Toronto Maple Leafs: A Case for Joffrey Lupul to Be Team Captain

John B Matheson@@JB_WebberCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2012

EDMONTON, CANADA - FEBRUARY 15: Joffrey Lupul #19 of theToronto Maple Leafs  of the Edmonton Oilers on February 15, 2012 at the Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

Currently the Toronto Maple Leafs have a captain, one that management seems to be quite happy with in Dion Phaneuf.

Leafs Nation, on the other hand, wants to see the blueliner replaced and a new captain crowned. If MLSE decides to cave to public pressure, Joffrey Lupul should be their choice.

Officially, the team captain in ice hockey is an honorary title that means little. In the past there have been NHL teams that have either had no captain or multiple captains.

Minnesota Wild, for example, did not have a consistent captain until the 2009-10 season when Mikko Koivu was named. Until then, they rotated the role every one to two months.

The captain’s main function is basically that of a delegate on ice with the referees.

They are the only player allowed to speak to a referee about a call that was made. Only if the captain is not on the ice then an alternate can step in.

In the NHL there is no official difference between a captain and a teammate, but the captains are expected to perform other duties for the team.

They act as a locker room leader, an intermediary between players and management, and of course, they try to keep their team motivated on the ice.

Yet to a fan they are more.

Team captains represent the club to the media, and the public. They are also the player who will perform the on-ice ceremonies when needed.

For the fans of their respected hockey team, the captain is the face of the team. They may not be the most talented scorer or the best defensive player, but they're captain because they earned the C on their jersey.

When a trade was announced between Calgary and Toronto in January of 2010, there was a fair amount of buzz. Star defenseman Dion Phaneuf was coming to Toronto (TSN).

At the time, there were few players to choose from who could don the captain's C.

When GM Brian Burke announced Phaneuf would fill the void for team captain in place of Mats Sundin (who left in 2008), it seemed like a great idea (TSN).

Phaneuf had started to wake up the team, but that was two years ago. Last season, Captain Dion was all but invisible, especially when he was needed the most by the team in February.

When the Leafs began their 11-game losing streak during the month, Phaneuf was all but invisible both on the ice and with the media.

It was around the midseason collapse that fans started questioning Phaneuf as captain.

One of the early highlights this season was Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel clicking as a top-line pair. Though they still desperately needed a seasoned centre to play with, the two combined for 149 points on the season.

They continued to find the back of the net during the late-season slide, albeit with less frequency.

In Toronto, the fans love Joffrey Lupul while they still have mixed feelings on Kessel.

Lupul was not only at the All-Star Game with Kessel and Phaneuf, he was the alternate captain for Team Chara.

The Toronto winger along with Scott Hartnell, from Team Alfredsson, were both given a microphone for the broadcast.

You could clearly hear Lupul at times offering encouragement to his teammates. In other words, he was already performing the role of a captain.

Unlike Phaneuf, Lupul seems to be readily available for comment with the media. His interviews also tend to make a little more sense.

He may never be the hard-nosed captain like Wendel Clark was, but Lupul has shown while he may not fight often, he will throw down when needed as he did against PK Subban in 2011.

It is hard to know how the other Leafs feel about Lupul, or how he would be as the intermediary between management and the players.

These would be the main factors for management, and may be the sole reason they have stated numerous times that they are not looking to replace Phaneuf.

After last season, it does make a fan wonder if Lupul would not be a better fit as captain.

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