By Cole Parkinson
After seeing and hearing all the Auston Matthews is ‘made of glass’ and ‘injury prone’ comments from other fanbases, it’s time to look at why there is no need to worry about my guy.
First of all, in his first season in the NHL he played all 82 regular season games including six playoff games, so it’s not like he has never played a full season of hockey.
Of course, last year was different when he did miss 20 games in the regular season due to a shoulder injury and concussion.
When he came back he wasn’t the same player but he still was pretty effective which helped get the Leafs into the playoffs for the second straight year.
His playoff showing in the 2018 playoffs was basically non-existent and really was the first time he saw some pushback from fans and media as he really wasn’t a factor in the seven-game series against Boston.
Cue this year when he opens the year on a torrid pace had he netted 10 goals and six assists in 11 games before things were derailed by another shoulder injury, though it was the opposite shoulder this time.
Now I get it, people who aren’t Toronto fans really dislike the Leafs because they get the most attention and media coverage.
Most of my friends aren’t Maple Leafs fans so I’ve heard every chirp under the sun about the Leafs and their players including the most recent ‘Matthews can’t take a hit without getting hurt’.
Let’s not forget Matthews is only 21 years old and is still adjusting to the NHL game on the physical side, so personally, the injuries aren’t that concerning for me yet.
In terms of injuries affecting star players, just look at Sidney Crosby’s career.
Since his start at the NHL in the 2005-2006 season, he has only played a full 82 once, 81 twice and 80 twice.
A lot of talk at that point was around if Crosby would have a shortened career due to injuries but here we are watching him continue to dominate.
Now the injuries weren’t the same, as most of what ailed Crosby was concussions and he was labelled injury prone for several years but he’s still in the league and arguably the best player in the world.
Another player who jumps to mind is Phil Kessel who was roughly the same age as Matthews when he arrived in Toronto in 2009.
Kessel had an injury during the previous year’s playoffs and immediately went on the shelf for a shoulder injury that required surgery to start his time in the blue and white.
Obviously, it wasn’t how Leafs fans had hoped the acquisition would have started but Kessel came back roughly a month later.
Really the only other injury Kessel succumbed to during his Maple Leafs tenure after that was a back injury from trying to carry mediocre teams to the playoffs.
While Kessel hasn’t had many injuries since I think it’s important to look at the fact he bounced back after a shoulder surgery and wasn’t hampered moving forward.
Sure, Matthews has now had injuries to both shoulders in back to back seasons, labelling him injury prone this early in his career is a tad premature considering he bounced back and hasn’t needed surgery.
Finally, let’s look at Maple Leafs fan and Edmonton Oiler centre Connor McDavid who received a pretty serious injury in his first year of NHL action.
While not a shoulder injury, McDavid did break his collarbone after a tangle up with Brandon Manning during a game in 2015 which caused a minor panic in Edmonton, which was totally fair.
Looking at that injury and comparing it to Matthews isn’t necessarily fair as one was caused by McDavid falling and being driven into the boards and Matthews received a clean check that jammed his shoulder.
What I take away from it though is sometimes players are in the wrong place at the wrong time and get injured.
Matthews was trying to drive the net but Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets saw an opportunity to be physical with the Leafs number one centre and did so.
The best players on each team are targeted by defensive cores of the opposing teams which can sometimes lead to these types of situations. I don’t think you can chalk them up as the player being injury prone unless it happens over a number of years.
Now don’t get me wrong, if Matthews continues to play less than 80 games per season over the next couple of years, then I think it would be more fair to put him in that category. But right now, he’s 21 and he has been unlucky in the injury department, so let’s just hold off on the labelling right now especially since it’s only his third year in the league.
More importantly, the NHL needs its star players playing every night, no matter what team you cheer for, so having Matthews injured may be a delight for some just because he plays for Toronto but it really is not good for the NHL as a whole.