Photo Credit: @mapleleafs

Auston Matthews wants to be the captain. It’s time for the Leafs to let him wear the ‘C’

Auston Matthews has, oddly, never worn the captain’s sweater for any team he’s played on. He’s been so good for so much of his young career that the opportunity never arose, as he’s constantly played for teams with players a couple years older than him mostly making up the roster.

But none of that supposed lack of experience matters, and with the Toronto Maple Leafs yet to name a captain in this new era, the Matthews Era really, it’s time for his letter-less streak to end. Matthews clearly wants to be the captain in Toronto. He’s always wanted it. He is the captain in Toronto.

There have been rumblings from a few media personalities that this summer would be the one where the Leafs finally name a captain, to this point going without since the departure of Dion Phaneuf a hundred years ago. Some have speculated it will be Matthews. This week, speaking to Craig Morgan of The Athletic, Matthews himself made it clear he’s ready to take on the role and be the true face of Toronto sports.

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“The captaincy in hockey, in general, is a huge honor, but especially in Toronto. You see the names of the guys that have come before you. We have all the captains’ banners lined up for us in our practice rink. You know the names, what they brought to the team, their competitiveness, what they did throughout the community, so it’s a bit of a bigger honor, in my opinion, to bestow that in Toronto.”

Sure this is a pretty standard quote that you’d expect, but it’s clear Matthews knows he’s a superstar in the biggest hockey market on earth. He’s never shied away from that in the slightest, instead bringing a level of flash and intensity to the Leafs’ on-ice product that’s unrivaled league-wide. Since his arrival he’s shown that players shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate goals with a bit of showing off, and away from the rink he’s embraced his media exposure in a way others don’t, opting to gravitate toward his interests in fashion and such. If there’s someone who will bring in a new era of the NHL where the stars can be themselves, Matthews should be at the front of that line. There have also been repeated reports of his extensive charity work in the GTA, which he tries to do in as much secrecy as possible. He knows how to balance his professional hockey career in the spotlight and away from it. For Leafs fans, Matthews has been so much more than advertised, and as a number one pick there was a lot to get hyped about. He’s blown all that out of the water.

We don’t need to get into any numbers or whatnot to make an argument here – it’s a letter on a sweater, an honour. The Leafs have a few extremely gifted offensive talents, but while Matthews is one of them, he’s also the pivot point of this team in every other way. It was when he pulled on the blue and white jersey on the draft stage that the team finally took the turn it needed to in order to be competitive and worth cheering for again.

And sure, there’s always talk about how “there are plenty of leaders in the room” like John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, and so on, which points to how the captaincy really is and has always been mostly symbolic. You won’t get an argument from me about that. But just like Mats Sundin came to define the era in which he played in Toronto, Matthews has come to do the same. If the ‘C’ really is symbolic, I can think of no better symbol than Matthews wearing it in what’s become the Leafs’ first true contention window in the post-lockout era. It’s his team, let it be known officially.

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  • Stan Smith

    I respectfully disagree. I don’t think that Matthews has shown to be a team leader as of yet. Not taking away from his abilities, but he does not look ready to be captain to me. I think the player that should wear the C is the player that was acting captain last season, and that is Morgan Rielly. Rielly was the player that Babcock sent on the ice to discuss issues with the referees, and, it seems to me that me was always one of the first to be interviewed post game. Despite the fact that he is only 25 he is a 6 year veteran, and a team leader.

  • CloudLion

    I respectfully, decide to disrespectfully respond!

    Ryan… how many Mathews rookie cards are you trying to use to ice the cake on your retirement plans? You must have stuffed a whole mess of them into a safety deposit box. Open in ten years or else… perhaps? Austin Mathews looks good on camera. How many times has Austin Mathews skated away from a scrum where some mini-me goon was giving one of his team mates a glove face-wash? Too many times! Small guys… not those protein drink pounding medium sized goons who should be drug tested weekly. I won’t dare bring up any mention of largish sized goons.

    Austin Mathews as the Leaf’s captain is insane! The whole idea is irresponsible. It’s not even worth the show biz cut. One fact: He doesn’t want to play on a line with Kap! Well that tells you just how mature Mathews is. Mature enough to be captain? Possibly the question should be… is Mathews old enough to shave?

    I still can’t get over that Halloween video on Hockey night in Canada. Mathews runs away screaming like a little girl when faced by a simple Halloween prank. Clearly Austin Mathews didn’t go to high school anywhere in Canada.

    Pick a man for the job!

    Mathews is still a big boy learning how to be a young adult. Refer back to the point that Mathews is complaining about playing on a line with Kasperi Kapanen. I can remember Kasperi Kapanen charging into a scrum to help protect Mitch Marner. I bet Kap looks forward to getting as much ice time as possible. If Kap wants to complain about something; he might complain about the aftershave Austin Mathews over uses.

    The Leafs really have two choices for Captain: Morgan Rielly or John Tavares.

    I have a preference; my propensity is to select a forward over a defender. If previous Leaf’s experience is the deciding weight: Morgan Rielly should be captain. If Morgan wanted to be passed over I’d have to hand the “C” to John Tavares.

    Austin Mathews can wear an “A” while he proverbially grows up and learns how to shave at the NHL level. Who knows… maybe he’ll learn to respect Kasperi Kapanen’s skill set and spiritual investment into the team game.

    Ryan…. stick to smoking the legal stuff! Invest in some other rookie cards.

    • CloudLion

      Sorry… I can’t spell Matthews name correctly. I think it’s an obvious subconscious statement questioning the value of a selfish professional persona and ego. 11.6 (7) million dollars for… 5 or 6 years? I think he’s over paid. That will change in three years… of course. Assuming we don’t have a lock out year. I’m not surprised that Mitch is throwing a fit. Or is it just Mitch’s agent and dad? I think Mitch is an active part of the money grubbing fit. Money money money… and the lack of respect that a fan types out by not being responsible enough to look up the proper spelling of the last name of an over paid poster child for American hockey promotion and sales.

      In seven years…. will Austin Matthews be the poster super hero for the Arizona Coyotes? Will he lead them to the promised land after he individually picks up the entire Toronto Maple Leaf’s organization and carries it to the promised land first? That might be a good reason for some Toronto fans to attend church every other weekend and one Friday a month.