Yup, I know this is probably a wild take but bear with me and I’ll explain my reasoning behind it all. I would have never made this argument until watching how this season has played out so far. I am going to argue 3 reasons to show why this statement may not be as crazy as you think.
*Note: I am writing this as a big fan of Auston Matthews, no disrespect.
Morgan Rielly & Nazem Kadri – The impressive play by both of these Leafs veterans has been one of the main reasons for why this argument came about. With this team through the good times and the bad, they have built impressive resumes that would not make me question either one of them receiving the “C”. Morgan Rielly already owns one of the alternate captain honours on the Leafs roster and has emerged this year are arguably their number 1 defensemen. He has 27 points in 39 games and with a natural stay at home defence partner like Ron Hainsey, he has been given plenty of freedom to join the rush and show off his offensive talent. Kadri on the other hand doesn’t own an alternate captain but these past couple of seasons he has become a very reliable two-way forward for the Leafs. He currently has 23 points in 38 games and was a 32 goal scorer just one season ago. In my opinion, he should be in the Selke talks as the leagues top defensive forward because he holds his own against every teams top lines on most nights. Watch out Auston, it looks like you might have some competition.
Durability – The 2016-2017 season proved to be a storied one for rookie Auston Matthews. His 40 goals and 69 points in a full 82 game season helped the Leafs achieve a spot in the playoffs. Coming into this season the expectations were that much higher for the young sophomore from Scottsdale, Arizona. So far it has been an absolute roller coaster ride. Though he is currently on a point per game pace with 29 points (15g, 14a) in 29 games he has been held out of 10 contests with injury problems. He also has a history of back problems that may be a concern down the road. I would have never questioned his durability last season after watching him battle through an entire 82, as well as 6 tough playoff games, but it’s a different story this year. The collision with Morgan Rielly that caused his concussion symptoms and kept him out for 6 games really seemed like a harmless play. It just concerns me that he can’t stay healthy enough to dawn the “C” and lead this team.
Mats Sundin – We know Dion couldn’t fill his shoes but that’s mostly because they are really tough shoes to fill. Spending 10 seasons as the Leafs captain, Mats Sundin gave us a million memories. During his time as captain he missed a total of only 44 regular season games over the 820 game span. I hate to compare Auston and Mats but eventually this conversation needs to be had. Mats was a leader on and off the ice and was a great ambassador for the city of Toronto for so many years. Although not Canadian, he made us feel like he was by the way he carried himself. I am not saying that Matthews won’t be able to do the same but I am wondering if he is ready for the kind of pressure that comes with wearing the “C” for one the biggest franchises in the sport. Will he be able to fill the shoes of the great #13 or will his legacy not live up to the hype?