Matthew Knies is giving tangible evidence of intangibles

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Filipe Dimas
8 months ago
When it comes to discussing intangibles in hockey it’s hard to know where to begin, almost by design. Intangibles are typically seen as that “it factor” a player brings to the game that can’t be measured in box scores and spreadsheets. For some, it’s seen as essential to winning, while others view intangibles as magic space dust that is arbitrarily used to provide value to a player when no concrete evidence exists.
Matthew Knies however, within his short time in the NHL, has been giving tangible evidence of these intangibles that everyone loves to discuss. Whether it’s diving to stop a puck from exiting the offensive zone or continuing to drive toward the net after dropping to his knees, Knies has consistently found ways to go above and beyond, getting rewarded on the scoresheet as a result.
While these sorts of plays don’t always lead to goals like the two above examples have, they’re infectious and contagious to teammates watching them happen. In the past, the Toronto Maple Leafs have seemed to lack that extra drive, the next level that’s talked about in hushed circles as the thing that brings a team from good to great, that turns playoff qualifiers into cup contenders. We’ve seen Toronto get bullied out of the postseason year after year by teams who seem to want it more – but after watching the intensity at which Knies plays, it’s difficult to suggest anyone on the ice with him ever wants it more than he does. 
When he joined the team for last year’s playoff push, the impact he brought was immediately clear, and while he didn’t dominate the box score, he contributed mightily to the team’s first playoff series win in nearly two decades. Once a concussion forced him out of the lineup in the second round, there was a clear emptiness felt, and the team seemed to lack the same energy it had just a week prior.
Although the Toronto Maple Leafs opened the season looking shaky, they’ve since turned in a string of good to excellent performances, each one including long stretches of dominating their opponents on the ice for multiple consecutive shifts. While much of that can be attributed to the emergence of Joseph Woll, it’s hard not to wonder if the intensity of those skaters lower in the lineup has been energizing the team in ways that this generation of the Maple Leafs have lacked for years.
As much as Matthew Knies deserves plenty of credit for the boost he’s brought to the roster since arriving late last season, he isn’t alone in bringing some new intangibles to the squad. Despite some poor defensive play, Ryan Reaves appears to be energizing the team both on and off the ice. Interviews with his teammates often sing his praises, and behind-the-scenes videos showcase his energetic personality getting everyone laughing, fired up, and keeping things positive in the dressing room. On the ice, he’s found ways to rally the more skilled members of the squad as well, whether it’s by finishing his checks or putting his body on the line in fights that would wake anyone up.
There’s never been any doubt that the Toronto Maple Leafs have the skill needed to win, it was right there in plain view all along. At the end of the year, we could look and see that Auston Matthews scored 60 goals, or Mitch Marner put up close to 100 points and yet it was never good enough. Now Matthew Knies seems to be spearheading the rise of intangibles within the squad, with Ryan Reaves supporting him every step of the way.
Those who have played team sports will be the first to tell you that competitiveness and effort is contagious. Every time Knies, Reaves, or anyone else dives for a puck, throws a thundering hit, or refuses to give up on a play inspires those around them to start doing the same. So far, the Maple Leafs have seen this new-look effort directly lead to goals, and if these unspoken intangibles continue to spread throughout the entire roster, they may be lucky enough to see it lead to a deep playoff run.

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