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Mike Matheson isn’t as bad defensively as people think, believes Stu Cowan
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

Mike Matheson has been playing in Montreal for two years now. In those two seasons, we’ve come to know a defenseman who, offensively, is truly among the league’s elite.

He’s no Cale Makar or Quinn Hughes, but he did score 62 points last year. That puts him in the top-10 among NHL defensemen in 2023-24.

That said, there are fans who criticize his defensive play. We see him commit turnovers, and some hold it against him.

He admits it frustrates him when he’s criticized in this area.

Recently, the subject came up on Tony Marinaro’s Sick Podcast, and guest Stu Cowan stated that, in his opinion, Matheson really isn’t as bad defensively as he’s been criticized.

And in fact, his argument isn’t all that crazy.

In fact, for Cowan, Matheson’s reversals are not attributable to defensive limitations, but to his situation:

Any player who plays as many minutes, has the puck on his stick as often and tries to create offense as often as he does is going to commit turnovers – Stu Cowan

Last season, Matheson finished third on the Habs in scoring, behind only Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. Juraj Slafkovský was the other player to reach the 50-point plateau, and Alex Newhook had the pace to reach it had he played 82 games, but clearly, the Habs needed Matheson to spend his time creating offense.

And that’s not counting the fact that they also needed him to play big minutes against opposing top trios and play short-handed… but let’s focus on the first point.

The Habs don’t have enough offensive talent to afford to do without Matheson’s offensive contribution. Matheson has to take more risks to try and help his club score goals, and this inevitably leads to turnovers.

On the other hand, without this aggressiveness, good luck seeing the Habs score enough goals to win.

Eventually, the Tricolore will hope that other guys will step up to create offense, allowing Matheson to take fewer risks… but at the same time, maybe it’s that aggressiveness that makes him so successful.

He wasn’t as aggressive in Pittsburgh, where he was seen as such a liability that they wanted to get rid of his contract.

Right now, then, Matheson is essential to the club’s offensive success, and even if it costs a few turnovers from time to time (and there are games where it hurts a lot), there are games where without Matheson’s aggressiveness, the Habs would never have won.

And that’s another good reason not to trade him this summer.

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