Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews deserving of Lady Byng nomination

The Toronto Maple Leafs received some good news on Thursday, when Auston Matthews was named among the finalists for the NHL’s 2019-20 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.

It’s fair to say the last 12 months have been eventful for Auston Matthews, both on and off the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The theme continued on Thursday, when he was nominated for the 2019-20 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.

As per The Canadian Press via CBC Sports, Matthews was named among the finalists for the prestigious award. The Lady Byng Trophy is presented annually, to the NHL player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, combined with a high standard of playing ability.

The playing ability is the first aspect which comes to mind, as the 22-year-old recorded a career-high 80 points in 70 games before the NHL suspended play in March. This included a career-best 47 goals, which was just one back of the league lead.

Matthews’ sportsmanship and conduct were arguably even more impressive however, as he established a career-low eight penalty minutes, which was tied for fewest among the league’s top 100 scorers. As per CBC Sports, he was tied for second with 78 takeaways, while ranking eighth among NHL forwards in total ice time.

Everything about the San Ramon, California native’s play shows why he deserved to be nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy. The scary thing for the rest of the league is that it stands to reason he will only continue to improve in the years ahead.

Understandably, there are critics who believe Matthews should not have been nominated for the award. He was charged with disorderly misconduct in September last year, after reportedly pulling down his pants in front of a female security guard in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The 2016 first overall draft pick expressed his remorse and apologised, with the charges being dropped after a settlement was agreed between the two parties. The incident undoubtedly cost him the chance to become the Leafs’ next captain.

However, it’s more than likely this incident served as a wake-up call for Matthews and gave him a renewed understanding of what is required from a leader. He has been a model citizen ever since and Thursday’s nomination highlighted this.

Matthews gave some insight into his mindset of how he has been able to stay out of trouble on the ice. As per Sportsnet, he said:

“It’s not a fun place to watch the game, from in the penalty box. I prefer to spend my time not there. I’m not overly physical or an in-your-face kind of player.

“I try to use my body position and try to use my stick and little skills to win puck battles, win the puck back, and play my game. There’s lots of ups and downs … try not to get too emotional.”

Seven Toronto Maple Leafs have won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy since it was first awarded in 1924-25. This includes Joe Primeau, Gordie Drillon, Syl Apps, Sid Smith (twice), Red Kelly, Dave Keon (twice) and Alexander Mogilny.

Winning the award would undoubtedly be special for Matthews. However, it won’t mean as much to him, if the Leafs don’t beat the Columbus Blue Jackets and then have a deep playoff run.

After much speculation, Matthews confirmed on Monday that he recently tested positive for COVID-19. While he was mostly asymptomatic, the Leafs will be hoping he is fully recovered and ready to continue the form he showed prior to the virus causing the 2019-20 season to be suspended.

Do you agree with the nomination of Matthews for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy? Regardless, what has stood out most for you about his play for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.