"Ice Cold" Auston Matthews Current MVP Season Deserves Some Context

Mar 19, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34)
Mar 19, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Auston Matthews are playing in the weirdest sports town on earth.

Yesterday morning, instead of just summing up the Flyers game (it was a dud) I heard people on the radio ask if Auston Matthews scoring "just" 60 goals would be a disappointment.

Now I realize that people have to talk, and they must create some content, but come on. Auston Matthews is probably the best player alive in the world today. There is nothing disappointing about his season, other than the fact that his mustache suggests he needs to surround himself with less sycophantic friends.

At the very least, he's the best all-round player, and the best goalscorer in the NHL. No one in history has scored goals like he has while playing defense at the level he plays it at.

"Ice Cold" Auston Matthews Current MVP Season Deserves Some Context

What Auston Matthews is doing this year is more impressive than when he won the Hart Trophy because the team he's on is much worse this year.

This year's Auston Matthews currently has 55 goals in 66 games, which is crazy. What's crazier, is that he's doing it on a team that is among the worst puck-moving blue-lines in the league.

Matthews has played 944 5v5 minutes this season, almost half of them, 444 minutes, with TJ Brodie, who is one of the worst puck-movers in the NHL. He's also spent an additional 300 minutes with Jake McCabe, who no one is going to ever mistake for Brian Leetch or Tomas Kaberle, unless you compare him to Simon Benoit, who Matthews also spent over 200 minutes with this season. (stats naturalstattrick.com).

In total, Matthews virtually every minute Matthews has played this season at regular strength has been played with a defenseman who is quite terrible at moving the puck. This isn't to make excuses, because those guys have other jobs and their own strengths, but given that he scores nearly a goal per game anyways, it's worth wondering how good he could do under more optimal conditions.

If you look at his on-ice stats (the percentage of shot-attempts, shots, goals, scoring chances etc. that the Leafs get when he's on the ice) they are way down from his MVP year.

This makes sense, Matthew Knies isn't anywhere close to the level Bunting performed at, and Mitch Marner isn't having as good of a season either. And yet, individually, Matthews is better than he was because he's coming close to his MVP year in goal totals, despite playing on a worse team with worse players.

Matthews' recent cold-streak (coinciding with Mitch Marner's injury) has seen him score just two goals in the last six games. Despite that, he's currently scored 41 goals in his last 45 games. If he scored nine in the next five, something he has done already this season, then he will score 50 in 50 for the second time in his career.

If he ends up with "just" 60 or 65 goals, a little context is necessary. He's still only some fluky second assists away from having a lock on the Hart Trophy (his goals + primary assists are in line with the competition, but Marner and Knies him here).

He also has zero empty net goals and is pretty much always playing with one of the NHL's worst puck-moving defenseman.

Auston Matthews is probably not going to win the Hart Trophy because not enough voters will know about secondary assists, defense, or his ice-time with TJ Brodie et. al. But he should be the informed voters #1 choice.


He is currently on pace for 68 goals. That is extremely impressive, but the difference in perception between that and 70 is huge. In reality, under better conditions, we're probably talking about whether he hits 80.