The season for the Toronto Maple Leafs has just taken a serious turn with news that Auston Matthews will be out at least four weeks with a shoulder injury. The club placed him on the injured reserve list Monday.
Matthews was hurt on Saturday after taking a Jacob Trouba hit in Toronto’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. The Maple Leafs won the game but outwardly lost at least part of the war, with their leading scorer out of action for a month or more.
Matthews is tied for second in the league in scoring, with 10 goals. He’s sixth in points with 16.
Now honestly, it could be argued that the Maple Leafs will be just fine what with an embarrassment of riches up front. And that’s certainly true from most impartial standpoints, but nobody wants to or needs to lose a player of Matthews’ quality for such a protracted period.
“You’re not going to replace a player like Matts,” said John Tavares. “He’s one of the best in the league. But we’ve certainly got a hell of a group in here talent-wise, skill-wise and I think work ethic[-wise].”
That’s a true statement if there ever was one and Tavares has to include himself as part of that group. He can post up at centre and the team will barely miss a beat.
The Maple Leafs have been down the Matthews-less road before. Last season, he missed a big chunk of time with a shoulder injury. This, for the record, is not that shoulder injury.
And last season is not this season, either.
Toronto was hopeless without Matthews last year and the lack of depth was felt profoundly. This year, Tavares and Co. have a different energy and the club is playing well. They’re atop the Eastern Conference with 16 points and boast an 8-3 record, equal to Nashville out West. And they’ve scored a mountain of goals so far.
They’ll face the Calgary Flames Monday without Matthews and that will be a test of sorts. But with Tavares between Kasperi Kapanen and Zach Hyman and Nazem Kadri reunified with Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner, this is a team you can believe in once more – even through this bout of adversity.