John Tavares Needs to Remain Maple Leafs Captain in 2024-25

John Tavares Needs to Remain Maple Leafs Captain in 2024-25

In a recent post titled “Do the Maple Leafs Need to Make a Captain Change?” by my colleague Karine Hains, she expressed her belief that it might be time for John Tavares to give up the captaincy of the Toronto Maple Leafs and allow Auston Matthews to become the official captain of the team. This question has sparked interest as the team undergoes the most radical changes in several years.

It’s natural for the question to be addressed as Tavares ages and Matthews emerges as the on-ice leader. In her post, Hains rightly believed that when Tavares was named captain, Matthews had just come off an almost childish incident in Scottsdale, Arizona, that he had not reported to the Maple Leafs organization, which embarrassed them. That incident weighed heavily on his being passed over at the time.

She’s also correct in saying that Matthews learned from the incident. When the incident became known, he apologized and vowed to clean up his act. Nothing since then has suggested he has not done precisely as he promised. When Tavares was given the “C,” besides him, the leading candidates were Matthews and Morgan Rielly. I might have opted for Rielly at the time, yet, as it turned out, Tavares has handled the role with dignity and aplomb.

Still, while Matthews is emerging as the team’s force and could quickly become a solid captain, I don’t think the time is right for that to happen. There’s no pragmatic reason to replace Tavares in the role. He’s in the final year of his contract, and he’s done the job well. The only way it makes sense is if the change were initiated by Tavares himself instead of being coerced by the organization.

I see no reason why the organization should even request that Tavares relinquish the captaincy. That would be a tacky move. It would reek of punishment or his inability to do the job well. Neither is the case.

There Will Be Natural Leadership Changes: Let Them Happen

Expect Tavares to stay in Toronto this season. Despite speculation that the team would ask him to waive his no-trade clause, that’s just a wrong-minded thought. It would represent a bad-faith move against one of the team’s stalwarts. If it happens, that tells us much about this organization’s values.

Tavares’ approach to his team captain role has been nothing but classy. One can list numerous things he and his young family have done to support the younger players. His humility and deference to Matthews have also been transparent. He holds no ill will or jealousy. He knows his time is passing, and at the same time, Matthews is growing. Tavares acknowledges that Matthews is one of the premier players in the NHL. He knows that Matthews will one day replace him as the team’s captain.

The team will likely re-negotiate Tavares’ next contract with him this summer. Despite accusations that his skills are waning, it isn’t so. His stellar performance and commitment to representing Hockey Canada in Prague reveal his ability. He wants to stay in Toronto, and the team will re-sign him to do so this summer. Tavares will remain dedicated to his ongoing pursuit of excellence. However, age will slow that ability, and his role within the Maple Leafs roster will continue to lessen.

Matthews becoming captain will happen in due time. And, if the team is wise, the transition will be smooth and edifying. Wisdom suggests a win-win situation where Tavares and Matthews emerge heroically from the transition. Tavares’ tenure as the captain is ending, and it should be when his current contract ends.

The move to shift Tavares from his central leadership role within the Maple Leafs will likely occur at the right time. However, unless he initiates this change for the upcoming season, it would be more prudent to implement it when his new contract begins. This timing allows the transition to be handled respectfully and with class.

The team’s evolving dynamics and the ongoing discussions about Tavares’ status highlight the importance of a thoughtful approach to leadership changes. Such a strategy ensures a seamless evolution within the team’s core, fostering a cohesive and collaborative environment that supports sustained team success on and off the ice.

3 Reasons John Tavares Should Remain Captain of the Maple Leafs

Once again, the Maple Leafs failed to meet expectations this season. However, that was in no way on Tavares. Whether he remains captain has not and will not change the quality of the team’s play. Here are three persuasive reasons why he should continue to wear the “C.”

Reason 1: Tavares Has Proven Leadership and Experience

Tavares brings a wealth of leadership experience to the Maple Leafs, having served as the New York Islanders captain for five years before joining Toronto. His experience in this role has proven invaluable, especially in navigating the pressures and expectations of leading a high-profile team like the Maple Leafs.

Tavares is not just a leader in name; he leads by example, demonstrating professionalism, dedication, and resilience. His calm and steady presence has been a stabilizing force for the team, especially during challenging times.

Reason 2: Tavares Has Demonstrated Exemplary Professionalism and Work Ethic

Tavares is known for his relentless work ethic and professional demeanour. He approaches every game with a level of dedication that is inspiring. He encourages his teammates to strive for excellence. Unlike players who might struggle with off-ice distractions, he has consistently maintained a focus on his game and responsibilities. His ability to keep his head down and work tirelessly towards the team’s objectives sets a standard for others. This level of commitment is crucial for any captain, and Tavares embodies it perfectly.

Reason 3: Tavares’ Stability Is Respected in the Locker Room

The respect Tavares commands in the locker room is crucial to his captaincy. His stable personal life and mature approach to the game provide a model of reliability and consistency. His journey to fulfilling his boyhood dream of playing for and captaining the Maple Leafs also resonates deeply with fans and players alike. This narrative of dedication and loyalty enhances his credibility as a leader.

The Bottom Line for Tavares and Matthews

While Matthews is a star player who has become the face of the franchise, Tavares should remain the captain of the Maple Leafs. His proven leadership, unwavering professionalism, and the respect he commands within the locker room make him the ideal person to lead the team as it strives for future success.

The proof of the pudding for me is that if Tavares were asked to relinquish the captaincy, he would do it without hesitation or attitude. He’d do it for the good of the team. That’s precisely what a good captain would do. And, we’d never hear a peep from him about it except to praise Matthews. That’s leadership.

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