ABC—Who Takes The Toronto Maple Leafs' Letters?

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ABC—Who Takes The Toronto Maple Leafs' Letters?

While Mats Sundin has been out gallivanting around Sweden as newspapers accuse him of signing or not signing, and any fan not concerned with the Maple Leafs has reached a level of annoyance not seen since the inception of Tom-Kat, the Toronto Maple Leafs (for the most part) have moved on.

They've gone out and cleaned house of the old and brought in some toughness, a little leadership, and some quality character guys just hitting their stride in their late 20s—not bad for a franchise who once thought players' hit their stride in their late 30s.

If Sundin were to decide to come back, Toronto could find a spot for him and assuredly make room for a man who has embodied hockey in Toronto for so long.

But what happens if Mats doesn't come back? Whether he retires or moves on to another franchise, where do the Toronto Maple Leafs turn if their Swedish content lies with the likes of Anton Stralman, Jonas Frogren, and Alex Steen?

It already appears that Nik Antropov would be given his shot at centering the top line if Mats doesn't come back and leading the team in scoring? Well, unless your name is Ryan Hollweg, I think you have a shot if Mats isn't back.

But the more important question—a question that myself, Josh Lewis, and Derek Harmsworth decided to tackle—is who wears the 'C' in Toronto?

Now the logical thing would be to hand out three or four assistant captaincies and spread the leadership around on the Baby Buds, and maybe even impart some responsibility on one of the younger players. 

But that article would run roughly 30,000 words as anyone who was more curious about grade 11 data management than what flavor the gum stuck to the bottom of the desk can tell you that a simple equation reveals that there are...a whole lot of "three assistant" possibilities.

Another solution that teams like the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild have used in the past is Captain by committee—each month the Captaincy of the team changes.

Yet another likely scenario, as well as a strategy that could help ease younger players into the spotlight of Toronto, as the Captain would only have to answer for a months worth of work, rather than face the glare from a blunt, brute, and brash media for eight straight months.

But let's say that the 'C' had to go to one man on the team to wear it for the season; who's going to get it?

Well, unlike Josh and Derek, I climbed the age tree a bit for this one.

How does Jamal Mayers sound to everyone?

Sidenote: A third-line player may also not be worthy of the "vaunted Maple Leafs Captaincy", and logic dictates Mayers is farther down on the list of potential suitors for the Leafs 'C,' but let's just throw logic to the wind for a minute shall we?

I'd also like everyone preparing to explode at this idea to just chill—Derek and Josh took a little more common routes to their ideas, and I went with a lesser-known, more in hopes that we all learn a little something about Jamal Mayers, okay?

Now I'll admit—at first this sounds ludicrous. It can be argued that the best choice as the next Captain of this team should be someone who has played in Toronto for a while and has grown to know who he's playing with.

Maybe it shouldn't necessarily be a fan-favorite, but a smart choice might also be someone that the fans are familiar with as to achieve some sort of comfort level.

Jamal Mayers has been a Leaf for just over a month. The only player on the Leafs roster that Mayers might be familiar with is Curtis Joseph but that would only be by namesake, as Mayers made his Blues debut long after Joseph had left for Edmonton.

Mayers is only familiar with the city of Toronto because he was born here, and as a lifetime St. Louis Blue, one has to wonder how many Leafs fans are familiar with him.

So why exactly should Jamal Mayers be considered for the vacant Captain's position (or at least an 'A')?

Well, the experience factor comes into play in this argument. Mayers is second to Boyd Devereaux (604) amongst Maple Leafs forwards in games played with 593—which is as depressing as it is strange.

Amongst all Leafs ( excluding goalies), Mayers is fifth, behind Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina, and Thomas Kaberle, two of which are already assistant captains (although if McCabe's offseason keeps going at this pace, I wouldn't bank on that much longer).

He's also played in the third-most playoff games of any Leaf on the roster (Neither of them are Boyd Devereaux or Pavel Kubina—the only Leafs with Cup Rings) and played on a St. Louis team that has taken home the Presidents' Trophy and challenged the Detroit Red Wings for Central Division and Western Conference supremacy pre-lockout.

He also scored four goals in nine games for Canada in a gold-winning effort at the 2007 World Championships.

But experience isn't everything, so what else does Mayers bring?

Well, attitude for one. Mayers has had six NHL seasons with over 90 penalty minutes, meaning that he isn't afraid of grinding it out and playing the man when he has to.

He's also a determined, team-oriented player who not only will never quit on a play, but never quit on a teammate either. No matter his role, he'll stick up for his team, and he'll never quit.

Mayers also brings the fact that he isn't an All-Star—which I find very enticing.

Too often we see the All-Star given the responsibility of leading the team. 

However, just because they're the best player on the team doesn't mean they're comfortable with that role: Mike Modano was named Captain of the Dallas Stars for the 2003/04 season, and his on-ice performance suffered as a result of the added burden.

Vincent Lecavalier was another player burdened with the 'C' far too soon.

However, if you give the 'C' to a player that's not necessarily the star, then it could help your team just as much.

All of the sudden, a guy is getting credit for doing the little things on a team, and working as hard as he can, while receiving the same amount of hype as his teammates.

Players see that and start to take notes, learning to do the things their Captain does so well, helping to make them more well-rounded players.

Jamal Mayers does all those things and everything you could want from a leader.

So is one of the Leafs' newest acquisitions going to be wearing the 'C' any time soon?

Probably not—in fact I'd be very surprised if he did. However, Mayers—letter or not—still provides a great role model on a team that lacks definition in the upcoming season.

Bryan Thiel is an NHL Community Leader and Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with him, you can do so through his profile, and you can read more of his previous works in his archives.

 

 

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