Matthews and Maple Leafs Need to Follow McDavid’s Lead to Get Calls

Connor McDavid didn’t really whine or complain about the obvious calls he wasn’t getting. Yet, when the Edmonton Oilers fan base and the media started talking about how many times he was being hooked, tripped, slashed, and impeded on plays, the NHL officials started to notice. When the media started having the conversation about the league’s stars not being protected, it was possibly too loud a conversation to ignore.

Perhaps it’s time the Toronto Maple Leafs take a look at how many calls aren’t being made against their own stars and follow the Oilers’ lead.

Fact: Matthews and the Leafs Stars Don’t Get Calls

I’ve written plenty about McDavid not getting calls. In many cases, I’ve been called a homer for arguing it isn’t right that NHL officials just let these infractions go because there would be power plays for the Oilers multiple times per game if everything that was a penalty got called a penalty. McDavid isn’t the only one that has this problem.

Connor McDavid, Jacob de la Rose, Filip Hronek
Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan)

Jonas Siegel of The Athletic recently took a look at how infrequently Auston Matthews is drawing penalty calls. He noticed that the star gets tugged on and impeded on a regular basis, yet he rarely draws a call. Hea coach Sheldon Keefe said in a recent media avail, “If I’m not mistaken, I don’t think Auston has drawn a penalty the entire season, which is strange just given how much he has the puck and how involved he is.” Siegel points out that Keefe is partially correct. He writes:

The Leafs head coach was mostly correct: Matthews had drawn three penalties overall to that point. But zero, somehow, with five skaters a side in more than 370 minutes worth of action. If it wasn’t obvious enough already: Matthews deserves more calls than he’s been getting.

source – ‘Why doesn’t Auston Matthews draw more penalties? A brief investigation’ – Jonas Siegel – The Athletic – 12/10/2021

Siegel adds that Matthews isn’t the only one on the team facing a similar issue. Between the seasons of 2018-21, Matthews drew 30 5-on-5 penalties which placed him just outside the top 100. William Nylander and Mitch Marner drew even less. John Tavares was the highest of the big four earning 41 calls. No one was inside the NHL’s top 35 in that category.

Why Matthews Isn’t He Getting Calls

Siegel argued the reason Matthews doesn’t draw penalties is that he simply skates through the infractions. Unlike less-skilled players on the team — Michael Bunting has drawn 10 5-on-5 penalties and 17 overall this season– the officials don’t make the call when Matthews just keeps going. That doesn’t make it right.

Related: Blackhawks Need to Acquire Jake DeBrusk from Bruins

Just because the Maple Leafs’ best players are better at battling through the infractions doesn’t mean the infractions don’t exist. Siegel called it “The Shaq Effect” suggesting Shaw was just too big and no matter what you did, you couldn’t stop him. Whereas McDavid is too fast to stop without impeding him, Matthews gets a bit of the Shaq treatment because he’s big and strong and hard to knock off his skates.

The Leafs Should Make It Known That They’ve Noticed a Trend

As often as fans outside of Edmonton called McDavid a whiner when he didn’t get a call (they were just being trolls, by the way), the Oilers didn’t shy away from making it known they were seeing a trend. The media jumped on that train in a major way and it became a very loud topic of conversation and debate. Siegel writes, “After an outcry from fans and media over a clear lack of justice, McDavid has steadily risen into a tie for top spot — with 11 penalties drawn 5-on-5 to this point.”

In other words, a little acknowledgement that there’s a problem helped.

Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews jumps over the sticks of Detroit Red Wings defenceman Filip Hronek and defenceman Danny DeKeyser (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

The Oilers haven’t exactly taken advantage of the extra calls as their power play has dropped in its effectiveness and they’ve lost four-straight games, but it’s going to take a power-play goal or two to snap the Oilers out of their current funk. There’s no reason the Leafs shouldn’t try to get the attention of the officials and get as many opportunities to win as possible. They don’t need to cry or moan, they just need to make the league aware they see a problem.

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Keefe saying what he did is a good start. If Matthews is asked, he doesn’t need to say he’s upset or doesn’t understand why he’s not getting calls, he just simply needs to say he doesn’t want to really talk about the officiating and he’ll continue to fight through it, as will his superstar teammates. That’s all it will take and the officials will hear it. At the same time, they won’t feel as though they are being targeted or called out and take it personally.

Unlike what John Tortorella said about McDavid, it’s not time for the Leafs to “shut up and play.” A little nudge, nudge, wink, wink is all it takes.