Maple Leafs faithful might not be big fans of TSN hockey insider Craig Button today, or for that matter, a while. After making comments that Auston Matthews isn’t in the same league as Edmonton Oilers’ forward Leon Draisaitl, there are more than a few fans from Leafs Nation calling for Button’s head.
An often pro-Toronto perspective, it was rare to hear panelists from TSN have an anti-Matthews (not really anti-Matthews but more pro-Draisaitl) discussion and most of the collection of insiders on TSN 1050 agreed when Button said, “I think the talk about Auston Matthews as being one of the best players in the league needs to stop. Because he’s not as good as Draisaitl.”
Agreeing Draisaitl is a top-five player in the NHL, Button went on to add that until Matthews becomes a more consistent all-around player, he’s not even in the same conversation as the German star.
That’s a strong statement. That said, is he right?
Button’s Statement Was Bold, But Not Wrong
Considering it wasn’t long ago that Draisaitl didn’t crack the NHL’s Top-Ten list, that he’s now firmly entrenched in many people’s top-five is saying something. And, that’s he’s leapfrogged Matthews is what’s got so many Maple Leafs fans up in arms. After all, Matthews was ranked well above Draisaitl to start the season and while Matthews has played well, the Leafs have struggled compared to the Oilers and to say the least, Matthews has been inconsistent by comparison.
And, because a TSN crew — who often reports about the Maple Leafs as if the NHL revolves around the organization — is finally seeing things for what they are, Maple Leafs fans are calling foul.
But, let’s look at the facts.
Draisaitl’s Production and Role on the Oilers
There’s no denying what Draisaitl means to the Oilers. If not for Connor McDavid, he’d clearly be Edmonton’s top player. And, on many NHL clubs, he’d easily be their top player as well. Yes, even in Toronto.
And, for Maple Leafs fans saying points don’t mean everything, Draisaitl’s all-around game has been outstanding. He’s playing in all situations, he’s got more ice-time than any other forward in the NHL per game (23:42) and he’s a game-changer who dominates during most of the games he plays.
Can the same be said for the flashy and talented, but sometimes inconsistent Matthews?
Off to a torrid pace this season with 16 points in ten games, Draisaitl is on pace for another season over 100 points, a mark he hit last season. He may not keep up said level of production and earn the 131 points he’s on pace for, but compared to Matthews who is trending towards a 82-point season, there’s really not much argument to be made here.
An 82-point season is nothing to sneeze at. Still, Matthews NHL tenure hasn’t shown he going to produce more than 70-or-so points, his career-high being the 73 points he earned last season in 68 games. Meanwhile, Draisaitl has been eclipsing the 70-point mark for the past three seasons and he should easily do so again barring some kind of injury in 2019-20.
Ironically, Matthews is considered one of the league’s best scorers; that’s his calling card. Yet, he’s not scored more than 40 goals in a single season, with Draisaitl hitting the 50-goal mark during the 2018-19 season.
Related: 7 Cool Things About Auston Matthews
Matthews Has a Long Way to Go
Let’s say Matthews goes on a point tear and Draisaitl cools off a bit (which is extremely possible)… what other attributes is Matthews offering?
He’s not killing penalties (a whopping 0:02 per game this season short-handed), his off-ice behaviour has led to questions about his leadership ability and he’s a highly-paid scorer signed to produce goals. Admittedly, he’s got more markers than Draisaitl so far this season but Matthews isn’t always lighting the lamp for a team that absolutely needs him to because their bottom-six isn’t reliable — a situation not all that different from Edmonton’s.
Oh, and did I mention, Draisaitl is doing all of this for more than $3 million per season less than Matthews is making?
Can One Argue Matthews is Better?
It’s hard to say Matthews isn’t a really good hockey player. He is. And, so it doesn’t come across as though we’re just trashing Matthews and ignoring his contributions to the Maple Leafs, The Old Prof is taking a different approach, asking the question, ‘Is Auston Matthews Better Than Leon Draisaitl?’
So, for a counter argument to this article, take a look at this post that contends Matthews is as good as advertised and definitely in the same ballpark as Draisaitl, if not a better and younger player with more room to grow. He makes some valid points.