The captaincy is something that seems to be important to a lot of people but isn’t something that is particularly important. Hockey teams have always had captains. The Leafs as a long time franchise have used the position as somewhat of an honour, and it has come to symbolize a level of prestige for that player making their tenure as a Leaf particularly standout. For the most part the names associated with the captaincy of the Leafs are associated with greatest, but the wheels seemed to come off that notion during the Phaneuf/Burke era, where Phaneuf was never particularly good, wasn’t a particularly standout player in the organization, and seemingly had the title handed to him for being a proud Burke acquisition who liked to turn the music up in the locker room.
The Sundin captaincy was different. Listening to Jeff O’Neill tell tales of his Leaf days, Sundin seemed to be the social committee, the big brother, the role model, and no one questioned that he was the leader on the team, even when the team had talent beyond just Mats. Sundin is probably one of those leaders, like George Armstrong that particularly standout as not just being talented but being the voice of that team, and perhaps they may have set the bar too high. The truth of what the captaincy is probably falls somewhere between Phaneuf or Rob Ramage and Sundin or Armstrong. And now that the Leafs are as competitive as a couple of generations of fans have ever seen the Leafs be, there might be an additional responsibility thrust on the captain, they might one day be the person called upon to retrieve the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman.
Throwing history and symbolism out the window, the role is pretty inconsequential. The Leafs have plenty of voices in the locker room that provide leadership. They primarily make up the names we see tossed about for the captaincy, but not having a ‘C’ wouldn’t make Rielly, Matthews, Marner, Muzzin, Spezza, etc. any less of a voice in the room, they wouldn’t suddenly stop caring, they’d probably be the same people they’ve always been. The captaincy really doesn’t matter and the proof comes from the fact that the Leafs haven’t imploded over the past three seasons.
That being said, the captaincy drought will be over this year and we constantly have tidbits like this one being dropped…
Chris Johnston says on SN590 that John Tavares will likely be the Leafs next Captain.
— James (@Account4hockey) October 1, 2019
So Johnston’s info echoes what has been stated previously by Elliotte Friedman, and assumed a by a lot of people following Auston Matthews legal trouble. While there is no doubt a number of people who would like to see Morgan Rielly in the role, there is no doubt that John Tavares checks a lot of boxes that make him a good fit for the role
- Experience as captain of the Islanders
- Local boy and lifelong Leafs fan
- One of the most elite talents
- He’s a bit older
- Long term contract means we won’t risk having a new captain in 2 years
- Safest bet for being completely uncontroversial
Beyond that, John Tavares is an absolute joy of a hockey player and the fact that the most elite free agent of the salary cap era chose Toronto was significant as well.
As I write this, another important tidbit has been dropped and it’s pretty significant…
Mike Babcock says the Leafs will have a captain for their opener tomorrow night.
(He’s on our season preview show tonight 8:30et.)
— James Duthie (@tsnjamesduthie) October 1, 2019
The prolonged drama of the captaincy will come to a close with the start of the season. Whether it’s the heavily speculated and favoured John Tavares or not, we will have a captain this season. I don’t know whether food will taste better or whether we’ll make love longer, but we can all take comfort that an unnecessary plot line won’t extend into the year and we can instead focus on hockey now that it’s about to be played.