To ensure that the same narrative will be discussed at length in the lead-up to next season, and hopefully not until then, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock announced Thursday on the first day of training camp that the club will not name a captain for this upcoming season.
Of course, the belief is that star center Auston Matthews is the captain-in-waiting. And further deductive reasoning suggests that the Maple Leafs want to give him at least one more season to settle into his new reality as “NHL superstar in manic market” before heaping more responsibility onto his plate.
No longer a rookie, Matthews was already to become more visible with media as he takes on more of a spokesperson role as a second-year player. He was sheltered from having to do any in-game interviews and other promotional elements along with the other rookies in their debut seasons.
From Matthews on up to the management and inside the boardroom, the vacant captaincy has been a hot topic in scrums and exclusives in the weeks leading into training camp. For their part, the who’s who with the Maple Leafs have doggedly deflected, leading few to believe that the club was prepared to actually name a captain this season.
Could Matthews handle the responsibilities that come with wearing the letter? Sure. Is it wrong to wait? Not at all.
Hockey teams can fully function without the single voice providing guidance and inspiration on a nightly basis. And for the Maple Leafs specifically, they have a glut of veteran voices who can handle the media, the locker room and continue to help Matthews become a player that can lead by more than just his brilliant on-ice example.
This is a non-issue for the Maple Leafs and will remain one until fervently discussed again, if not resolved, by this time next summer.
Or when they don’t have anyone to accept the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman in June. (We kid … well, mostly).
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