Months ago, Toronto appeared to be at the bottom of Tavares’ list of potential new destinations, but to the delight of Leafs fans, the 27-year-old is now scheduled to call the city his home for the next seven seasons.
Everything is almost in order. Despite missing a key piece or two on the back end, Toronto is stacked up front and boast arguably the strongest group of centres in the league. However, there is one glaring hole that still needs to be taken care of; the whole captaincy issue.
Toronto hasn’t had a captain since Dion Phaneuf was moved to the Ottawa Senators in the 2015-16 season, and now seems like the right time to finally name a player as the franchise’s ultimate leader. With that in mind, here are four options the Leafs can go with now that Tavares is a Maple Leaf.
GIVE IT TO JOHNNY
Why waste any time with this?
Tavares understands what it takes to be a captain in the NHL, having donned the C during a good chunk of his tenure with the Islanders. His veteran dressing room presence will be valuable in a young Maple Leafs locker room and he possesses all of the personality traits to serve as captain in Toronto’s high-pressure market. Tavares recently tweeted that playing for the Leafs is a dream come true, but becoming captain would be a nice cherry on top.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT AUSTON
Let’s remember how valuable Auston Matthews has been to date.
The American was able to take a perennially weak Maple Leafs team and turn them into a playoff threat in just his first two seasons. He may be young, but Matthews has unquestionably been the team’s on-ice leader since entering the league. Stitching the C onto his sweater could be the start of a long, long captaincy.
It doesn’t seem likely, but Babs & co. could select to go with one of the young Leafs defenders rather than a skilled forward. Morgan Rielly fits the bill as a logical choice, coming off of a career year in which he recorded 52 points in just 76 games while averaging 21:36 minutes of ice time. It also doesn’t hurt that he presents himself very professionally off the ice, too.
It might not hurt to just wait one more year and see how things unfold. The organization hasn’t been in a rush over the past few years, so it begs wondering if they’ll actually pull trigger before action kicks off in October. Just something to be mindful of; whether you think it’s relevant or not, the majority of Stanley Cup winners in the NHL have in fact had a captain. So maybe it is time to just finally say what the heck and roll with one player.