The 2008-2009 edition of the Leafs (and their fans) will face a number of battles. Jeff Finger will fight his contract to earn fair coverage from the media. Steen, Stajan, Antropov, and the rest of the young group will face the pressure of increased expectations and the need to continue developing. Kulemin and Tlusty will face the pressure of being looked at as the future of the Leafs' offence. Meanwhile, Leaf fans will battle to their desire to enjoy hockey with their love of watching the Leafs.
But who will lead our motley crew of kids, in-betweeners, possible trade fodder, and call-ups from the Marlies once the inevitable injury crisis hits? A week or so ago I posted a poll with some simple options looking at the usual suspects (Steen, Stajan, Sundin, Kubina, and Kaberle). The results were not terribly shocking as Kaberle pulled in 17 votes, Kubina 14, and the enigmatic Mats Sundin picked up 8 votes. General Borschevsky has been taking a look at the Leafs' past captains and the legacy that comes with the 'C' (The Blood of My Chief Part One Part Two). Those are some pretty big shoes to fill.
Here's a look at the top three candidates:
Steve presented a good case for a Kaberle captaincy. As a 204th overall pick in the 1996 draft pick Kaberle has spent his entire career in the blue and white. He has quickly progressed from a lonely teenager on a veteran laden team to the lynchpin of the Leafs' defence and powerplay. He is by no means a blood and guts leader but rather he leads by example. For a team that has been allowed to ease into a culture of sloth and indifference it would send a strong message to the young Leafs about the importance of playing hard every shift. He has playoff experience which is in short supply on the team and is entering the prime of his career. His latest contract in which he took a below market value deal in order to secure a no-trade contract showed loyalty to the club and combined with him having spent his entire career with the Leafs gives a good example of loyalty to the younger Leafs.
While he does not have the history with the Leafs that Tomas Kaberle brings to the captaincy he does have some strong qualifications. Kubina was a big part of the Tampa Bay team that won the Stanley Cup in 2004 so he brings the inestimable value (according to experts) of a ring. He showed at times last year, but especially after the trade deadline, that he can be the kind of leader that the Leafs need. He blocked shots, picked up points, scored big goals, played physically, and basically looked every penny of $5M worth of defenceman. He plays with the kind of edge that the Leafs are trying to make a part of their new culture. On the other hand, he has no history with the club and the last two years have not exactly been the club's brightest. The team also tried to move him at the deadline but having failed will he be around for two more years? Because of his age he'd also likely be little more than a bridge until one of the younger generation distinguishes themselves.
Basically, he's the best Leaf ever and he is the current captain so if he comes back he'll get to keep the 'C'...or will he? Seriously, it would be a move of stunning proportions if he lost the captaincy. Good thing Ballard is dead.
Really, the only way that this becomes an issue is if Mats decides that he would rather piss all over his legacy in Montreal or the he wants to play with the only set of forwards that might actually be worse than the Leafs. If that were to happen then Down Goes Brown thinks that the best choice might be someone that's already sported the 'C':
They should award this year's captaincy to the same player who had it from 1986-89.
Back then, the Leafs didn't have any especially good candidates for the captain's job. The team wasn't very good, their few decent players were too young to carry a leadership role, and they didn't have much in the way of veteran presence. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar.
Faced with that scenario, and for perhaps the only time during the Ballard years, the Leafs did the right thing. They played without a captain for three years.
This would probably be construed as a slap in the face to Tomas Kaberle (actually, I could guarantee that it would be painted as such) but the reality is that not everyone is a leader. Kaberle is a good complementary veteran presence because he provides a strong example to the younger players.
Leaving the captaincy vacant (with the assistant captains) leaves the door open for one of the kids (Steen, Stajan, Colaiacovo, Antropov) to show that they have the qualities that the team needs in their captain. In the end, this is probably a moot point because Mats will be back. Links are after the jump.
- Barry Melrose Rocks wonders if the Islanders can get some inspiration for a new arena from the Swiss league.
- Torontosportsmedia has some more thoughts on the Bills game.
- Fellow Leaf blogger Leafer Sutherland's NHL Arena is running a Battle of the Blogosphere contest which will attempt to wittle down 128 blogs to an eventual champion (I would put money on one of Mirtle, Battle of Alberta, or Puck Daddy winning). Of the current challenges up here are four interesting races that you'll hopefully vote in (registration required) and here are some reasons to vote for the good guys. Let your conscience guide your other votes:
- Cox Bloc v. The Broad Street Blog - Vote for Godd and Kim because now they're even lampooning Al Strachan.
- Down Goes Brown v. American Hockey Fan - Vote DGB because if he wins he might not bring us down as much...for the next day or so.
- Japers' Rink v. Ghosts of the Garden - JP probably has a mass of readers ready to help him out but it's always nice to help out a friend.
HabsBlog v. The Battle of Western Canada - There aren't the words available to describe how much I dislike the HabsBlog and their developmentally stunted commenters. The BoWC is already winning but why not make it a landslide.