With the start of training camp a couple days away, one of the first questions that GM Kyle Dubas will face from the media after the obligatory inquiry on the state of negotiations with Mitch Marner will be whether the Toronto Maple Leafs will name a team captain for the first time since Dion Phaneuf was traded to Ottawa in February 2016.
The club has a number of qualified players, will means they can go a few different directions. There are some observers who do not think naming a captain is a necessity or has the impact that it used to in the days of Darryl Sittler or Wendel Clark, but in Toronto wearing the “C” is a big responsibility on and off the ice.
Here are the pros and cons of the leading candidates:
Pro – Long tenure, leadership, handles media well, important role on the club
Con - Length of contract
Rielly is extremely qualified and the fact that he is not signed for two more years is not a big deal, but two of the other candidates are signed for five or more years, which does offer stability.
Pro – Pevious experience as a captain, leadership, good with media, GTA native
Con – With the club only one year
Tavares has served as a team captain already, which gives him the experience that no one else on the club has, but his being given the “C” after one year might be perceived as undercutting players who were drafted, developed, and have more tenure in Toronto.
Pro – Face of the franchise, desire to take on leadership role, handles media well
Con – Youth, focuses more pressure
The feeling is that Matthews has been groomed for the captaincy since being drafted first overall in 2016 and that the three years without one has been simply a waiting period until he was experienced and established enough to take on the role.
The downside could be that it is too much too soon for Matthews to take on being the club’s #1 center and handle all the off-the-ice responsibilities.
Pro – Leading scorer, popularity, GTA native, good with media
Con – Contract impasse
The only way that Marner is a candidate for captain is if the club holds off naming one until next season, since they will not give the “C” to someone unsigned. The term on a new deal will also be a factor, since Matthews (5 years) and Tavares (6 years) are on long-term contracts. If Marner does not make a similar lengthy commitment, then they will go in another direction.
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