A star is born?

17.10.2016 08:46 Leonid_Poroshin

HaySport examines the sizzling start of the promising talent.

Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews, 19, came like a blazing comet Wednesday night when he scored four goals in his first NHL game, which is unprecedented.

Matthews was the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft, and he showed why against the Ottawa Senators. He looked like he belonged, which is the first thing you look for when you see a 19-year old kid on the ice. Neither the speed nor the size of the opposition was too much for him.

For the love of God, Maple Leafs, don’t screw this up.

It’ll be useless to examine the team’s 50-year old history of wasting top talent. The Phil Kessel fiasco, the inability to win the Stanley Cup with the likes of Curtis Joseph, Doug Gilmour, Dave Andreychuk, Mats Sundin, Wendel Clark. Maple Leafs seem to have a tendency for that.

It stems from a bad mix of organizational incompetence and the lingering pressure of playing in the hockey-mad Toronto, where many of the 2.6 million residents are still cheering for a club that has failed to hoist up the cup since 1967. Stars come in with expectations to change history, and then things continue as they were. The very fact that Matthews’ four goals were not enough to clinch a win is telling.

In theory, Matthews is everything a future NHL star can be. Of Mexican heritage, he is a living evidence of the growing success of NHL’s expansion into Southwest. He has the size and the speed, ability to handle puck, and a scorer’s killer instinct.

But reality has a way of working out differently. For 50 years the Maple Leafs were not able to help talents like him realize their full potential. The do seem to be on the right track, as team president Brendan Shanahan and coach Mike Babcock both have said and done the right things so far. Shanahan went on the record to say that when the team drafted Matthews, they did it with the understanding that he’s "not going to be the savior."

The Maple Leafs can and should take their time. Matthews and other young talents acquired by the club recently can definitely be a foundation for greatness down the line.

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