(Photo credit: Matthews – NHL.com; Lindros – SI.com)
What you are about to take in is the crackiest, crock pot theory that you will read today. It comes from a guy that is in no way, shape, or form an “insider.” Hell, I can’t even claim to have a decent Twitter following. But the reason why people love lone gunman theories is because they’re plausible gosh darn it!
Okay. Here it goes:
If the Blue Jackets end up with the first overall pick in the this year’s draft, Austin Matthews will “pull a Lindros,” and refuse to play for Columbus. It makes sense when you compare the similarities between the two hockey wunderkinds.
Back in 1990, Eric Bryan Lindros was the greatest prospect since Bobby Orr (FYI, Wayne Gretzky was never a traditional prospect because he was never drafted. He was signed by the WHL Indianopolis Racers and then traded to the Edmonton Oilers during the merger). Lindros had the brute strength of Mark Messier and Gordie Howe, combined with the hands of Mario Lemieux and Gretzky. It was an irrefutable fact that Lindros was going to be the first overall pick in the 91. Just as it was an irrefutable fact that he was going to change the game.
After (what a should be) a Hall of Fame career, Lindros’ biggest accomplishment was the amount agency that he provided to athletes in all all sports. In 1991, prospects and amateurs had no choice but to play for the team that drafted/owned them. Lindros changed sports forever when he told the Quebec Nordiques to, “take this job and shove it!”
Back then, no one knew that you could just say ‘no‘ to a professional sports team! In refusing to play for the Nordiques, Lindros gave a level of power and freedom to players that they never had before.
Fast forward to present day and Austin Matthews is poised to be “the next generational talent.” Just like Lindros, Matthews is projected to be the first overall pick in the draft. Also just like Lindros, Matthews is a kid that refuses to adhere to the rules. In fact, everything about Matthews is atypical of a prospect of his ilk.
Did you hear (one of the million or so times that it’s been mentioned) that Matthews is from Scottsdale, Arizona? Pretty wild stuff when you consider that hockey players typically don’t come from Scottsdale. Much less sarcastically, Matthews’ decision to play in the Swiss professional league in his draft year makes him even more different than Lindros.
Traditionally, a player like Matthews would have played in the CHL or the NCAA to hype up his draft status. Since Matthews would have probably been the third overall pick in last year’s draft if he were born 6 days earlier, he has never been typical and probably never will be.
But missing last year’s draft cutoff by 6 days, playing in Switzerland, and being born in Scottsdale doesn’t exactly equal pulling the Lindros power move. John Tortorella does, however.
When Matthews shocks the world and refuses to play for the Blue Jackets this June, it will be because Tortorella is the coach.
Think about it, Tortorella doesn’t exactly get along with young, star prospects (see Vinny Lecavalier, and most recently, Ryan Johanson). Just imagine the depths of Tortorella hell that Matthews would have to endure if he were selected by the Blue Jackets.
So, knowing what we know about Matthews, why would we expect him to put himself in a less than ideal situation when he has any say in the matter?
Of course this crack pot theory is contingent on several things. First of which is that the Blue Jackets may not even finish last to get the first overall pick. Secondly, they would then have to win the draft lottery which now gives the last place team the worst odds they have ever had. Thirdly, Austin Matthews may not even be the first overall pick; Jesse Puljujarvi could be.
I do know that come June 24, I will not be surprised to see the young man from Scottsdale, Arizona will walk to the stage when his name is called first, refuse to put on the jersey, and drape a blue jersey over his arm just like Lindros did 25 years ago.