Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews should be first choice as next captain

John Tavares #91 and Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare for a first period faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 27, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
John Tavares #91 and Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare for a first period faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 27, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

It appears the debate of who the next captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs is not going away any time soon and there is a good reason for it.

There have been many things to distract Toronto Maple Leafs fans ahead of the upcoming season between the Mitch Marner contract negotiations, the various roster moves and of course the debate of who the next captain should be.

Now, the captaincy talk is one that continues to be a hot topic for obvious reasons but management can easily end that by saying whether they will or won’t name one for this season. As of right now, Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas nor Mike Babcock have given any indication that they are ready to make a decision.

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Of course, the discussion hasn’t taken a serious tone for the organization and for good reason, during the rebuilding stage you could argue there wasn’t a need for a captain. Now that the team is in a contending position, you can see why people are bringing up the idea of having a captain and fans certainly have their choice for who should don the “C”.

When you look at comments on social media or articles about the Leafs captaincy there is a strong belief that John Tavares should be the next captain and there are valid reasons why he should be. For starters, he has the experience as the captain with the New York Islanders and he has the popularity among the fanbase that’s hard to argue against as the local player.

When asked about being the Leafs not being the captain, Tavares decided to take a team-first mentality which obviously helped him duck out of the question and there’s no problem with that.

"“I think we will have a good idea when the time is right,” he explained to “I think we have plenty of guys that can fill that role and do a great job at it.“I think that’s a real special thing to have when you have so many quality people and quality players that can really fill that role and really embrace that opportunity. Obviously there’s special significance to it, so when the time is right, I know that they will address it and do that if it’s necessary.”"

Let’s say the Leafs didn’t name Tavares as the captain, it would bring upon some awkwardness if he professed his desire to be the captain. Instead, he leaves out any reason to speculate one way or the other. The same obviously goes for Morgan Rielly who is another option people are considering because of the qualities he brings to the table.

However, the one name that has constantly been given a lot of consideration is Auston Matthews and for good reason. Some might think this is mostly media-driven but there are many reasons why the team should make him the choice.

Recently, Matthews made it known he would be honoured to be named the next captain of the team. This is a player who might not have grown up watching the Leafs but he understands the importance and significance of the role.

"“I’m going into my fourth year in this league and fourth year in this organization,” Matthews explained. “Every year, I think I have grown more as a person and as a player. I have more of a voice in the locker room and sometimes guys look up to me for my opinion. You can always take a step forward, and that area, leadership, is an area where I want to take a step forward and I think the staff and organization wants that, too. But whether I wear a letter – whether it’s a C or an A or nothing — I don’t think it will change what I do, what I’m like, my personality and how I approach the game.”"

That is a big profession and maybe a message to management that he is ready to take on the captaincy but if they decide to go another way, his mentality would not change. Like Tavares, Matthews knows a letter on a jersey doesn’t add or take away your responsibility as a leader. What it does is let people in the room know that they were chosen by the team as the principal leaders.

So why is this such a big deal and why should Matthews be the team’s first choice?

This is all about making a statement about the future direction of the team and when the team signed Matthews to his new deal, they made it clear he is one of the faces of the franchise. It was the moment he was drafted that the fortunes of the team improved significantly.

You can also say the same for Tavares obviously and people will bring up that Tavares is from Toronto but that’s not a good enough reason to say he deserves it. For years Mats Sundin was the captain and one of the top players of all time and wasn’t Canadian, that’s not a good enough reason for why Matthews shouldn’t get it.

Matthews has conducted himself in a way you would want to see your captain represent your team. He is an emerging star in the league and if you want him to be the cornerstone of your team past his five-year deal. Making him your captain would show him how much you believe in him to lead your franchise.

Even if the team decides Tavares would be the better choice, that wouldn’t be a slight on Matthews at all because both have the qualities you want in your captain. But if you want to send a strong message to your fanbase about the direction of your team, the 2016 first overall pick would be the choice.

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What are your thoughts on the captaincy debate? Is it getting tiresome or do you actually think the team should make a choice one way or the other soon? Let us know in the comments below.