The Toronto Maple Leafs do not have a captain.
But the Toronto Maple Leafs are a hockey team, not a boat or a ship. Ships and boats need captains. Hockey teams don’t.
I mean, I suppose they help, and they are expected. But if a team doesn’t have a captain, someone assumes the role unofficially and everyone goes on about their business. It’s not too big of a deal.
The last time the Leafs had a captain, it was Dion Phaneuf. That guy was miscast in every role they stuck him in, but he did his best during one of the worst periods in franchise history. Can’t knock him.
Before Phaneuf, it was Sundin. Old Mats is the best player in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s their best captain, best player, best goal scorer, best set up man, best defensive forward, best around player, and coolest bald guy ever.
Mats Sundin – you can’t say enough good things about him. He’s not just the best player the Leafs ever had, but arguably the best person. Just because he didn’t win the Cup in his time with the Leafs shouldn’t detract from what he accomplished – which was a consistency that few in the history of the game have ever matched.
So when the Leafs are looking for a new captain, the standard is high.
The Leafs haven’t had a captain and they shouldn’t have one until they are certain that whoever gets the job – I don’t have any strong feelings on who it should be, one way or the other – can live up to the standard of Mats Sundin.
Really, that leaves two players for the job: John Tavares and Auston Matthews. They are the only two who have a chance to be anywhere close to as good as Mats Sundin was. Although, Morgan Rielly should also get a chance. Maybe he can’t ever live up to the greatness on the ice that Sundin has, but it does seem that he has been the acting for some time.
If you hear Rielly in an interview or watch him during a game, it’s clear that he’s captain material. I just don’t think the team will likely give it to anyone but Matthews.
And, why not? He’s going to be one of the best players in NHL history and those players are expected to take on a leadership role. I’ve heard some opine that he’s ‘not ready’ but that is complete BS – if you’re not in the dressing room, you don’t know.
For all I know, Auston Matthews would make a good or a terrible captain. But we just don’t know. I don’t think it’s fair to judge his personality when there is no way to really know. Even Rielly, he seems to have the role under control, but we don’t really know him. He could seem like one thing and be something else.
And that, ultimately, is why I just don’t care too much about who is the captain. We the fans speculate on it endlessly, but we’re just talking. Just having fun. We don’t know the necessary information to make this decision.
The players should choose their own captain, and a good choice will have been an obvious choice. But for those of us not hanging out with the team, we can only speculate.
My speculation: none of these guys are a Mats Sundin, so just pick somebody or don’t. It’s not going to have a tenth of the impact the conversation surrounding it would suggest.