Toronto Maple Leafs: What Is Auston Matthews Thinking?

Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images) /

There’s been a lot of speculation recently about what will happen with Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews, as he enters the final year of his 5-year $58 million contract (per

Will he sign an extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs?  Will he be traded?  Will the departure of Kyle Dubas have any impact?

For years, many commentators have stated with certainty that Matthews has his heart set on returning home to Arizona to be the hero that revives the fate of the sad sack Coyotes franchise, though with absolutely no reason to say it.

Others feel that the bright lights and fame of Los Angeles or New York, or the tax savings of playing in Florida may lure him south of the border.  Why would a kid from the desert want to stay in cold Canada and endure the pressure of being the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs?

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If the 25 year-old doesn’t have enough on his mind trying to decide what his future holds, how about trying to explain to an unrelenting media and fans why the Leafs couldn’t advance further in this year’s playoffs?

Why didn’t you score a goal in the five games versus the Florida Panthers?  Why did you score only 40 goals this season after potting 60 last year?

Then there’s the criticism of Matthews’ style of play.  You’re a big boy, why aren’t you beating up Steven Stamkos or playing with the aggression of Matthew Tkatchuk?  Why, Auston, why?

I must admit that I don’t have any idea what Auston Matthews is thinking.  Unlike many of you, I don’t claim to be a mind-reader.  But I’m willing to speculate and toss out a few possibilities.

In his season ending media availability, Matthews spoke about how much he enjoyed being a Toronto Maple Leaf, and that he expects to come to terms with the team on a contract extension. Sounds to me like someone who knows what he wants.

Could it be that he wants to wants to win a Stanley Cup with the people he calls his friends, the ones he has grown with and suffered with for the last seven years?  Certainly Matthews has considered what it would be like to play in Arizona where he grew up, or to bask in the glitz and glamour of life in Los Angeles.

Perhaps he has consciously rejected the NBA trend of superstars jumping ship to chase a ring somewhere else.  A triumph that follows a lengthy period of suffering must surely be much more fulfilling.

I see a young man who has matured greatly in the last couple of years.  It wasn’t that long ago that we were reading about Matthews dropping his pants or being snubbed by seeing new teammate John Tavares being named captain.

Today’s Auston Matthews downplays the impact that injuries may have had on his play.  He shows us, through the emotional embrace with his father after eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning, how much he cares about winning.

Matthews patiently admits to reporters that he doesn’t know why the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t been able to find success in the playoffs, despite winning so much in the regular season.  He gamely commits to continue working hard and getting better until the team finds a way.

He says the right things, but at the same time he’s probably thinking “what about the Bruins, who have been so good for so long, but have only won a single Stanley Cup in the last 51 years?”.

I see a player who’s thinking “I have a Calder Trophy, two Rocket Richards, a Ted Lindsay and a Hart. I play how I play and I’m comfortable with who I am.”  I have serious doubts that he’s losing any sleep over commentators that think he needs to start fighting to be an effective player.

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Finally, despite the fact that Matthews was close to Kyle Dubas, I would bet that Auston Matthews still thinks that his future as a Toronto Maple Leaf will see him as the leader of a Stanley Cup winning team.  If that’s the case, let’s all hope that he’s right.