Matt Stajan To Captain Toronto Maple Leafs in 08-09? Why Not?

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IJuly 22, 2008

So, yesterday, by all accounts Bryan Thiel officially lost it.  The pressure finally got to him, and he cracked, naming Jamal Mayers the next captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Just kidding by the way BT, I personally think Mayers would be a good choice for the Maple Leafs captain.

While Mayers certainly does have qualities that would see him a good fit for a captain, there is another player on the Maple Leafs who has been carrying himself on, and off the ice, as a captain and leader for a few years.

Matt Stajan was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2002, 57th overall.

Now, there are some people who are on the fence, and are even downright opposed to Matt being named captain.  They simply retort "Keon, Gilmour, Sundin, Stajan?"

But it's more than just the on-ice product that makes Matt captain material.  Let's look a little deeper shall we.

Matt Stajan was drafted by the Belleville Bulls, where he quickly became a go-to guy for the team.  At the end of his junior campaign, Stajan joined the Maple Leafs for their final game of the season against the Senators.  Many were excited to see the young kid play, and wondered how he would handle the pressure of Hockey Night In Canada.

The hometown boy responded by playing a solid game, and scoring his first ever goal, on his first ever shot.  A pretty exclusive club.

As a 20 year old, Stajan made the club full time.  In his first season with the team, he was selected to represent Toronto at the All-Star Game young guns game.  Stajan represented well, scoring 1 goal and adding an assist.

In 2005-2006, Stajan was first in the league in shorthanded points.  Stajan proved to be a valuable penalty killer, and a dangerous shorthanded threat.

The on-ice stuff,is pretty impressive when you consider how much ice time Stajan gets.

Off the ice, however is a much different story.  Stajan's leadership capabilities stretch far beyond the 200x85 sheet of ice.

Matt Stajan wears number 14 for Toronto, a number worn by Dave Keon, widely considered to be one of the best Maple Leafs of all time. 

Keon had a rift with the organization because he wanted the number retired.  He went years without acknowledging the Maple Leafs, and would not reconcile with them, despite the fact his main nemesis, Harold Ballard was long gone.

The Maple Leafs held a ceremony last year to honor the members of the 1967 Stanley Cup team, and finally for the first time in a long time, Keon was present.  Wearing his famous 14.

The ceremony was great, but the real story came earlier in the day, when Matt Stajan had the chance to meet Dave Keon.  Stajan on the spot offered to give up the number so the Leafs could retire it during the ceremony that night.  Keon however, admiring Stajan's character for doing so, told him to keep it, and wear it proudly.

Matt is also the Toronto Maple Leafs NHLPA Player Representative.  During the lockout, Bryan McCabe, the Leafs rep at the time, went overseas to play (which didn't go well, but another story for another day.) 

The Maple Leafs had no one attending PA meetings, at possibly it's most important time.  Stajan virtually volunteered to do it, showing leadership and dedication.  Not long after he was instilled as the teams PA rep, which is decided by a vote amongst teammates.

Matt Stajan and his girlfriend Katie Fairweather are the leaders of the organizing committee for the Maple Leafs annual Hockey Fights Cancer night.  Along with volunteers, Matt and Katie usually organize games, and giveaways throughout the night at the arena. 

They also organize the pink ribbon sale, which happens at the arena that night.  They are also in charge of helping to gather equipment from both teams, which is auctioned off with all money going to cancer research.

Aside from organizing that event, Matt does extensive work with other charities and the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  

Here is a video from this past season where Jordan Primeau, a young Maple Leafs fans who suffers from cancer, gets his chance to meet the Maple Leafs.  The whole piece is great, and worth watching.  At the four-minute mark, Matt Stajan does something unexpected, unannounced, and fantastic.

Ask anyone around the organization, or anyone who has had the privilege to meet him, and they'll tell you that Matt Stajan is an outstanding young man, who could handle the role as the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  

A hometown boy wearing the C.  Sounds about right to me.


Here are some more vids of Matt, to sell the point a little further

Here is Matt meeting with kids and showing them the locker room at the Maple Leafs annual Blue and White game

And my favourite, here is a video of a competition that Rogers Sportsnet did called Extreme Maple Leafs Survivor.  It's Matt Stajan in the finals against Bryan McCabe in a competition to see who knows the Maple Leafs trivia the best.

Notice how Matt embarrasses McCabe, and talks smack while doing it.  The guy knows his Maple Leafs, understands what it would mean to wear the C.


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