Toronto Maple Leafs: Why we can expect Auston Matthews to play more this season

Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs waits for a faceoff against the Tampa Bay Lightning during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs waits for a faceoff against the Tampa Bay Lightning during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Going into this season Auston Matthews says he wants to play more minutes for the Toronto Maple Leafs and has made it clear to Mike Babcock.

If you were one of the people who weren’t pleased with how many minutes Auston Matthews played for the Toronto Maple Leafs especially in the playoffs, you weren’t alone.

As part of the NHL Media Day in Chicago, the Leafs centre spoke to Tim and Sid about the upcoming season and his new moustache which has been a big topic, especially on social media.

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We have already heard in the past how Matthews and head coach Mike Babcock met in Arizona to discuss some differences they might have had and apparently this happened again during the off-season. What was a big topic of discussion between the two apparently was how much the 21-year-old would see the ice during the season.

Fans were not too thrilled to see their star centre get roughly the same ice time as players who weren’t seen as main contributors. It has been a common issue during Babcock’s tenure but Matthews definitely wants to be counted on more by his coach.

"“Obviously, ice time needs to be shared,” Matthews told Michael Traikos of Postmedia. “For myself personally, I don’t see myself as needing to play 22 minutes a night. I think depending on the game, if we’re up three or four goals, I don’t need to be double-shifting, but if we’re down a goal in a tight game or a come-back game I’d like to see myself out there more.”"

Of course, Matthews knows he can’t just demand to be out there more but he has certainly shown that he deserves a larger role especially when the team needs some offence. At least by letting Babcock know how he feels about having a bigger role should put the pressure on the head coach to not only listen but be willing to not be stubborn when everyone knows he’s trying to remain in control.

Matthews also told Traikos he wants to be reunited with old linemates William Nylander and Zach Hyman even though he still had a decent season with Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. Hyman’s recovery from knee will delay the start to his season but it will be interesting to see how Babcock’s lineup looks when he returns.

When you look at where Matthews ranked in comparison to other NHL forwards last season in average ice time he was 64th at 18:33. That put him in the same territory as Jeff Skinner and Brayden Schenn who aren’t exactly on the same level as the former No. 1 pick from 2016.

This is not to suggest he should be playing the 22:50 a night Connor McDavid did considering the Leafs are not a one-line team but they should try to get him into the 19:30 to 20 minutes especially in the playoffs.

Some might think this is not a big issue but if you give Matthews more opportunities during the game, you can probably expect him to have more of an impact. Considering both Matthews and Babcock have already discussed this, hopefully, this leads to a more beneficial outcome for both.

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Do you think Matthews should be playing more heading into this season? How much would you play him a night? Let us know in the comments below.