Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Even if Matthews leaves, the Leafs will be fine

It isn’t a Toronto sports topic without being extremely insecure about a superstar staying long-term and trying to win a championship.

Generally, it reaches out to all of Canada. This incessant need to be liked and accepted is a common theme throughout the country and it has stemmed its way into the mind of Leafs fans when it comes to Auston Matthews.

Immediately when he signed his five-year contract earlier this year the reaction was negative. That the team is buying only one year of unrestricted free agency and as soon as the contract expires he will only be 26-years-old, was the major concern.

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So, of course, when Matthews is in an ad for Arizona State University, those old concerns rose up again and became the topic of the week. Just because he skated around in an ad with a nice looking jersey in his home state.

It might just be the standard attention-grabbing talk on sports radio, but this has roots throughout Toronto. Just assuming that someone will leave at the end of their contract, or will leave Toronto to “go home” is common enough in the other sports, but the Leafs aren’t really used to it.

They just saw Kawhi Leonard — arguably the most talented Raptor of all-time — leave to go to Los Angeles. The Raptors themselves have had a history of not being able to grab any of the highly-touted free agents because of location and past team history.

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It’s common enough in baseball as well. Players are under team control for long enough to make an impact, then they reach the open market and find the best possible contract. Alex Rodriguez didn’t stay in Seattle, Albert Pujols didn’t stay in St. Louis — stars moving is common enough.

Probably the worst thing to bring up, but the Leafs have been on the other side of this narrative for so long and benefited from it last summer. When John Tavares signed in Toronto, no one was really arguing with the fact that he wanted to go home and to a competitive team.

No one knows what prospects or young stars the Arizona Coyotes will have in five years, but there’s always that possibility — since players have the rights to do so.

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Auston Matthews could end up being the greatest American-born player to ever play the sport and he will be in Toronto for at least eight years of his career. That’s plenty enough time to take advantage of the opportunity that the team has in front of them.

There’s still five years left for this team to reach the ultimate goal with Matthews under their control and if they aren’t crowned champions during that time, then it shouldn’t be seen as a complete waste of time. It happens commonly enough that stars on their original team never win anything and every Leafs fan should just accept that it’s wonderful to even have Matthews on this team to begin with.

The Leafs have historically never had truly great superstars on their team. Looking down Legends Row and they’re either from the Original Six era or the single player on a fairly decent team in the modern era of the NHL. Sundin, Gilmour, Clark, those are all greats but they weren’t ever the top-tier players when they played and Matthews is already considered to be one of the best players in the league before he turns 22-years-old.

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It’s the natural competitive cycle in sports and the Leaf are just slowly getting to the top half. If Matthews decides to leave after — what should be several — playoff appearances, then its his right to try and get the best contract on an open market.

It would be edging towards the line of hypocritical if a Leafs fan blames Matthews for wanting to go home when they benefited from that recent enough.

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  • Matmarwill

    The leafs would survive the loss of marner. Bracco could fill in on tavares wing and put up decent numbers. If the leafs have to trade Marner, they should be able to get a top four d-man, a top 9 forward and a few high draft picks. The buds can stay in contention. And bye bye mitchie.

  • Mtl#1

    If the Maple leafs lose their top number one dimensional scorer. You can kiss goodbye any chances of making the playoffs without him. Obviously not a good enough coach behind the bench.
    Anyone who would play Simmonds on the power play in the playoffs while Nylander sits from the bench and watches hasn’t got his talent pool managed very well.
    Hopefully Toronto can make the playoffs and face those lucky Habs again.