It’s almost time for the training camp to come, and with training camp for some teams means announcing which player will be the next captain for them. Currently Arizona, Buffalo, both New York teams, Vancouver, Vegas, and yours truly have a vacancy, and while some have very obvious candidates (Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jack Eichel, for example), some teams have a few options for the C.
For a while, the Leafs were in the first category, with Auston Matthews being the clear-cut choice for captaincy. But, the addition of John Tavares has made that conversation a little more interesting, and not as easy to answer. So, let’s take a look at some of the best options for the captaincy on the Leafs.
And yes, I do realize that Dubas said they’ll make this decision when they feel like it’s the right time. But, people are still talking abut this, so here I am.
Obviously this would be more of a transitional captaincy, like what Brian Gionta was on the Sabres, or Derek MacKenzie on the Panthers. Give it to the experienced veteran until he leaves, and then by then your choice for the captaincy afterwards should be clear for the team.
Pros: Marleau has some experience as the captain in San Jose (although he did lose it), and it would buy the Leafs time to make their mind while getting this annoying topic off their backs for a little bit.
Cons: Honestly, this would be unnecessary in the long run. The Leafs haven’t had a captain for more than two seasons, and they don’t really need one now unless the person makes themselves clear. And it wouldn’t really be smart to give Marleau more pressure during his declining years.
The new kid on the block, there was a lot of talk that the captaincy was in the discussion when Tavares signed with the Leafs. While both Dubas and Tavares have denied it, that doesn’t stop the Leafs truthers from believing that’s still the case.
Pros: Tavares had been the captain for five seasons with the Islanders, so he has the experience of being the leader and voice in a big market like New York. Being a childhood Leafs fan certainly wouldn’t hurt his ability to be a passionate leader either.
Cons: This isn’t “his team”. Not that that should be something that hurts him a lot, but he isn’t the guy who was drafted with this team, or endured all the tough times with this team. Also, he’s not the guy this team is building around or the guy who is the face of the franchise. He’s certainly one of them, but he’s more of an addition to the team, not the original foundation, if that makes sense.
Matthews was the de facto captain since basically his first game, especially considering how quickly Connor McDavid got the C with the Oilers. A first overall pick, face of the franchise, it seemed inevitable. Actually, it wasn’t, because Stamkos was a thing a week after he was drafted, and the situation remains the same with Tavares in the fold.
Pros: To the Leafs, he’s “the guy”. As mentioned before, he’s the face of the franchise, and all talk about it with him proves that he wants it. And why not? If he’s going to be “the guy” for the Leafs, let him be it if he wants it, and if he can earn it.
Cons: There really aren’t any legitimate cons to this. The only one I can see is that the MSM will continue to create a rivalry between Matthews and Tavares, because Tavares “will be really mad that he didn’t get the captaincy”, even though in the locker room, it will probably be just a topic of laughter among the Leafs players as they drink champagne from one of their many Cup victories.
The OG top five pick on this team, Rielly’s stuck it out with this team, and unlike the big three or Tavares, or most of this team for that matter, he had to deal with the really bad Leafs that got them the big three.
Pros: He’s already been wearing an A for a few seasons now, and a lot of the Leafs players mention how he’s a pretty big voice in the locker room. He’s the longest tenured Leaf of the younger players, and actually had to play on some bad teams. If anyone has earned this captaincy, it’s Rielly. Not to mention that the easiest way to settle the false “Matthews vs. Tavares” debate is to just not give it to either of them.
Cons: There really aren’t any. The only reason I might be against this is that it’s not as good of a PR move as giving it to Matthews or Tavares, but that really shouldn’t be as much of an issue as it will probably be made out to be.
For me, this is the ideal option. If you have a lot of voices, you don’t need to make one the leader, because that could potentially cause problems. If you just give Matthews, Tavares, and Rielly all the A, no one can get mad at the other.
Pros: You can’t say it hasn’t worked before. The Leafs have made the playoffs the last two seasons without a captain, so it’s not like it’s a necessity for them. Vegas even went to the finals without one, so I don’t see why they can’t win without one. The whole captain thing is overrated, and for a franchise that’s trying to break the mold all the time, ditching the captain thing would be fun to watch.
Cons: You may notice a theme here, that most of my cons are just “the media” in some form. That’s because this really isn’t a big deal (even though I just wrote 1000 words about it), and whoever gets it won’t cause any infighting in the locker room, even though the media will try their hardest to milk a story out of that. The media ruins everything, and they’ll probably ruin the Leafs not having a captain.
So, my preference is to just not have a captain. It hasn’t been a problem so far, and I don’t see how it really could be that doesn’t involve some stupid narratives. If I had to pick one, I’d go Rielly, because I think he’s earned it the most, and he’s supposedly the leader in the locker room anyways.
So, who do you think should be the Leafs captain next year? Matthews? Tavares? Rielly? Marleau? Nobody? Everybody?