Mark your calendars for December 3rd, because that will be when the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks are scheduled to face off again. Saturday night’s contest was certainly an entertaining one, with 171 penalty minutes being given out between both teams. Now there are a lot of story lines coming out of the game: both Vancouver and Toronto continue their losing and winning streaks respectively, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews were caught on camera singing along to Bon Jovi, and not to mention the questionable hits and decision making from both team’s players. One takeaway that should be brought up calls Matt Martin‘s purpose in question as a Maple Leaf.
Matt Martin’s Purpose Coming Into Question
When Martin signed his $10 million contract that lasts four years with Toronto, it came to a surprise coming from Toronto’s management who had seemed to move past the “truculence” years and focused more on skill. Martin, who has lead the league in hits in each season since 2010-11, was brought into Toronto to give the rookies some breathing room to play, at least that was the reasoning behind the signing. So far the 27-year old is keeping his hitting consistent. But for someone whose job is protect rookies, including the rookies who lead the team in points, the actions that took place Saturday evening has a recipe for disaster written all over it.
It’s safe to say that Canucks players aren’t a fan of Martin after he went after rookie Troy Stecher.
Matt Martin's dead. Everyone can hear that right now..f'n dead
— Jon Abbott (@HockeyAbbs) November 6, 2016
There could have been several possible reasons why Martin went after Stecher, who weighs roughly 20 pounds less than the heavyweight veteran. Morgan Rielly and Alex Burrows dropped the gloves after going back and forth all night. Nazem Kadri‘s grueling hit on Daniel Sedin stirred controversy around the league. Martin could have been simply sending a message to Vancouver. However, roughing up a rookie the way Martin did is not the brightest way to make a point to the other team. There’s a strong possibility that there’s a target on the back of Toronto’s rookies now. With all due respect to Stecher, the rookies on Toronto’s roster are more relied upon. Arguably the most valuable Maple Leafs players are at risk come the 3rd of December. The anticipated retaliation will partly be the fault of Martin’s decision making.
If Martin’s main purpose on the team is for his protection and nothing productive, then he’s at risk of failing his job miserably. William Nylander suffered a concussion in last year’s World Junior Championship. Mitch Marner’s smaller frame could still be exposed from time to time. It may be too soon to tell if anything will occur, but it’s not crazy to think of the next game between Vancouver and Toronto getting out of hand like the one on display on Saturday.
Standing up for your team is one thing, but putting your players at risk is not worth making a point. Martin may be worth more if he his offensive ability was any better. However the Maple Leafs are better off filling their roster with players who do more than “protect” their team.