When the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they had signed superstar free agent John Tavares, most fans and analysts assumed that it was a foregone conclusion that Tavares would also be named the team’s next captain. The former New York Islanders captain joins a team that’s been without a formal captain since Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators over two years ago, with Tavares’ arrival… it all just seems to fit so well. But then… Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas shot down the assumption, saying that there are no plans to name a captain anytime soon.
Tavares maintains that the captaincy was never discussed during his meetings with Dubas and Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and the Leafs brass maintain that they’ll name a captain at a later date once determining how things play out on the ice and in the locker room. Still… you have to imagine that Tavares is the favourite to wear the “C” in 2018-19 and beyond, right? Patrick Marleau aside, he’s the Leafs’ most experienced player and he’s arguably the player best prepared for the scrutiny and media attention that comes with being the captain of the Leafs.
Still, prior to the Tavares addition, there were many Leafs fans calling for budding superstar Auston Matthews to be named the team’s next captain. Then there are the fans who believe that Mitch Marner or Morgan Rielly should get the honour.
Regardless of your own personal opinion on the matter, it’s clear that the Leafs have options when it comes to naming their next captain which is not something you could easily say the past few years.
At 19 and 20 years old respectively, are Matthews and Marner simply too young to take on the responsibility of captaincy? After all, this is the Toronto Maple Leafs we’re talking about. Whoever earns the honor will go down in history alongside legends like Dave Keon, Darryl Sittler, Wendel Clark and Mats Sundin. The Leafs have had only two captains in the past 20 years (Sundin and Phaneuf), chances are they’re not looking for a stop gap solution, they’d like someone to wear the “C” for the next decade or more. If the plan is to make Matthews or Marner the captain, you can bet that the team will put pen to paper on a new long term contract before making any announcements.
As for Rielly, the 24 year old defenseman is perhaps the most steady skater on the Leafs’ back end and is the perfect “go-between” from the Matthews/Marner group and Tavares. There’s no doubt that he has the respect of his teammates, but is he up to the task of facing the Toronto media night in and night out when things get tough?
Another option is 38 year old veteran Patrick Marleau. The long-time San Jose Sharks captain has seen and head just about everything during his 20 year NHL career and there’s no doubt he’d be a solid choice as captain of the Leafs. With his career now entering its final stages though, you have to wonder if Leafs management is thinking more long-term with their captain decision?
All of this being said, who’s your pick to be the next captain of the Leafs?