‘We have excellent existing leaders’
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.”