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Maple Leafs Season Might Hinge on Austin Matthews’ Recovery

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On August 13, tall young Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews underwent wrist surgery after experiencing discomfort during his practice sessions earlier that week.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews has undergone wrist surgery and is expected to need a “minimum” of six weeks to recover https://t.co/r5c0BVumie

Since the announcement of this operation, there has been virtually no news of the operation or of Matthews’ recovery. Could the wrist injury be more of a problem than Maple Leafs fans think? In fact, could Matthews’ injury make or break the Maple Leafs season?

Matthews missed a number of games last season with a wrist issue

We would like to know more about the extent of this injury. Is it the same injury that hampered him at different times in the 2020-21 season? On January 22, Matthews missed a game against the Edmonton Oilers with what was then listed as a vague “upper body injury”.

Related: Maple Leafs Management and Matthews Not Disagree

Matthews also missed back-to-back games on February 27 and March 1. This time around, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was a bit more on point when he noted the injury was due to a wrist injury he sustained. with “practically the whole season”.

Matthews then missed another game on April 15. When asked if Keefe was the same wrist injury, he noted it was “similar but not the same”.

Sheldon Keefe on whether Auston Matthews’ injury is a recurrence of the wrist / hand issue (s) he battled earlier this season: “It’s similar but not the same no.” Keefe added, “(It’s) not something that we expect to hold him back here.”

Matthews has been suffering from this wrist injury for some time.

Tracing the missed games and the commentary that accompanied it, we think it’s obvious that Matthews has been dealing with an injury or different versions of the same injury since at least January 22, and possibly before.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Kurtis Gabriel Battles For A Place On The List

After his recent surgery, according to the Maple Leafs, the prognosis was that a “minimum” of six weeks would be needed for Matthews to recover. This leaves two questions unanswered.

First, if six weeks was a minimum, what is the maximum? Second, does “recover” mean fully recovered or just good enough to play? In other words, will the Matthews that we’ll see on the ice at the start of the 2021-22 regular season be the 100% healed Matthews, or will one of them be healed at? about 90%, 80% or even less?

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr / The Hockey Writers)

Will there be any lingering long term effects? Will there be a permanent impact on his game?

Scorers like Matthews need good hands

Because the hands are such an extremely important part of a hockey player’s anatomy, especially if that player is a cross, how will this injury impact Matthews’ ability to score goals. Also, Matthews is not really a center; he’s the NHL’s top scorer. We would like to know more.

Right now, exactly six weeks from August 13th brings us to September 24th. Maple Leafs training camp begins September 22. The team’s first exhibition game is September 25, and its first regular-season game dropped the puck on October 13 at home against the Montreal Canadiens.

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Will Matthews be ready to go during this time? And, when he puts on his skates, how close will he be to being himself?

Can the Maple Leafs count on Matthews’ hot start?

Ever since Matthews burst onto the scene scoring four goals in his very first NHL game, he’s been noted as having a hot hand – not a bad one – early in the season. In his first season in 2016-17, he scored six goals in his first six games.

Here’s how Mathews started every season since its premiere. In 2017-18, he scored 12 goals in 17 games. In 2018-19, he scored at an even higher pace, scoring 16 goals in 16 games. In 2019-2020, he scored 13 goals in 17 games. And in 2020-21, he scored 18 remarkable goals in 18 games.

Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Nathan Denette)

Overall, over his five seasons, Matthews started those seasons scoring 65 goals in 74 games. Matthews’ hot starts also propelled the Maple Leafs to their own hot starts. Over the past five seasons, the team has recorded a win / loss record of 44 wins, 21 losses and 9 losses in overtime. In those 74 games to start the season, that’s an excellent 0.635 winning percentage.

What if Matthews wasn’t completely healed at the start of the season?

Considering the difficult Atlantic Conference, could the Maple Leafs be behind the eight? With the team returning to its traditional Atlantic division this season, a strong start could be crucial for the team’s overall success in 2021-22. A bad start could make it extremely difficult for the team to advance to the playoffs.

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews Undergoes A Transformation

As a result, the Maple Leafs could be forced to make a very difficult decision early in the season. Do they play Matthews if he’s not 100%, or do they keep him on the sidelines until he’s completely and completely healed?

The answer to that question could spell the fate of the Maple Leafs’ 2021-22 season. Hopefully, this is not at all a question worth considering.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]



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