Auston Matthews, the name that took the city of Toronto by storm, will soon take the NHL by storm this coming season. With the weight of an entire franchise on your back, it can get a little stressful for some, however with Matthews it has been a welcoming experience being drafted number one overall in the 2016 NHL draft. The number one pick has always carried a lot of pressure for many different reasons, but not since 2005 when Sid the Kid was drafted number one has that position held such prestige. Year after year, teams at the bottom of the league hope for the opportunity to be able to pick the best player in the draft with some success and some failures. With the names like Alexandre Daigle, and Nail Yakupov that have been flops, there are hopes that Auston Matthews will succeed. There are also names like Sidney Crosby and Taylor Hall - there will always be hope for a success in the number 1 draft pick position.
There are many reasons why the Maple Leafs have underperformed for the past few seasons, whether it’s their less than stellar goaltending with their revolving door of starters, or their lack of overall heart when it comes to getting points near the end of the year. With the franchise being put squarely on the shoulders of Auston Matthews, the future is looking the brightest it has in a very long time in Toronto. The other part of that argument is the notable fails that have come in the Maple Leafs way in past decades; we will see if they can repeat what they did with Wendel Clark and make a superstar out of their number one pick.
17 REASONS WHY HE WILL FAIL
16 History Of Failure
With 100 years of team history, there are bound to be some hits and misses along the way. Whether it's the prestige of having the second most Stanley Cups in history with 13, or if it’s the fact they haven’t made a cup appearance since 1967, the fact remains the same that there have been quite a few downs in their history. The most recent fail came in the playoffs, with their collapse against the Bruins back in 2013 where they saw their 3-goal lead disappear in game seven.
When it comes to certain players with a lot of hype behind them, the first name that comes to mind is Justin Pogge; some young fans may not remember that name but many know him as the player that was supposed to be the next big goalie for the franchise. When Pogge was drafted, he was supposed to be the next Johnny Bower for the Leafs but he did not live up to the hype and was traded soon after he was drafted and now he is doing rather fine playing in Europe. The biggest question at this point is if Matthews will join the club of failed draft picks in Toronto - time will tell.
15 Lacking Defence
Other than goaltending, the only other position that has always been amiss with the Toronto Maple Leafs has been defence. Gone are the days of players like Borje Salming and Tomas Kaberle, where someone proven held the position. Today’s Maple Leafs' defence has fallen on bad terms, with the Dion Phaneuf experiment coming up short on its promise and having some of the worst stats in the league when it comes to shots against, goals against, and power play goals allowed. The defence of today has some promising names like Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner - the future looks bright for this historical franchise, however if the defence plays like they did last season, no matter how many goals Matthews can score, it won’t mean a thing if his defence allows goals in.
14 Goaltending Issues
Now we come to what many experts' minds has always been the biggest issue facing the Toronto Maple Leaf franchise and that is the poor goaltending. With the likes of Bernier, Toskala, and Raycroft among others in and gone with their chance at the lime light of being Toronto’s starting goalie, it’s to wonder if there will be a starter that will lead them to a cup. With the recent trade where they acquired Frederik Andersen from the Ducks there is some promise, however the trade of dependable back up James Reimer before last season’s deadline was a questionable one - it may damage the team in the end. With an unsure focus of who will be Andersen’s backup for the next season, it is yet to be seen whether Matthews can withstand the amount of goals against versus his goals for.
13 The Toronto Maple Leafs Fans
The fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs are the most loyal fan base in hockey and possibly of all organized sports, but they can be ruthless when it comes to the play of their favorite team. In recent years, players have been booed out of the building, fans throwing jerseys onto the ice, and fans calling for coaches to be fired and they have not shown any love for the team that played last year. With the fans giving so much hype towards Auston Matthews just as much as the NHL experts have, it can only add to the pressure for Matthews to perform for the fans the way they want. We have seen in recent seasons that the fans will get behind a player when the team first acquires them, such as Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, but after a couple of less than perfect seasons both players were jeered by the fans whilst demanding the team to trade them. With fans making t-shirts with Matthews on the back before the draft, it is safe to say that he will get a very warm welcome to the ACC when he makes his home season debut in October.
12 Alexandre Daigle Syndrome
The Alexandre Daigle Syndrome can be given to any player that is drafted first overall and does not live up to the hype and later is labelled a failure in doing so. There have been many players that have suffered from this ailment, whether its pressure, injuries or any other reason such as the aforementioned Alexandre Daigle, Rick DiPietro, and the most recent, Nail Yakupov. With his international play in Switzerland well-documented, Matthews is more than capable of being a success story rather than another name added to the failure list. With some names that have come and gone in the NHL, the nametag of 'flop' always looms for any player. The best can't be the best without a team in front of him; would Crosby have been as good as he has been without his teammates?
11 Too Good For The Maple Leafs
This may be a controversial subject for some, while others will agree with this point. Auston Matthews can end up like some other plays like Taylor Hall, Erik Karlsson, and Connor MacDavid, where they are simply too good for their teams. The biggest argument for this issue could be the style of play that Matthews brings; it could become problematic for the players that already are on the team. It’s with players like Nazem Kadri where he is set in his ways and has been a thorn in the side of the team for some time if he can adjust to Matthews’s style of play or not. With the season coming closer and closer every day and training camp starting, it will soon be prevalent on how the players can adjust to Auston Matthews if he is selected for the roster at the start of the year.
