The most obvious and lazy storyline to emerge for people with an ax to grind after the signing of John Tavares two months ago was this one: How could him and Matthews co-exist as two superstars on the same team? A predictable spin-off from that is based around whether Tavares would be miffed to go from being a captain in New York to being passed over for Auston now in Toronto, should that happen. This taps into much of the same boring “there has to be an alpha” angle that’s been covered every time situations similar to this arise in sports, but let’s get into it anyway.
Considering Tavares made it clear from the outset there wasn’t anything mentioned about the captaincy during his negotiations with Toronto’s management in July, this whole letter thing was obviously never at the forefront of anyone’s mind more than the media. But because the Leafs look content to keep that same media guessing about who they’ll give the ‘C’ to, the questions will keep coming up because of course they will. You know, it’s almost as if the team itself doesn’t seem to care much about this. And heading into training camp next week and the regular season a month from now, I don’t care either. Lastly, and what should be to absolutely no one’s surprise, today Tavares implied he also doesn’t really care. At the very least, it’s clear letting Matthews take the reins isn’t something that will have him souring.
At #NHL Player Media tour in Chicago, John Tavares said he'd is "completely comfortable" not wearing the 'C' for #Leafs to start season. He said whoever the Leafs pick, whenever they do it, will have his complete support and the support of everyone.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) September 6, 2018
Look, the reasons for Tavares leaving the Isles to join the Leafs have been made pretty clear; It’s a far more stable organization, things are on the rise in a big way, and you know what? I think he truly wanted to go home. What he’ll get for that, in terms of wins, playoffs, whatever, will be what it’ll be. People will look back on his decision on those terms, and hopefully those terms only. One thing that seems entirely foolish is the idea that a stitched ‘C’ on his sweater factored in here at all.
Of course the flipside is that, going the other way, Matthews could be seen as being looked over if Tavares was given the captaincy. I’d have a hard time believing that would be a reality or something that could tangibly hurt the team, but even if it was, at least that angle would make slightly more sense. Since the lottery balls rolled out 6-8-5-13 two years ago, the Leafs have been Matthews’ team. And given he’s arguably the most highlight-generating offensive player in the league, the entire fanbase has been his fanbase since he’s put on the sweater. For the Leafs to turn to Tavares now with the captaincy would be weird and create an unwanted amount of media attention, and I think everyone around the team realizes that. Otherwise he would’ve been named already – that’s my read on it anyway.
I mean, personally, this team could roll out 23 guys with no letters for the next ten years and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference to me. But if someone needs to be named captain, it’ll be Matthews in the coming year. I won’t feel sorry for Tavares when that happens, and it looks like he won’t feel sorry for himself either.