(Image courtesy of Yahoo Sports)
The Laine vs Matthews debate is one that will last a lifetime, despite feeling like it already has. With this article, the intention is to contradict the conclusion drawn by TSN’s Gary Lawless in his widespread piece covering the same topic. It’s universally accepted these two players will appeal to different demographics and teams, dependent on a franchise’s needs.
Gary inexplicably throws out the freshmen’s positions on the ice, as if being responsible goal line to goal line isn’t more valuable than playing top of the circle to top of the circle. A stance unfair to Matthews, who is obligated to excel in his own zone more than Laine.
Laine is shooting at 19.8%, a percentage only 4 players in the top 10 of NHL scoring have finished with since the 04-05 lockout. Those players; Brad Boyes (2007-08 20.8% regressed 10 goals in 08-09), Thomas Vanek (08-09 19.0% regressed 12 goals in 09-10), Steven Stamkos (11-12 19.8% regressed 10 goals (accounting for shortened season) in 12-13, Jeff Carter (12-13 19.5% scored one more goal in 24 more games in 13-14) It’s nice to think Laine is here to reintegrate scoring into hockey, but the reality of it is he’s getting lucky. In the era of “half shifts” and iPads on the bench, it’s a matter of time before those numbers come back down to Earth and settle around the 10-13% mark. With that foresight, Lawless’ article self implodes. Matthews is already producing at more “sustainable” numbers, indicating he is what he is. Right out of the gate, Auston Matthews now can produce at these levels well into his prime.
“Through growth and development he’ll close the gap on Matthews in puck possession and goal prevention. These are learned traits.” says the TSN Senior Correspondent, an argument surely made about offensive virtuosos past. The reality is, Laine seems destined to be a one dimensional player. While goals are always at a premium in a notoriously defensive league, I’m sticking with the guy who can do it all.