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Maple Leafs name John Tavares captain ahead of season opener

Maple Leafs name John Tavares captain ahead of season opener

Tavares is Toronto's first captain since Dion Phaneuf vacated the role in 2016

John Tavares is the new captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team announced the news just before their season opener on Wednesday, making Tavares the club's first captain in three years.

Tavares is entering his second season with the Maple Leafs after signing a seven-year contract with the team last summer. Before signing with his hometown team in Toronto, Tavares served as captain of the New York Islanders for five seasons, from 2013-2018.

"It's a real honour. I won't ever take it for granted." #LeafsForever
The Leaf: Blueprint Moment presented by @Molson_Canadian.

— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) October 2, 2019

He becomes the first player to wear the 'C' for the Leafs since Dion Phaneuf, who was traded away from Toronto in 2016.

The discussion over who would land the captaincy in Toronto had been a hot debate in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. Auston Matthews was largely considered a favorite to receive the honor, but many wondered if the 22-year-old center hurt his chances with off-ice troubles this summer. Matthews was charged with disorderly conduct after an incident with a female security guard in Scottsdale this June.

Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said Wednesday that the decision to name Tavares as captain was made before Matthews' legal troubles came to light.

Leafs GM Kyle Dubas says the organization decided the captaincy well before the Auston Matthews incident was revealed last week

— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) October 2, 2019

Veteran defenseman Morgan Rielly had also been discussed as a possible candidate for the captaincy. Rielly will serve as a permanent alternate captain for the club this season, while Matthews and Mitch Marner will rotate as the other alternate captain.

In the end, Tavares seems like a safe choice. He's one of the league's most respected players, has served as a captain before and was one of the the Leafs' most productive players last season. Tavares led the team in goals with 47 and finished second in points with 88.

"It's hard to say if (the captaincy) will have an effect on the ice, but there's obviously a special significance with the Maple Leafs, the city, the franchise with the captain," Tavares said when asked about the open captaincy last week. "It's obviously been an important role in hockey history and with many franchises. Many great captains, great leaders."

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