8. Matthews’ maladies
Big things were predicted for scoring maestro Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, especially if you limited your information intake to what was produced by the Toronto news media.
And the kid is supremely talented, of which there was no doubt, coming off a Calder Memorial Trophy win after scoring 40 goals in his rookie season. So that’s why having his struggle through injuries for most of the season comes as such a surprise for diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fans.
Having Mike Babcock as your coach gives you an immediate boost no matter who you are, so if sophomore slumping became a thing, there was the belief that Babcock would talk the kid out of a funk. Didn’t happen. Instead, we got intermittent Matthews, who dropped from 69 to 63 points but in 20 fewer games. The dude had a rockstar season in his sights if he just could have stayed healthy. Regardless, turns out the Leafs were fine with him in or out of the lineup, having their best-ever season in terms of points (but that 1993-94 team still rocks), but having the intermittently parachuting Matthews over the course of the season was something fresh out of the Upside Down.