The Maple Leafs need to do the right thing and set Auston Matthews free

The Maple Leafs have yet again lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and while we’re a Jets blog and you would wonder how this affects us in any way, I would like to point out that since the Leafs are in fact “Canada’s Team,” what happens to them does affect us deeply and as I’ll point out in a moment, Jets fans should be especially insulted at how the Leafs are wasting a spectacular talent like Auston Matthews.

Matthews is undeniably a generational talent who was picked first overall by Toronto in the 2016 NHL draft. The franchise that hadn’t won anything of significance since the time black and white TVs were “cutting edge technology” had finally won something worth getting excited over. They picked Matthews and with the addition of other young dynamic players like William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly it finally seemed like the Leafs couldn’t possibly screw any of this up.

Only, they have. Repeatedly. Tuesday night’s game seven loss to Boston was just the continuation of a proud Maple Leafs tradition of not being able to get past the first round of the playoffs since 2006. Auston Matthews has never known the thrill of a playoff series victory – something that even Connor McDavid has been able to enjoy.

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It hasn’t been for lack of anything Auston himself has done, his numbers in this latest series against Boston were outstanding. Coming into game seven, he had five goals and an assist while averaging 19:57 ice time. The Bruins had no answer for him and he was dragging his team out of the first round as it was foretold by scriptures.

But one man can’t do it all by himself and Auston had too many factors working against him.

He had a hot head teammate who even Tom Wilson thinks needs to dial back the aggression. He had another teammate who might not have even gotten out of his PJs for the playoffs. His coach became the second person this season to make insane decisions that angered fans like leaving Nic Petan in the pressbox and playing Auston a minute less than his average in game seven.

Patrik Laine was hindered this season by a bad back. Auston Matthews was hindered by a bad… er… Babcock.

It’s honestly a sad sight to see. Matthews should be a household name in most North American homes by now. Not because of his talent, but just look at him! He has stunning good looks and would be as at home on a runway in Paris as he is on ice in Toronto, but his relative brief time in Toronto has even damaged whatever good taste in fashion he might have had.

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Good grief, this look would have never been acceptable in Arizona.

Which leads me to my most important point here and why I am bringing all this up on a Winnipeg Jets blog.

The Jets (the 1.0 version) died and were banished to hell on earth Arizona but like a glorious phoenix out of those ashes, a hockey megastar rose. Auston Matthews is an Arizona native and grew up a fan of the Jets.

Sure he and everyone else called them the Coyotes, but if we’re going by the logic most hockey fans have today calling our current Jets the Thrashers, then it stands to reason that Auston Matthews was a fan of the Jets.

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He for sure had a Shane Doan jersey. When he played street hockey, he probably yelled things like “NUMMINEN WITH THE SHOT!” or “TKACHUK SCORES!” in that classic play calling style of Curt Keilback. He witnessed the club honor an all-time great in Dale Hawerchuk. He maybe even fawned over a great save by Bob Essensa.

Sounds like a typical childhood Jets fan to me.

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It was painful for Jets fans to lose their team, but without that loss, we wouldn’t have such a talented player who surely would have gone on to play baseball or football without the influence of the Jets turned Coyotes. Auston Matthews’ formative sports years were practically molded by the Winnipeg Jets. Now his current playing years are being tarnished by the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s a damn shame. If you’re a long time Jets fan, you probably should be outraged that your sacrifice is being wasted.

I don’t know what more can be done at this point. Auston signed a five year contract extension earlier this season because he’s young and has already been influenced by Leafs fans who can’t find high definition video footage of their club in a conference final but still feel like a Stanley Cup is their God given birthright. Auston won’t give up on the Leafs, but the Leafs should realize that with the responsibility of being “Canada’s Team” they owe it to a hockey loving nation to set Matthews free and let him become the American Wayne Gretzky he is destined to be instead of settling for the new age version of Toronto’s Mats Sundin.

It’s horrible for the NHL and the sport as a whole to not let Auston play on it’s biggest stage, or at the very least the second round of the playoffs. We hockey fans need to see Auston for more than one round and hopefully not losing to the Bruins. Instead what we have is a young man being broken before our very eyes as he tries to Doug Gilmour his team into playoff respectability.

Just like the Oilers need to do the right thing with Connor McDavid, the Leafs need to do with Auston Matthews and set him free.