Toronto Maple Leafs fans tend to believe Auston Matthews is cool, calm, and collected. They see that in his behavior. He seems to not be phased too much by the pressure of playing in Toronto; in fact, he seems to relish it.
But I don’t buy it that he’s completely devoid of pressure. That might be especially true with his current contract negotiations with the team. His personal feelings have to be involved.
The Pressures on the Team Are More and Different, However …
I know the Maple Leafs are feeling the pressure of trying to work out a contract negotiation with Matthews. New general manager (GM) Brad Treliving feels tons of pressure as well, and those are apparent for most people.
Everyone sort of gets it from his point of view. But what about Matthews’ point of view? What pressures might he be experiencing?
To think that a 25-year-old kid – even if he is highly skilled and already wealthy – doesn’t feel pressure is silly. In this post, I want to discuss some general pressures a player might face when deciding to re-sign with a team.
Pressure One: Meeting Team Expectations:
Matthews is a successful and highly-valued player. If he really cares about this organization, he likely feels pressure to meet the expectations of the organization and the team’s fans. Sure he wants big money, but he also wants to continue to play at a high level. He also wants the team to be successful; and, that’s something that it hasn’t yet been.
Pressure Two: Balancing Financial Considerations
Money can be a two-edged sword. It would take a real narcissist to take the money without trying to give back to the team. You have to believe that Matthews would like to earn as much as he can; but, he’d also like to carry this team to success so he would feel that he earned his salary. Matthews is already established and well-paid. However, he could still feel pressure to earn the lucrative salary he will be paid.
Pressure Three: Meeting Personal Goals
I have to believe that NHL players of Matthews’ calibre have personal aspirations. They want to win Stanley Cup championships, earn individual success, and build a long-lasting legacy. Matthews might consider whether re-signing with the Maple Leafs aligns with his long-term goals and aspirations. Does he want to be remembered as the best player in the history of this singular Original Six team?
Pressure Four: Team Chemistry and Future Direction
Given how Matthews has spoken about his teammates, you’d have to think playing with some of his close friends would impact his decision as well. Matthews’ friendship with other teammates or even the coaching staff is likely important to him. He’s built long-standing relationships with some of these guys and you’d think he like to win a championship with them in the future.
Pressure Five: External Factors
Outside influences, such as media scrutiny and fan expectations and his relationships with the city of Toronto also add pressure to his decision-making process. Matthews has to consider how his contract negotiations and his eventual decision could impact his public image and relationships with fans (and perhaps his endorsements). Face it, it would be so much easier for him to escape to a less-pressured situation where the expectations were barely visible in the market in which he played.
There Are Pressures on Matthews
The truth is that the pressures on the Maple Leafs’ organization are huge. However, it’s important not to forget that Matthews also feels pressures. He might handle them well in public; however, for a young man with huge self-worth and (even) perhaps ego, they exist nonetheless.
Obviously, the pressures on any individual player in the NHL vary based upon his personal traits as well as by the context in which he plays. In this post, I tried to consider Matthews point of view. Obviously, speculating on any specific pressures that Matthews might be experiencing in his contract negotiations is guesswork.
However, I don’t think that it’s guesswork that he is experiencing pressure. Anyone who’s human would. The surprise would be if he were not.