The Toronto Maple Leafs did not have a captain last season and judging by the comments of new GM Kyle Dubas, they may not have one this season either. In an interview with TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Dubas stated for a fact that the team would not name a captain prior to the beginning of the season and would again go without one until Dubas, Brendan Shanahan, and the coaching staff can better evaluate their options.
I want to get into a day-to-day with these people and see who is best suited to handle [the captaincy]… if we do determine that we need somebody to handle that. If we feel we have a void in leadership because we don’t have a formal captain, then that is something that I think we can address… We need to evaluate it as the season evolves and as we go through the ups and downs of a season and see how the players each individually handle the daily process of a season.”
Dubas seems hesitant to make any sort of decision until he has a complete read of the locker room and until a time that he feels naming a captain is necessary. He calls the title for a historic club like the Maple Leafs “an honor” and wants to make sure that the correct person is named. Dubas feels that being patient with naming a captain will be the right move and eliminates the risk of any future drama surrounding the team’s leadership.
Dubas specifically mentions Patrick Marleau, Ron Hainsey, and free agency prize John Tavares as top candidates if and when a decision is made. The latter was the captain of the New York Islanders before signing in Toronto and some speculated that the commitment made by the team to Tavares could indicate that he would be in line for the same role. Meanwhile, Dubas singled out Marleau as a player who stepped up as a locker room leader for the team last year. While the team lost regular alternates in Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov this off-season, Marleau, Hainsey, and Nazem Kadri also wore the “A” occasionally last season. As for the young core of the team, Dubas says that he hopes William Nylander, Morgan Rielly – a frequent alternate the past few years, Jake Gardiner, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner continue to grow in their leadership abilities, but stopped short of calling any of them a prime candidate at this point. With Nylander still unsigned and both Gardiner and Hainsey on expiring contracts, it would seem that either Marleau or Tavares would be the favorite for the role, with Rielly, Matthews, and Marner as possibilities. However, Dubas will not rush the decision and the Leafs may even go another whole season without a formal captain.