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With Matthews winning the Hart, more incentive for Dubas to get it right in the off-season and beyond

Auston Matthews’ trophy case is getting crowded.

Earlier awards gained within the Nationwide Hockey League by the 24-year-old Maple Leafs famous person received some elite firm on Tuesday evening.

Matthews gained the Hart Memorial Trophy in Tampa, awarded following a 2021-22 season by which the centre was the primary NHL participant in 10 years to attain 60 objectives.

Matthews is the third Leafs participant to win the Hart — offered to the participant adjudged to be most useful to his crew as voted by the members of the Skilled Hockey Writers Affiliation — and first since Ted Kennedy in 1955.

For individuals who suppose that Matthews gained partly due to a Toronto-centric issue, that concept couldn’t be extra unsuitable. Matthews had 119 first-place votes; Connor McDavid had 29, Igor Shesterkin 24.

Moreover, Matthews turned the primary Leafs participant to win the Ted Lindsay Award, given to essentially the most excellent participant within the NHL as voted by the gamers.

For Matthews, who provides the Hart to the Rocket Richard (2021 and 2022) and Calder (2017) that he had gained previously, in addition to different accolades, there stays an unfilled house in his case, the place maybe he’ll at some point place a small reproduction of the Stanley Cup.

That Matthews, who additionally was voted to the NHL all-star first crew, could have his identify etched on the Hart must be extra incentive for Leafs basic supervisor Kyle Dubas to get it proper this low season and end constructing a crew that really can compete for the Cup — not one which does sufficient within the common season to set itself up properly for the playoffs solely to fail within the first spherical.

There’s the rub. That the Leafs have a expertise resembling Matthews — and one not far behind him in Mitch Marner (who was voted to the primary NHL all-star crew for the second yr in a row) — however can’t discover stable traction as soon as the post-season begins has develop into a nasty thorn within the aspect of the group.

There’s no assure that what Dubas accomplishes within the months earlier than coaching camp begins in September will make the Leafs any nearer to changing into Cup contenders than they had been after they misplaced in Sport 7 towards the Tampa Bay Lightning on Could 14.

The most important space of concern, after all, is in aim. The nearer we get to July 13, when NHL free company begins, the higher the possibility that Jack Campbell indicators with one other crew. Proper now, Dubas doesn’t have the form of cash, roughly $5 million US a season, that Campbell ought to command on the open market.

With that in thoughts, and with holding in thoughts that Dubas completely has to discover a solution to rid the crew of Petr Mrazek’s contract, one might anticipate the Leafs to have two completely different goalies for the regular-season opener in October.

Goalies headed totally free company embody Darcy Kuemper, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ville Husso. Commerce choices might embody John Gibson, Semyon Varlamov, Alexandar Georgiev or Jonathan Fast. One in all that bunch, if not another person, could be tasked with serving to lead the Leafs on a protracted playoff run and in the end the Cup. In any occasion, quite a bit must go proper for that to occur.

Matthews, in the meantime, has grown to develop into probably the most dominant gamers within the recreation. As a lot as he shortly developed into an offensive power, persevering with to fill the online since that magical NHL debut in October 2016 when he scored 4 objectives towards the Ottawa Senators, he has taken giant steps on the opposite aspect of the puck. In all sides, it’s zero enjoyable for opponents at any time when Matthews steps on to the ice.

That is all effectively and good. However Dubas most likely wouldn’t have imagined that within the 5 years (to the day) between Matthews successful the Calder and the Hart, the Leafs wouldn’t have gained a single playoff collection, by no means thoughts not gone deep in any post-season.

Matthews has two years remaining on his contract, and you must suppose Dubas will do all he can to get Matthews’ signature on a brand new deal lengthy earlier than we arrive at free company in 2024.

If, for no matter cause, that doesn’t occur, the window to win with Matthews is down to 2 years.

Both means, it could be awfully troublesome for the Leafs to have had a participant of Matthews’ stature and never discovered a solution to elevate the trophy that will get essentially the most consideration in Matthews’ assortment.

Copyright Postmedia Community Inc., 2022

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