Toronto Maple Leafs captaincy debate has returned once again

Morgan Rielly #44, Auston Matthews #34, Nazem Kadri #43, John Tavares #91 and Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Morgan Rielly #44, Auston Matthews #34, Nazem Kadri #43, John Tavares #91 and Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have not had a captain for a number of years and that has become a talking point once again ahead of the 2019/20 NHL season.

Dion Phaneuf was the last player to don the coveted captain’s ‘C’ for the Toronto Maple Leafs, holding the distinction from the start of the 2010/11 season until he was traded away on February 9th 2016.

The following three seasons saw the Maple Leafs operate with a collective of three alternate captain’s, while talks as to who will be the next solitary captain have continued to be discussed, largely by the media.

A number of players have worn the ‘A’ over the past few seasons and the 2018/19 campaign saw Morgan Rielly, John Tavares and Patrick Marleau all represent the team as leaders.

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

Rielly is the only player currently on the roster that has been named as an alternate captain in every season since Phaneuf’s departure, with Marleau now no longer on the roster and Tavares only joining last summer.

The debate as to who should be named captain has largely revolved around three players, with one of the choices having never donned a letter for the team to date.

Rielly and Tavares are both logical options for a potential captain, with Rielly having been a long-time leader on the team, their best defenceman and an all-around great representative for the team.

Tavares equally has already been a captain in the NHL, wearing the ‘C’ for the New York Islanders for five seasons before moving home to Toronto.

The final choice for the captaincy has, of course, been Auston Matthews, arguably the face of the franchise and viewed as the best player on the team, though Mitch Marner could certainly argue his case on that front.

Matthews has never worn an ‘A’ during his time in Toronto, but could at the very least be expected to receive that honour this season, if the team opts to continue without a named captain once again.

There has been plenty of talk over his relationship with head coach Mike Babcock, who appears to underestimate his value and optimal usage, particularly in the playoffs.

But he is a logical choice to be considered for the role, considering how important he truly is to the organization, not just on the ice.

Should he be chosen over a player such as Rielly, however? The fifth overall pick in the 2012 Draft has been a consummate professional for the majority of his career with Toronto and has been an alternate captain for the past three seasons.

He is one of the longest-serving players on the team and has been a leader since the age of 22.

Matthews, who turns 22 himself in a month’s time, has been on the team for as long as Rielly has been an alternate captain and still needs to prove himself in that aspect before he receives the ‘C’.

The best course of action for the Toronto Maple Leafs would be to name Rielly, Tavares and Matthews as alternates for the season to see how the young American deals with the added responsibility.

This particular talking point is likely to continue until the team’s official leadership group is announced prior to the start of the season, but it’s one the organization shouldn’t rush.

Next. Babcock could be on the hot seat this season. dark

What do you think though Leafs fans? Who do you think is most deserving of the ‘C’ if one is named for this season? What is the best course of action for the team moving forward? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!