With the departure of centre Jay McClement, the Toronto Maple Leafs have lost one of their alternate captains. Last season, McClement wore an A, along with Joffrey Lupul, behind captain Dion Phaneuf. Now, the Leafs are tasked with naming someone else from the roster to fill the void.
Of course, “leadership” is fast becoming one of the most ridiculed cliches in sports. And, by no means does a player have to be wearing a letter to have a big presence in the dressing room. However, tradition is tradition, and someone will have to be named to the position. There are several candidates among the current Buds to claim the job, and join the ranks of such Leafs legends as Bryan McCabe and Jonas Hoglund!
Candidates for Leafs Alternate Captaincy
James van Riemsdyk
Van Riemsdyk really came into his own in the 2013/14 season. He had his first ever 30 goal season, and demonstrated some fabulous chemistry with linemate Phil Kessel. But is he suited for the alternate captaincy? Well, it would seem that he’s a natural choice. None of the Leafs top line of JVR, Kessel and Tyler Bozak wear an A for the club. It would make sense for one of those three to have a more tangible leadership role, and Van Riemsdyk is the most likely candidate, as Kessel tends to be a rather quiet character. Leafs management would probably quite like for one of their top stars to wear a letter, as one of the faces of the club. There’s no word on the type of presence Van Riemsdyk has in the dressing room, but one would think that he’s being seriously considered for the job. However, it’s still worth mentioning…
It’s long been said that Kessel “isn’t a leader”. He’s awkward and shy in front of media, which can be a problem in Toronto, the self-prescribed centre of the hockey universe. Of course we can only speculate as to what he’s like in the dressing room, but the rumours are that he’s not exactly the loudest guy. However, one can’t ignore the fact that Kessel is by far the Leafs’ best player. As a superstar in hockey Mecca, Kessel is expected to represent the team. It’s likely that Kessel would refuse the A, even if offered it, but he also has to be in the conversation.
Of course, who could forget Phil Kessel’s chauffeur and BFF? Bozak, who rooms with Kessel in Toronto, has somehow fallen into the role of the Leafs’ number one centre. If Kessel doesn’t want to be saddled with the burden of being a Leafs alternate captain, then maybe management would consider giving the job to the one closest to him. Bozak, while not the best player the Leafs have, is quite vocal, both in interviews and, supposedly, in the dressing room. Apparently, he was responsible for choosing a certain Miley Cyrus song as the team’s victory anthem. Bozak is probably slightly more likely than Kessel to be named alternate captain, but it would still be unwise to count on it.
At 37, Robidas has a ton of valuable NHL experience. He was recently acquired during free agency to help take some of the pressure off Dion Phaneuf, who struggles when forced to play more than 25 minutes a night, as he was last year. However, it’s been suggested that one of the reasons Dave Nonis and co. went for Robidas specifically (over the other free agent defencemen available) is for him to be a veteran presence on a team of youngsters. He’ll be one of three Leafs in his thirties (Joffrey Lupul and David Clarkson are both 30), and has plenty of playoff experience. Despite being new to the team, Robidas could very well be given the A immediately. He wore the letter in Dallas, so he also has some experience there as well.
Rielly is perhaps one of the less likely options, even if he would be quite a smart choice. As the Leafs’ 20-year-old budding star on defence, both fans and management alike consider Rielly a potential captain of the future. Ideally, he will be the face of the franchise in years to come, assuming he stays in Toronto for his career. So, it might be wise to appoint him to a leadership role early in his career. It’s no longer an anomaly in the NHL to give letters to young players, as we’ve seen Gabriel Landeskog and Sidney Crosby (among others) made the captains of their teams before their 20th birthday. Since the Leafs are such a young team, it could be a good idea for them to appoint a young alternate captain.
Leo Komarov might be the most interesting of the candidates here. He’s a passionate, fiery Estonian-born Russian Finn. He recently returned to the Leafs, after spending a year playing in the KHL, in order to make the Finnish Olympic team. The announcement of his return was met with excitement from both fans and players. It’s obvious that he’s very popular in the Leafs dressing room, considering the impact he left on the team during just one year with the club (2012/13). Komarov is known for his on-ice antics, constantly prodding opponents into taking stupid penalties by retaliating to his chirping. It would be quite something to see the kind of fire he could instill in his teammates if Komarov was made an alternate captain.
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