The Toronto Maple Leafs are lucky to have two of the best players in the NHL on their top line. Forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are elite offensive players who also happen to be developing into fine defensive forwards as well. As their talent and chemistry continue to take shape, Leafs Nation should expect to see some franchise records broken in 2021-22.
Matthews Going to Break Several Franchise Records
Rick Vaive holds the record for most goals in a season in Toronto with 54, and as I mentioned in my bold predictions piece from a couple of weeks ago, Matthews is going to break that record and maybe by a landslide. Matthews’ 41 goals in 52 games last season was impressive, to say the least, considering the wrist injury that prevented him from shooting the puck as hard as he wanted on some nights, and he had to be moved off his spot on the power play because of the pain. He was on a 65-goal pace over a full season with a bum wrist. The wrist has been surgically repaired, and he’ll be ready to go for opening night and might even play a preseason game or two since his recovery is ahead of schedule.
While Vaive’ total goal record is within reach, another record to watch is the 86-year-old Charlie Conacher Maple Leafs’ record of 13 game-winning goals. Matthews was one short last season and only played 52 games. Expect No. 34 to carry the load when it matters most for Toronto in 2021-22, and that record is certainly within reach.
There’s also a Frank Mahovlich record from 1960-61 where the Maple Leafs’ legend scored 41 even-strength goals. Matthews has come reasonably close during two seasons to catch this number, and he’s going to break it in 2021-22. There’s nobody better in the NHL at 5-on-5 scoring.
Marner Has Bigger High to Climb to Break Records
While Matthews is going to be smashing all the Maple Leafs’ goal-scoring records, somebody has to feed him the puck and Marner is the perfect running mate. One element to watch here as well, is the fact Marner is going to be shooting the puck more, which should result in more goals and therefore points, and likely more assists for Matthews. The two are going to complement each other nicely in 2021-22, and it’s going to be so fun to watch.
Marner should have his eyes set on a couple of franchise records. There’s the Doug Gilmour record of total points with 127 from the 1992-93 season. The shifty winger was on pace for a 100-point season in an 82-game schedule, and yes, he will have some work to do in 2021-22 to catch Gilmour, but if the two of them get off to a hot start which I am expecting, look for Marner to scare this number.
Then there’s also the single-season assist record of 95, held by Gilmour from the same season. It’s a stretch as players generally aren’t putting up the astronomical stats from the early ’90s, but there’s definitely a chance. Marner currently sits fourth on the list when it comes to assists in a season, and look for him to top his career-high of 68 and creep himself closer to “Gilmour status.” While Marner may not end up topping him, he’s going to engrave his name in the history books with one of the best seasons in franchise history.
Matthews and Marner Together Not Always the Case
This is only the second season that Matthews and Marner will start knowing they should be playing the full campaign together. Former head coach Mike Babcock didn’t like having them on the same line because he felt they were too good. He split them up so they could drive their own lines. Dumb, I know, and that’s one of the many reasons he’s not the coach anymore. Here’s a post-game scrum from 2019, when Matthews and Marner were finally put together to spark some offense during a game:
They love playing together, and thankfully, head coach Sheldon Keefe agrees they should. Their games complement each other nicely; Marner is a magician with the puck and is a pass-first player, while Matthews has the best shot in the league, and his Rocket Richard Trophy-winning season in 2020-21 was a tell-tale sign of what’s to come in 2021-22. Their natural talent is one thing, but their chemistry will set them apart moving forward.
Maple Leafs Duo Have Become Closer Off the Ice
One of the many reasons why these two work so well together is because they are honest with each other and hold each other accountable. This was the first summer that Marner was going to head to Arizona and work out with Matthews. Unfortunately, a wrist injury derailed their three-week plan, and instead, Marner made way to Montreal to work out with Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and several other superstars. Though he missed the desert skate, it’s an indication that the two Maple Leafs want to take their game to the next level together.
While they play very different styles, they have similar personalities. Marner is a touch more reserved with fashion and marketing campaigns, but the two are still very close friends. They are hard on each other and are not afraid to give the other a kick in the ass. Marner and Matthews talked more this offseason than any other, trying to work on the finer details of their game and discussing strategy on how to continue to produce at a high level. Leafs Nation should expect to see more goals like this one from the dynamic duo this season:
The best part about that goal was Matthews made the unbelievable spin-o-rama pass, and Marner finished. Matthews’ career-high in assists is 36, and Marner’s career-high goal total is 26. Both of those numbers will be topped in 2021-22.
Leafs Nation is having a hard time forgetting about what took place last postseason against the Montreal Canadiens, and that’s fine because the players haven’t forgotten either. The crumbling to the Canadiens fueled their drive and motivation over the summer, and both Matthews and Marner specifically are going to come back from the experience even better players. Look for Maple Leaf franchise records to be broken in 2021-22, and for both players to take their games to another level. They better find a nice pen to write with, as both Matthews and Marner are going to be writing their names in the franchise record books after this season.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can find Seney also contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween