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The Greatest?

DAN CEARNS The Standard

Recently, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews reached a milestone for this season. In a game against the Buffalo Sabres, he scored his 60th goal of the season.

This was the second time Matthews has hit that plateau in a season, the last one coming in the 2021/2022 season. He also leads the entire National Hockey League (NHL) in goals this season. With nine games remaining, Matthews has a chance to set a new career high in goals before the playoffs.

His success this season has re-opened the debate about whether or not Matthews is the greatest Toronto Maple Leaf in franchise history. In my personal opinion, he still has to do one thing to make that mark for me, win at least one Stanley Cup.

While personal success is great, I think Matthews still has to prove that he can pair that success with the ability to help push his team to a championship. Think of Alex Ovechkin for example. He’s likely to end up as the greatest goal scorer in NHL history. However, for years the narrative followed him about team success not matching up with his own successes. That all changed when he hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2018.

And while Matthews is very likely going to be the greatest goal scorer in team history, there are a lot of Maple Leafs in history who have won championships. Johnny Bower, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Charlie Conacher and George Armstrong are names that come to mind. It is important to remember that the Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups in the franchise’s long storied history. If Matthews truly wants to be on the list of the team’s legends, he has to be part of the 14th cup.

And speaking of that, I think a Stanley Cup victory for this team would push Matthews into the all time spot for another reason, the precedent. Yes, there are Maple Leafs in years past who won multiple Stanley Cups with the team. However, this is a Leafs team that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967. For those counting, that’s a 57 year drought. If Matthews won a Stanley Cup with the Leafs, the storyline of the end of that drought would live on, similar to the story of the New York Rangers ending their 54-year cup drought in 1994.

Auston Matthews is definitely a great Maple Leaf, and as a fan I’m super happy my team has him. But he needs to find team success in the NHL postseason if I’m to put him into legendary status.

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