It’s never a good sign when the coach immediately says that a player won’t be available for their next game in the media availability following the game in which a player was injured. So when Saturday night Mike Babcock said that Auston Matthews wouldn’t be playing tonight against Calgary, we were giving some time to brace for the worst…
Auston Matthews (shoulder) is expected to be out a minimum of four weeks and will be placed on injured reserve today. #LeafsForever
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) October 29, 2018
Let’s start with the obvious on this one. There is absolutely nothing good about this. Auston Matthews is wonderful and pure joy is experienced when you watch him play. His absence makes the Leafs significantly worse, and he’ll be missed a lot.
Now that we’ve acknowledged the worst, let’s look at some of the positives here:
First, it was diagnosed immediately, he left the game and didn’t play after the injury at all. It has in no way been aggravated beyond initially happened.
Secondly, it’s October (at least for a couple more days) and it’s still very early in the season. Auston Matthews will be back for the heart of the season and the playoffs. It seems foolish to even mention the playoffs in this, but hey, at least we should be able to count on this injury not impacted his playoff performance, unless the team is doing something stupid like deferring a necessary surgery for this until the offseason and we have to suffer through Auston playing at a fraction of his abilities because of it.
Third, the Leafs are good enough to be a playoff team even without Auston Matthews, so while Tampa may have just gained an advantage in winning the division, they were likely going to do that anyway. This is basically an 82 game exercise in finding out if Boston or Toronto play Game Seven at home. Not having Auston hurts nothing beyond potentially that.
Fourth, if you’re a big fan of Andreas Johnsson, congrats! He’s probably back in the lineup now.
Who Replaces Auston?
No one. He’s beyond being replaced?
Okay, but who fills in for him?
I’m sure Nazem Kadri is more than happy to have his linemates upgraded to Patrick Marleau and Kasperi Kapanen. Kadri and Marleau were solid together last year, and Kasperi Kapanen has done well this year. I wouldn’t be shocked if Kapanen’s numbers drop off a little now, but the Leafs still have two very respectable lines. It’s the bottom six that we have to start worrying about.
Ah yes, the bottom six. We are likely being treated to Par Lindholm, third line center now. Not that he’s been particular good or bad, it’s just a very obvious downgrade. You’d have to imagine that they will still try to infuse a bit more offense into this line, and my personal preference would be to see Johnsson and Leivo flank him. In reality I suspect it will be Connor Brown and Leivo, which isn’t a hill to die on, but seems like the benefits of having Andreas Johnsson in the lineup are lost by playing him with Freddie Gauthier.
PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GORD, RECALL TREVOR MOORE!!!
Those are stronger feelings than anyone should express for Trevor Moore, but since Moore is a bit older and isn’t going to be more ready for than NHL than he is at the moment, and he has the ability to lineup at center or on the wing, he seems like the most obvious choice. Some would argue that he was the right choice of Gauthier out of training camp, but at the end of the day, there aren’t any options that can make you feel better about losing Auston Matthews.
This is very, very bad. Auston Matthews is bliss, so injuries to Auston Matthews are the opposite of that. Go out and kick some rocks, we’ve all earned it, but know at the end of the day the Leafs are still a playoff team, injuries heal, and Toronto still has John Tavares.