast, deke the opposition and make a sharp turn to get it to Marleau to win 4-2 against the Minnesota Wild. The same player who got three turnovers in the offensive zone, gets rammed head first into the boards and still keeps possession, gets the puck to the front of the net for a 4-1 win against Calgary.
You want players that give it their all. You want a guy on the ice who puts that jersey on and works his butt off to represent this city every night and is ecstatic to be apart of it at the end of the day.
Let’s try to have a little faith in our undervalued beauty, okay? Let’s Honour him. Have Pride in him. And give him the Courage to potentially become a player of a caliber we’re never gonna expect from him.
Because in the end, It’s Buds All Day and he’s one we’re gonna be watching for a long, long time, so might as well appreciate what the boy’s got, right?
You can choose to leave this page angry, if you think none of what I said will change your mind and your fingers are already itching to write me a heated comment. That’s okay. I can’t and won’t expect everyone to agree, there’s just too many of us to all think the same!