Why Did Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews Wait So Long for Wrist Surgery?



During an interview today with Sportsnet, Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas reported that he still expected his star winger Auston Matthews to be ready for opening night. That’s good news for Maple Leafs’ fans because right now Matthews’ surgically-repaired wrist has him listed on injured reserve for the starting of training camp.

Today, however, Dubas “assured” the media that the Richard Trophy winner is still expected to be ready for Opening Night.

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It’s Pretty Clear Now that Matthews Was Injured Most of Last Season

It’s becoming clearer that Matthews had been injured much of the season, and his off-season wrist surgery was only done because, when he started to “ramp up” his workouts to ready himself for the new season, the wrist was causing him discomfort. I’ve personally heard hockey people talk about his playing through that injury and even suggesting that it didn’t seem to have much of an impact on Matthews’ performance because he still led the NHL with 41 goals and 25 assists in 52 games.

The point is that a better question is: How much better would he have done if his wrist wasn’t bothering him? Or, even more pertinent to the 54 years of Maple Leafs’ fans’ expectations and frustrations, how far could the team have gone into the Stanley Cup playoffs had Matthews been healthy against the Montreal Canadiens?

Dubas Gives Some Key Answers to Important Questions

In today’s interview, Dubas discussed the latest prognosis on Matthews, who’s currently recovering from wrist surgery. Again, it’s good news that Dubas confirmed plans had not changed, and the team expected Matthews ready for opening night against this same Montreal team.

Does Matthews Have Enough Time to Get Ready?

As an aside, although Dubas said that he expected Matthews to get back for the team’s first regular season game. That’s great, but how will the team address the important issue of who’s going to become the left-winger on the Maple Leafs top line if the center isn’t there to practice and build a chemistry with the “contestants?”

Dubas also noted that using the designation of “injured reserve” just meant that Matthews won’t be a full participant in camp from the beginning. He’s going to start skating soon and he’ll also come out of the splint soon. And there’s about three weeks until opening night is here.

One thing Dubas did clear up for me was why the surgery wasn’t done at the beginning of the summer rather than waiting until August. He walked the media through the timeline of the logic of why it was done when it was done. He admitted it was done late in the summer because the Maple Leafs’ medical staff and Matthews’ people had created a plan for the contingency that the wrist would not heal on its own.

The First Goal Was to Avoid Surgery

As Dubas explained, the first priority is to avoid surgery – especially to a wrist – if it could be avoided. If surgery were done, there’s always a risk of complications such as residual weakness and reduced function, bones not healing properly, nerve or tendon damage, or even chronic regional pain. These risks might be small for an average person. However, for a goal-scorer whose wrists are his livelihood, it could spell the end of an elite career.

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs

As Dubas noted, the surgery was done so late in the summer because, with a player like Matthews, you’d first try to avoid surgery. However, Matthews seemed to have it under control, but when he “ramped up his training in the summer” he felt discomfort. That kicked in the plan agreed upon by the Maple Leafs’ medical staff and Matthews’ people at the end of the season.

If there was discomfort, Matthews would say right away. He did, the consultation with the doctor in New York happened, and a couple of days later the surgery was performed.

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The Medical Outlook Is that Matthews’ Timeline Puts Him Ready for the First Game

Now, given that the surgery was completed in mid-August and he should be ready to go in six weeks, that puts him ready for mid-October. We’ll see.

In the meantime, the question remains whether Matthews will be better this season than he was last season because his wrist (we assume) is healed completely. Or, will his lost time and training camp put him behind that production?

With a full 82-game season, the expectations were that Matthews would challenge and likely reach the 50-goal mark during the 2021-22 season. Will he now?