The 2016-2017 NHL season is not even one month old yet, so naturally, the Toronto media is already scrambling for stories. They have already reverted to their tired annual storylines of questioning the goaltending, stirring up Bozak trade rumours and trying to figure out who is in the coach’s doghouse so far. It was only a few days ago that, in their fervor for a story rather than fact, they began to question whether or not our new golden boy Auston Matthews has hit an offensive wall.
And in one loud ‘smack’, Leafs’ Nation collectively face-palmed.
This is why Toronto can’t have nice things. The second something or someone is not performing at 110% beyond their already astronomic expectations; the media gets out their microscopes and begins shoving their heads up their rear end. Matthews shocked everyone by scoring an unprecedented 4 goals in his first NHL game; however he has not had 4 goals in every game since then, what a shocker; the way the Toronto media paints it, he will never score again and has been relegated to yesterday’s news.
Dear Toronto Media: the 19 year old has 6 goals and 10 points in 10 career games; his very first career games. To do the simple math for you, this puts the teenager on pace for 82 points and 49-50 goals in his rookie season. Some other people who have scored 50 goals in their rookie season include; Mike Bossy, Alexander Ovechkin, Teemu Selanne and, Joe Nieuwendyk, to name a few. Frankly, I’d say that’s pretty decent company to be grouped with, wouldn’t you?
He is also 19 years old, and only recently turned 19. Throw all of the money, training and natural talent you want at him, he’s still got some learning and maturing to do. If I had a media throng following me at all moments when I was 19, I can guarantee you they’re would be far worse headlines than my puck handling skills. He’s from Arizona, which is about as known for hockey as it is for snowstorms and polar bears; so he’s already breaking those barriers. He played most recently in Switzerland, whose systems and ice are vastly different than those in the NHL, and, if we’re going to compare his rookie season to that of Gretzky or Bossy- let’s not forget that those guys had Dave Semenko and Clark Gillies who always had their backs. The forwards, especailly the star players, were protected like a glazss statue; who is going to protect Auston Matthews…Leo Komarov? I can hear Tie Domi pissing his pants laughing from the stands.
This kid, and he is a kid, has the weight of one of hockey’s biggest franchise sitting directly on his shoulders. He’s been in town a couple of months, he probably is just getting used to the street names let alone the feel of an entirely new team, coaching system and league. The guy has barely had time to put his passport down and the media clowns are already questioning if he has peaked. Yeesh.
Let us also be clear that the Shanaplan does not include the Leafs making the playoffs this year. We are in the middle of a rebuild, a long-term project involving slowly putting together the puzzle pieces needed to build a well-rounded team and organization. As much as fans hate the growing pain years, that is exactly what is happening. During this time, we need to plant seeds and let them grow, we need to be nurturing talents like Nylander, Marner and Matthews who show great potential but still need to develop and not thrust them into the spotlight and tell them they have to be perfect every game otherwise they’ll be benched. Let the rookie be a rookie and give him time and space to grow, you can’t stand on a plant and then wonder why it never grew.
At the end of the day, it isn’t Matthews who has hit a wall, it is the media. In their greed for money and reputation, they have become as bad as celebrity paparazzi who chase stories 24-7, even if they have to make them up, in order to fill airtime. Having 24 hour sports news channels just means that they have more time to cover and need more material…they’re going to start reaching for something to talk about.
So, everyone calm down. Look at the stats. He’s fine. We’re fine. It’s November, not April. If the Cubs and Indians can both make the World Series, then anything can happen.