Leafs hand out let­ters

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - SPORTS - LANCE HORNBY lhornby@post­media.com

Aus­ton Matthews won’t be­come cap­tain of the Maple Leafs’ ship just yet, in fact he’s not even go­ing to be a first mate.

While it wasn’t shock­ing on the first day of camp that no “C” would be is­sued — gen­eral man­ager Kyle Dubas said he was lean­ing that way on July 1 — the three al­ter­nates shar­ing the load will be John Tavares, Pa­trick Mar­leau and Mor­gan Rielly.

That’s two cap­tains who served with other NHL teams and one of the club’s long­est serv­ing de­fence­men in Rielly, which Matthews, a third-year Leaf, wasn’t go­ing to quib­ble about. Not when a vet­eran such as Ron Hain­sey wasn’t in­cluded, ei­ther.

“Kyle (Dubas) has touched on that,” Matthews said when asked about the A-Team de­ci­sion. “I don’t know if I can ex­press that much more (about it).”

Toronto will be en­ter­ing its third sea­son with­out a cap­tain, but it didn’t seem to mat­ter dur­ing last sea­son’s team-record 105-point run. Lead­er­ship, the quiet kind, is a big part of what the new­comer Tavares brings and thus gets an “A.”

“To feel as a new guy com­ing in that I can make that kind of im­pact right away and looked upon as a leader, I’m very thank­ful for,” Tavares said. “I don’t take that for granted.”

Tavares played up the chem­istry he and Matthews have al­ready de­vel­oped as the team’s top two cen­tres.

“If you want to grow your re­la­tion­ship, your friend­ship, and who you are as team­mates, you evolve that fam­ily-type of at­mos­phere. It’s about get­ting to know each other as peo­ple. On the ice, in the rink, around the locker room, I think he’s got a tremen­dous pres­ence, a great work ethic, ob­vi­ously an ex­treme de­sire to be a great player and to do great things in this league and for this team. It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for me to learn and for him to push me as well.”

Dubas did not equate the choice of al­ter­nates with the feel­ing his young guns; Matthews, Mitch Marner, Con­nor Brown and Zach Hy­man, are not yet ready for big­ger roles in the room and on the ice.

“We have ex­cel­lent ex­ist­ing lead­ers, we have young play­ers that have lead­er­ship qual­i­ties,” said the GM. “I think that pa­tience in this mat­ter is much bet­ter in the long run than rush­ing to pacify the (pub­lic) de­mand we have a cap­tain.”

Maple Leafs cen­tre John Tavares sports an “A” on his jersey in a photo shoot on the Leafs’ first day of train­ing camp. Pa­trick Mar­leau, and Mor­gan Rielly will be the other al­ter­nate cap­tains. CRAIG ROBERT­SON/pOST­mEDiA NET­WORk

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