Lamoriello wants to protect Matthews, Marner from media distractions

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello joins Prime Time Sports to talk about Auston Matthews being named to the NHL All-Star Game and comments on whether it’s an issue for the Leafs franchise.

Handling the pressure of playing in a hockey-mad market like Toronto is a tall task for any NHLer, let alone star rookies like Auston Matthews or Mitchell Marner.

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello doesn’t think rookies should be treated exactly the same as veteran players when it comes to media obligations.

“They should be allowed to grow,” Lamoriello told Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “It’s our responsibly to bring them along, to make sure we can take away as many distractions as we can and yet never lose sight of what their responsibility is as a player and what their responsibility is to the media.

“It’s no difference than the ice time, it’s no difference how they grow as a player, and then as you go on more and more [media] is done but access, as far as I know, has been at the highest level.”

Matthews, the first-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, has been in the spotlight as much as any player in the league so far this season. If Lamoriello had his way, however, Matthews and the other Leafs rookies might do a bit less media during their first NHL campaign.

“Everyone has a different way of doing things but it’s development. Development off the ice, development with the media, development on the ice,” Lamoriello explained. “It’s all a process to getting a foundation so that they can have success. You just lead their way and then they determine how much more they can get and they cannot get.”

Lamoriello, like many others, described Matthews as a “mature individual” and said he never had any concerns Matthews might struggle handling all the cameras, microphones and recording devices pointed his way.

“He’s handled all of this very well,” Lamoriello added.

The 19-year-old was named to the Atlantic Division All-Star team Tuesday just a few days after it was reported Lamoriello might not be in favour of allowing his rookies to participate in the festivities.

Lamoriello clarified Tuesday that Matthews taking part in the all-star game is “absolutely not” an issue. In fact, Lamoriello believes the experience could be a “tremendous benefit” to Matthews’ off-ice development.

“When someone like Auston goes to an all-star game, there are a lot of players there – in fact most of the players there he has been watching growing up as he’s been maturing as an individual – he’ll have an opportunity to see how they handle themselves,” Lamoriello said. “He’ll be able to first hand see what the result is of how they handle themselves, how they speak, where the humility is, what affects him, so I think there’s a tremendous amount of what you can bring from there as far as the learning process and development…I think it’s going to be a tremendous benefit to him.”

Matthews was the only Maple Leafs player named an all-star even though some felt Marner, with his elite hockey sense and creativity, was snubbed of a spot.

“He has played tremendous for us,” Lamoriello said. “He’s getting better and better every game. He went through a maturing year in London last year…They [the Leafs rookies] love the game they want to be good. You can push all of them as hard as you want. That’s what’s encouraging about these players.”

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