While many people, fans and media alike, were expecting newly acquired Patrick Marleau to spend his time in Toronto playing alongside Auston Matthews, this writer never waivered: No chance. Won’t happen.
As Mike Babcock made clear in this clip from TSN, the Maple Leafs’ coach continues to insist that Zack Hyman is a top-six NHL forward who deserves to play with the team’s once-in-a-generation franchise centreman. Which of course, is a pile of nonsense.
Yes, Babcock is correct, Hyman does “get the puck” a lot. He is relentless on the forcheck, like a dog on a bone. But it’s what happens after he gets the puck that makes Babcock’s logic look rather dumb.
Getting the puck is only half of the equation. It’s what you do with the puck once you get it that matters most. And this is where Zack Hyman falls flat on his face.
He has no playmaking instincts at all. He has a heads-down tunnel-vision style. Because he can’t locate his linemates in the offensive zone he repeatedly makes no-look blind passes to no one in particular. When entering the offensive zone, he refuses to look over his shoulder to find wide open trailers in open spaces.
When the roles are reversed, and his linemate’s arrange offensive opportunities for Hyman, his clumsy style usually results in an opportunity wasted. This explains why Auston Matthews’ assist totals were so low last year, and will continue to be low this year. As long as Hyman is part of the mix, the notion that Matthews will challenge for the NHL scoring title is laughable.
Mike Babcock is being stubborn. When in Detroit, the same misguided approach to line-building saw his many powerhouse teams under-achieve. Auston Matthews is a rare gem that comes along once per decade. And he too will under-achieve so that Mike Babcock can put the media in their place.