O Captain! No Captain!

No, this post isn’t about me, but if you stick around long enough, it eventually will be.

Yes, the title of this post was inspired by Dead Poets Society. No, I have not seen the movie. Yes, I’ve watched the scene on YouTube where they stand on desks.

Any more questions, or does the prosecution rest? Good. Have a snooze.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have decided not to name a captain this season. They haven’t had a captain since the 2015-16 season, when Dion Phaneuf wore the “C” for 51 games, before being traded to the Ottawa Senators.

Before Phaneuf, the Leafs played two seasons without a captain because Mats Sundin left and it’s not like the front office could walk into the Longo’s across the street and pick up a new captain off the shelf.

Longo’s in a grocery store. This would be so much easier if you were all Canadian.

The Leafs have only had two captains in the time that I’ve been a fan. They’ve had four captains in my lifetime, Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour being the other two, but I don’t remember those eras.

My first memories as a fan came when Sundin was captain.

He was an icon.

In my first year playing softball, at the crisp age of 9, I was the first kid to arrive on the day the coach was giving out uniforms.

This meant that I had first pick of jersey numbers, between #1-15. I chose #13 because of Mats Sundin. And I’ll never forget when the rest of my teammates arrived, how jealous they were that I had taken #13.

The following year, the same thing happened. It was a race to get #13. I settled for #12 because, “It’s close enough”.

The next three years, I took #10 because of Vernon Wells, but that’s a story for another time.

See, I told you I’d make this post about me.

Being captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs means a lot more than being the guy who takes ceremonial face-offs, talks to the referees, or is the voice in the dressing room.

It’s a cultural thing.

In my dealings will campers over the last several years, very few of them were Leaf fans. Two kids wore Montreal Canadiens hats every single day for two months. I learned to love them, but being a Habs fan was unheard of when I was a kid.

I didn’t get it, until I remembered the Leafs have been terrible their entire life.

They were born after the first lockout in 2005; they didn’t stay up until 1am to watch triple overtime playoff games like I did when I was 10. They don’t remember the Leafs being so close to the Stanley Cup, only to run into Arturs Irbe and his double-wide pads in the Conference Final.

Seriously, can someone hop in a time machine and go back to 2002 and measure Irbe’s pads? It still bothers me to this day.

They didn’t have those memories. They didn’t have Sundin. They had a couple of years with no captain and then Phaneuf, who wasn’t the cultural icon that Sundin was.

Also, the Leafs did away with their Buds Club program for kids. I don’t know why. They would send an envelope of freebies a few times throughout the season, including the team media guide.

There are about six media guides on my shelf dating back to 1999, as a result. I’ll never throw them out.

I know it’s 2018 and everything is about money, but kids born in the last 13 years have never seen the Leafs win a playoff series and equate the franchise with failure.

That’s not to say the franchise will have a crisis on their hands when that generation becomes old enough to be the customer, but I don’t think the team is aware (or cares) that the last 13 years have caused tiny bit of damage.

So if the Leafs want to be patient in naming their next captain, I’m all for it.

I think we all know it’ll either be John Tavares or Auston Matthews. Morgan Rielly’s name has been thrown around, but if they were going to name him captain, they would have.

I’ve always found it nice when a team gives the “C” to a third line veteran. Ethan Moreau in Edmonton (2007 – 2010) comes to mind.

However, this is Toronto. They’re not going to go that route. They’ve been waiting for a superstar and now they have two.

Tavares just got here. I think it would be awkward to put the “C” on his jersey right away because your teammates need to see you as a captain, before you’re named one.

When my intramural team got team shirts and decided to put the “C” on mine, I’d like to think it’s because I was already the de facto leader of the team. Plus, I was the guy giving corny speeches in the team huddle, so…

I think the next captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs will be Auston Matthews. It just can’t be right now because he’s on the final year of his rookie contract.

If they were to do it now, he would have too much leverage in contract negotiations next summer.

Also, I think they want Tavares to rub off on him a little bit. When Tavares talks to the media, he sounds like a captain. Matthews needs to work on that a bit.

He’s only 21-years-old. There’s no need to put the weight of the hockey world on his shoulders just yet.

Morgan Rielly, Patrick Marleau, and John Tavares will be alternate captains this season. This is were it gets tricky because can you name Matthews the captain next year if he’s never had a letter on his jersey?

That’s probably a topic for a hockey panel on TV, while being a non-issue with the Leafs

My main thing is, I don’t want any animosity between Matthews and Tavares when one of them doesn’t get the “C”.

I want one of them to be like Ryan Smyth. He always wore the “A” in Edmonton, while carrying himself like a captain. He was one of my favourite players. I always liked the leaders. Steve Yzerman was another.

The next captain of the Leafs will be an obvious choice for the players and coaches in the room. They’ll be able to tell. One person always stands out, even when there are multiple who take on the leadership role.

Who knows, maybe the room gravitates towards Tavares and he’s named captain. I don’t mind them using this year to see how things play out.

I’m just still in disbelief that the Leafs are in this position to begin with. I don’t think I watched a complete game during the 2014-15 season because the team was so bad.

Now here we are, with too many options for the captaincy, and a team bursting at the seams with young talent. Uh, okay!

I don’t know how people live without sports in their life. They’re missing out on the joys of emotional torture.

John Tavares will make his home (arena) debut tonight. I’ll be there, trying not to overreact every time he touches the puck, but I make no promises.

O Captain! No Captain!

About Paul

I think of my blog as an all-you-can-read buffet. There's something for everyone and complimentary mints at the door as you leave.
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7 Responses to O Captain! No Captain!

  1. Hira says:

    Well, I didn’t know that is even possible. To be a team without Captain. Isn’t there always one?
    I live without sports but this is an interesting read!
    “They’re missing out on the joys of emotional torture.” — Sweetheart, you are not a mother of a 6-year-old boy, Somedays I wanna throw him out of my balcony (I live on the 7th floor) and other days am head-over-heels in love with my little man. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      I think teams are getting to be more selective on who they name captain now. I think I heard there were 11 teams without one. It’s probably because they want to give it to someone who is 1) A star player and 2) Will be there a long time.

      Hahah that sounds like a different sort of emotional torture. Keep away from that balcony!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh man! I was all set for a Walt Whitman post and was kinda disappointed but then it’s all about the Leafs so now I’m not. I didn’t know that teams didn’t have to name a captain lol can they bring back David Clarkson, name him captain,and make all my 16-year old dreams come true?

    Super jealous you get to be at the game tonight! I’ve gotta find someway and some time to stream it haha sucks not having a tv! Maybe I’ll hang out at work since the family is away and take over their tv hehe

    Liked by 1 person

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