If Rielly is not the choice, the only other possibility would be that of Auston Matthews. The Arizona native has already played in Toronto for seven seasons and has committed to play at least five more years in a Maple Leafs jersey.
The former first overall pick just signed a four-year extension that will now keep the two-time Rocket Richard Trophy victory in Toronto for at least the next five seasons. In that time, he will become the Toronto Maple Leafs all-time leading goal scorer and likely become the first player in franchise history to score 500-goals in the uniform.
Matthews has been a top five player in the league for the last half decade and was acknowledged by his peers as the best player in 2021-22 when he won the Ted Lindsay Award (Most Outstanding Player chosen by the players around the league). In that season he scored 60-goals in 73 games and has averaged 57-goals over an 82-game span through the last four seasons.
No player has scored more goals in the NHL than the 299 that Matthews has collected since he entered the league in 2016-17.
While the Maple Leafs have several highly skilled players, there is not a player on the roster that put his team on his back like Matthews and take over games.
There is the critics that will bring up that Matthews may have similar characteristics on the ice that Tavares has as he tends not to engage in the physicality of the game. Many times over his career smaller teammates have had to come in and defend the Maple Leafs star. There is the risk of losing Matthews to injury, but at times a star player can turn a game or season around by defending himself even if he doesn’t drop the gloves.
Tavares has been a great NHL player, but it may be time to move on from him as the captain of the team. The Toronto Maple Leafs need to take the risk of handing the captaincy to either Morgan Rielly or Auston Matthews.