10 The Team Is Too Young
Along with many points that have been made in this article, one of the biggest differences between this year’s Maple Leafs team and the one from previous years is the reliance and focus on youth. Where some experiments with young talent can pay off, such as the status in Chicago, in Toronto it’s a completely different story. While Chicago had players like Patrick Kane and "Captain Serious" Jonathan Toews, the Maple Leafs just don’t have that kind of talent waiting in the wings. With an over reliance on youth and not enough veteran players that can lead the team to a cup, it’s to wonder if Lou Lamoriello and company know what they have and what the future will hold for this historical team.
9 It's The Toronto Maple Leafs
With everything that has been discussed in this article, it's becoming more clear that there is a problem in Leaf Land and no one can really put the blame on one entity. One of the biggest jokes that is said with almost all hockey fans when it comes to figuring out what is wrong with the Maple Leafs is that "it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs". The reasoning behind that joke is simply that they have had so much bad luck in the 100 years as a team that it is becoming a running joke, especially when it comes to hyping players that either start their careers there or if the Maple Leafs are where careers go to finish. With only a few dozen big highlights over the past 20 years it is unlikely that only one player can emerge as the saviour of the Maple Leafs franchise - he cannot do it alone.
8 REASONS WHY HE WILL SUCCEED
7 Leadership Skills
One thing that can be said about the Maple Leaf franchise is that they have had some great captains that gain a lot of respect throughout the hockey world, with the likes of Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, and Mats Sundin. The Maple Leafs thrive on the leadership of their big name players and Matthews definitely has that in spades and is not scared to show it off. With his play in the Swiss League and his play for the USA in international play, it's very likely that in a few seasons you'll see the 'C' on his chest in no time and then the team will be more successful than ever.
6 International Phenomenon
The biggest thing that has attracted all the scouts to Mr. Matthews is his play internationally in Switzerland and for the states in IIHF play. With his 2 gold medals for the USA in U18 play (2014, 2015) along with a bronze in the world U20 play this past year he has done well in representing his country and along with 46 points in 36 games for is Swiss team the ZSC lions is enough to impress any kind of hockey expert let alone the best scouts in the world. With the fast and quick pace of European hockey there is no doubt he can translate all of his skill to North America and the NHL.
5 Youth In A Team Is An Asset
As mentioned earlier in this article it was said that the Toronto Maple Leafs for the upcoming season is too young and inexperienced. With some veterans on the team this year with the likes of Milan Michalek, Brooks Laich and Colin Greening they can help with the young guns of the team to succeed. With some young talent any team can succeed and becoming great such as the recent success of the Chicago Blackhawks. There are a lot of factors and risk involved with a young team but with Matthews leading the way there is no doubt that they will be successful for years to come.
4 Wendel Clark
Without a doubt the best draft pick that the Maple Leafs have ever made has been the skilful and gritty Wendel Clark, with being the last number 1 pick before Matthews its clear to see that Auston is in with some elite company. When it comes to leaders in the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise there are a lot of names that come up and none come up more than Wendel Clark. With history on his side Matthews can really rely on the fans to support him and for the honour of being drafted in the same spot as one of the greats Leafs players ever.
3 The Skill Is There
The skill of Auston Matthews cannot be denied with his play in Europe and in the IIHF representing the USA. With playing with players along the lines of Michale Nylander and Tobias Lindberg on the team with him there is no doubt that there is skill around him on this year's team. When it comes to skill, you can have it all but go nowhere unless you have players that you can play with, just like the seasons that saw Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza in the Ottawa Senators franchise. There is a reason why the likes of those two players had 100 points each in a season and much as the same can be said this year if Matthews can find a niche and became great teammates with some of the young guns. Without a doubt he can become the superstar we have been promised and there might be a "line name" in the works such as "the French connection".
2 Mike Babcock
One of the best acquisitions that have been made by the Maple Leafs franchise wasn't in a player, but in a coach. Mike Babcock is considered by many to be the best coach in all of hockey today and his accomplishments definitely back it up. Not only did he become the succeeder to quite arguable the best coach of all time Scotty Bowman he lead his Red Wings team to a Stanley Cup in 2008. Mike Babcock thrives in teaching young players to become the best players on the ice and can work with Auston on any kind deficiencies he may have in his game. With also being the only triple gold coach in NHL history (world championship gold, Olympic gold, and Stanley cup) it is without a doubt Auston Matthews will be the best play under Mike Babcock's coaching reign.
1 He Went First Overall For A Reason
With the best coaching the best environment to work in, the biggest push to be the best there is one thing that cannot be tossed aside, and that is the fact the Maple Leafs picked Auston at number 1 for a good reason. With all of his skill, leadership and a drive to be the best it will fit in with the rest of the team for years to come. When you have the hype of all the NHL experts and scouts from around the league you do have something to prove and prove your critics to be the best in the world. Will Matthews be the best Leaf ever? Will he be better than Crosby? Will he flop? Only time will tell.