As of the writing of this article, the Toronto Maple Leafs are Vegas’ odds on favourite to hoist Lord Stanley come next spring. It is incredible that such a young team could be the preseason cup favourite. However, the fact that they don’t currently have a captain for Gary Bettman to hand the over-sized silver champagne glass to might be even harder to fathom.
Who should captain the storied franchise in their quest to end the now 50 year drought? In order to save the valuable time of general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Mike Babcock that can be best used planning the parade, we will explore the candidates which follow as seen below.
When asked earlier this summer about being the potential captain of the Maple Leafs, Tavares said in response to the media, “That never came up in our conversations over this past week. They definitely expressed me coming in and wanting to use my experiences as a captain and things they believe I can use as leadership qualities.” The new prized free agent signing of the Maple Leafs this past offseason seems like an obvious choice. He captained the Islanders for the past 5 seasons.
He is from the Toronto area and will undoubtedly be an instant fan favorite the second he laces them up and steps onto the ice at Scotiabank Arena. His 621 points and 669 games certainly exudes a captain like career. However, how would instantly naming the new guy captain impact a dressing room that, by all accounts, is very close knit?
Is it worth taking the chance that Captain Tavares might negatively impact or alienate the young core that have all grown together these past few seasons? Would he even want to be captain in his first year? I think John Tavares is the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs one day. Perhaps as soon as next season. However, I don’t see the training staff stitching the blue “C” on the front of his jersey before this coming season starts.
There is little doubt that Matthews is the future star of this franchise. By all accounts, the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft has lived up to his pre-draft hype. His first 144 games in the league resulted in 132 points.
He is a future perennial All-Star and will feature prominently in future World Cups and Olympics for the USA. He certainly is not the most vocal player on or off the ice, however leadership in the dressing room and on the ice can take many forms. He isn’t the best interview either, however, interviewing and dealing with media are easily teachable skills and one would suspect that he is working on them.
Although there has been a trend lately of teams making their young super stars the captain, I wonder if Matthews is ready and/or prepared for the responsibility. Being captain in Edmonton at at 20-years-old is a lot different than being captain in Toronto at the same age. I would question the decision to name him captain this year.
Why the rush? Especially when there are several other experienced veteran options currently on the team. Matthews being the captain of the Maple Leafs in 2025 seems like a real safe bet. I simply cannot think of a good reason to add the extra pressure and responsibility to a 20-year-old still making a name for himself in the league.
Playing in Toronto is hard enough without the added responsibility that wearing the C for the Blue and White brings. The next captain of the Maple Leafs needs to be experienced and most importantly willing and able to act as a mentor for the all the young future stars on the team. Which leads to the obvious choice to be the captain of the 2018-19 Maple Leafs.
He has played 1575 career NHL games and counting. That ranks 11th all time in NHL games played and he is still playing. That is 2.5 times more experience than Tavares and 10 times more than Matthews.
He has 1129 career NHL points. That is almost double the total games and total points of Tavares and Matthews combined. He is already a leader in the dressing room.
He was the captain of the San Jose Sharks for 5 years. He is experienced and savvy with the media. When you have a player on your team who has played the 11th most games in NHL history, he must be your captain.
Here is a statement from Matthews back in December with regards to the bond that has been made between himself, Mitch Marner and Marleau, “Everybody says that Patty’s got four kids at home and two on the road because he kinda takes care of me and Mitchy, It’s been awesome.” Is it just me? This seems like a real obvious choice. He is clearly well respected by Marner and Matthews, arguably the team’s most prized players.
They have accepted his mentoring and taken a real liking to him as a role model. How about this statement from coach Babcock talking about Marleau, “It’s a home run for us, I had Nick Lidstrom and now I have Patty Marleau. Those are fine, fine, fine human beings to say the least. They make people better.” He is comparing Marleau’s leadership to that of Lidstrom. For you millennials out there, Nicklas Lidstrom: 4 time Stanley Cup champ, 12 time all-star and 5 year captain of the Detroit Red Wings.
Patrick Marleau should be the next captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He should get the C on his jersey the day training camp opens next week. This would give Tavares a year or two to adjust to his new team and teammates before inevitably taking over the full time leadership duties when Marleau retires.
Marleau also provides an excellent example for the young Matthews to learn from and sample from as he inevitably prepares himself for the captaincy in the team’s longer term future. To Babcock and Dubas: you are welcome for laying this out for you and allowing you both to concentrate on the more important issues, like applying for a permit to close down Yonge St. for a parade next June.