Source – Forty goals, 69 total points and the 2017 Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. With that haul in the bag, it’s safe to say Auston Matthews exceeded expectations during his first go-round in the big leagues with the Toronto Maple Leafs .
But don’t count head coach Mike Babcock among those crowning him as one of the league’s next kings just yet.
The veteran bench boss has heaped plenty of praise on Matthews for the exceptional campaign, but he suggested the onus is on the young centreman – and his fellow young stars – to prove they can do it all again if they want to truly enter the league’s upper echelon.
“Obviously we have good young players. We have a lot of them,” Babcock said to NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman at the World Junior Summer Showcase on Monday. “It’s kind of a group that’s growing up together. But it’s one year and one year doesn’t make a career. You have to do it again and again and again.”
The line of critics gathering to doubt Matthews’ ability to post an equally impressive 2017-18 effort is likely a very short one, especially after Matthews followed up his impressive regular season with four goals and five points through the first six playoff games of his career – against the Washington Capitals, no less.
However, Babcock said he’s concerned with more than just his young star’s stat line.
“I don’t measure guys by points,” Babcock said. “I measure guys by how they play and how they compete every day and how much better they get in their determination. We’re excited to see what (Matthews) can do. He feels he’s a real good player and wants to be one of the best players in the game.”
Even after proving himself as arguably the best of his draft class, and perhaps among the best in the league overall, Matthews’ coach sees room to take another step.
“He really improved his 200-foot game last year, more and more pace,” Babcock said of Matthews. “He’s gotten way better without the puck so he has the puck more He can play against everybody. He’s got a lot of growth options.”
Auston Matthews had the greatest rookie season in 100 years of Leaf history, and Babcock is slowing the train down with a hardo reality check for Matthews.
“Great year Kid and a good start. Only 19 years to go if you’re lucky and BTW, you haven’t done shit yet.”
That’s Mike Babcock in a nutshell. A young group like the Leafs need that message delivered daily, and I happen to like it. Babcock is the Bill Belichick of the NHL. So hyper focused on where he wants to be he has zero fucking time to talk about where he’s been or where he is today.
I haven’t been this excited for the start of the Maple Leafs season for over a decade and its stuff like this that jacks me up.