It doesn't matter who I think should be captain, it doesn't matter who you think should be captain.  
If the last 3 years have taught us anything, it's that it doesn't really matter if we have a captain as long as we have several leaders on our team.  And we do.  

The captain C carries a lot of weight in Toronto and not everybody plays better with that weight on their shoulders.  It is perhaps the greatest honour an athlete in Toronto can be trusted with and as a result, we tend to put too much pressure on our captains.  Leaf fans think once you put on the C you magically turn into a superhero on skates.  The reality is, once you wear the C, our fans and media place unrealistic expectations on you.  

Before we go into who should be captain, let's debate if we need and deserve a captain.  I'm not convinced we do.  Let's start by looking at our past captains.

Dion Phaneuf

Dion walked into a bad situation and was given the captain 
C because Brian Burke and Ron Wilson believed every team needs a captain.  Legend has it, that we had a notoriously quiet dressing room and when we traded for Phaneuf, he came in to the dressing room and cranked up some tunes to get the boys going.  I guess that shows a kind of leadership and after about 25 games he was given the honour of being named captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Did he earn it?  Maybe eventually, but definitely not by that point.  This didn't help him when it came to the fans and media (see fan meme to right).  The second Dion signed his $7mil contract, he was doomed in this city.  It wasn't his fault, management (Nonis I believe) was dumb enough to give it to him, of course he is gonna take it.  But Toronto fans and media understood that contract was going to hurt in the cap era and his contract was going to be untradable.  So we turned on him.  Instead of being supportive of a player who accepted a role he never asked for, we campared him to previous captains in Leaf history and Dion never lived up to expectations.  He could throw a check, he could throw a punch and he could fire the puck, but he couldn't do any of those things as good as Wendel we would say (forgetting the fact that while Wendel was here we called him old and slow all the time).  He's no Mats Sundin they would say...well of course not, very few players were blessed with the talent, size and heart of Mats Sundin, Toronto was very lucky to have him on our team.  
Mats Sundin

When Mats arrived in Toronto he had huge shoes to fill.  Wendel was coming off a couple of great seasons and he was a beloved captain of our Leafs...and we traded him for a fucking Swede?  Sundin immediately brought us a dimension we had been missing.  He was big, strong, fast and talented.  But Leaf fans were slow to accept him because he wasn't Canadian and he didn't fight.  Some fans never accepted him.  When we finally made him captain, it was hard to deny he earned it and he proved to be very capable of the job.  Sure, he never dropped the gloves, and he didn't throw his weight around like Wendel but when he hit someone, they felt it, ask Brad May
There are still fans who hate Mats Sundin because he refused to waive his no trade clause.  Lets revisit the situation when he made that decision.  The Leafs were a couple points out of the playoffs and management said "we can't win, we want to be sellers at the deadline and you are our most valuable trade chip Mats, will you waive your no trade clause?"  Mats, being the good captain that he was, believed in his team and believed they could still make the playoffs and decided not to waive his no trade clause so he could try to carry that team into the playoffs.  Sundin had no interest in playing for another team with better chances of winning the cup, he wanted to win it here, for Toronto.   I don't know about you, but I want my captain to want to win, not take the easy way out of town.  I will never hold that against him.  Even today when Mats holds basically every record for Maple Leaf points, he is compared to Wendel and for many Leaf fans, he will never live up to the man he was traded for.
Wendel Clark

Wendel is perhaps the most beloved Leaf captain to never win us a cup.  I do not  intend on arguing that, I love the man too.  However I also remember how he was treated while he was our captain.  Our fans and media called him slow and injury proned at every opportunity.  Remember all the gay rumours back when it was wrong to be gay?  Wendel probably does and yet he still finds it in his heart to love this city.  Why is that?  Because our fans have forgotten how they treated him while he wore the C and they are only remembering the good things that he accomplished here.  How many times did Wendel hit a slump, feeling like the weight of the city was on his back, having the fans and media question everything, his speed, his age, his heart, his sexuality while he is struggling on the ice, like every athlete to ever play the game has at some point.  Sure, now we remember him for the hero he truly was, but we should look at how we treated him while he wore the C before we go and drop that same weight on somebody else's shoulders.

I didn't go into Doug Gilmour because he was always treated with the respect he deserved from this city and I am not going to go back further than Wendel because our next captain isn't going to be compared to Rick Vaive or Darryl Sittler, they will be compared to Wendel, Mats and Dougie.  That is some pretty good company, I hope whoever it is, is up for the challenge, it won't be easy.  The captain
C is a great honour, but it has never made anybody's job any easier, especially in Toronto.  

Now that we have examined how we treated past captains, let debate if we actually need a captain.  What benefits does having a captain bring to our team that we are currently missing? 
Having someone who can talk to a ref? 
Actually our Alternate captains have been handling those duties very well for a few years now, proving that doesn't matter.
Having a leader in the room who will stand up and demand respect?
Actually, we have several of those, some are old, some are young, but they have all earned the respect of their teammates.  We have more leaders than most teams.
You need a captain to address the media after a tough loss.
Why?  Right now, nobody is dodging the media after a tough loss and if they do, who cares.  It is not the job of the Leafs captain to generate clicks for your stupid article about the slump he has been in or the losing streak the team is on.  Why send one player out to deal with that bullshit.  It's a team sport, you win as a team, you lose as a team, why should one person have to answer for everybody?  It just encourages the fans and media to blame it all on one player and it's a team sport, that should never happen.  If having a captain is important to you, ask yourself why it is important to you but it hasn't been important to the team for three years.  Is it so you can put a C on your Matthews jersey or is it because you want someone to blame after every loss?  Are either of those things important enough to risk making the wrong decision and placing a pressure on somebody who might not be able to handle it.  Our captain will emerge over time, maybe he has already started to. 

So in conclusion, I don't think we need a captain and I definitely don't think we deserve a captain.  When we finally do name a captain, let's try to show him a little more respect and support than we showed our previous leaders.

Now that I have shared my opinion on if we should have a captain, I will waste my time debating the pros and cons of all our potential candidates.
Morgan Reilly

I love Morgan Reilly and think he would make an excellent captain.  Not just for the name Captain Morgan.  Of all the potential candidates, Morgan Reilly is the only one who was here for the shitty years (Kadri is not a potential captain). Toronto is a great place to play when you're winning.  Reilly is the only potential captain who knows how bad it can get, playing here for a losing team.  There is something to be said for that.  He could have asked to be traded out of our mess years ago and he stuck with us.  He is also respected around the league by his peers and by refs as a clean player.  He represents the Toronto Maple Leafs very well.

John Tavares

Johnny Toronto was exactly what this team needed.  He was born to be a Leaf.  When Stamkos rejected the Leafs offer last summer, I was actually relieved because it would have meant we couldn't afford to go after John Tavares who was my favourite player not wearing a Leaf uniform at the time.  He is a great influence on our young talented kids.  He never takes a shift off and he practices as hard as he plays.  Matthews and Marner will benefit a lot from watching how seriously Tavares takes his job.  He was an excellent captain for the Islanders and he would be an excellent captain for the Leafs.  I think his experience on the Island could help him  handle the pressure from the media and fans better than any other Leaf.  It doesn't hurt that he is from Toronto, our fans and media tend to go a little easier on our hometown boys.  The only reason not to name him captain would be because Matthews wants the C.  He should be careful what he wishes for.
Auston Matthews

If Matthews wants the C, we have to give it to him.  That said, I hope he doesn't want it.  He was never here for the bad years.  He doesn't know how bad it can get because the second he put on a Leaf jersey, our bad days were over.  I don't hold that against him, but it is something that he hasn't even seen another teammate go through yet.  He needs to see someone else go through it before we saddle him with that pressure.  I want to protect him from the C.  I worry he will hate the bullshit that comes with him and he will get the hell out of town when he becomes a UFA in 5 years.  

Mitch Marner

MarnerThis hometown kid has the heart of a captain and he grew up loving the Leafs, he would make an excellent captain.  The only reason not to name him captain is because we have so many better options.  It's not that Marner wouldn't be a great captain, it's more a case of someone else might be better suited for the role.  Once again, I like the idea of protecting our young kids from the weight the C carries,
Jake Muzzin

Muzzin is a Stanley Cup champ and a good candidate for captain but he never really gets mentioned because we have so many other leaders who have been here longer.  He is also not signed beyond next season so I don't think they would make that kind of commitment to him without him signing a longer contract.  If we can't get him to sign during the season, it might even make sense to move him before the deadline so we don't lose him for nothing in the off season.  

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