Nobody has discussed this so far, but it seems pretty obvious that with Sundin in doubt, Tucker gone and McCabe on thin ice, the Leafs will be looking for a new captain - very likely from the free agent ranks or a trade.
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So with this in mind, I think the Leafs will have a close eye on these players in free agency.
(1) Brendan Shanahan - Might be willing to sign short term in Toronto and quite possibly the best option for a forward in terms of leadership and skill.
(2) Jason Smith - This former Leaf is a solid physical defenseman and an established captain. If he isn't already resigned by Philly, Fletcher will have this guy in his sights as a guy who can fill a couple of holes (Captain, physical D-man, tutor for Luke Shenn).
(3) Mats Sundin - Yes, I still think he's thinking hard about a return to the Leafs and might still choose not to sign in July with a later return - a move that would make the Leafs an attractive option for the comfort factor. Sure IF Detroit comes knocking, he may want to give a cup run a go just a short distance from Toronto
but if he decides he wants to play in late August, he could consider a return if he likes what Fletcher has in place.
Of course there are candidates within the Leafs:
Newcomer Jamal Mayers has potential - though as a likely 3rd or 4th line guy it may be he's not on the ice enough to act as an effective captain?
Jason Blake might (based on seniority) but has enough on his plate without being the focal point for the Leafs in a rebuilding year. I'm not sure he wants the extra responsibility considering the vocal faction out there who would like to trade him.
Matt Stajan - Touted last year as a potential future captain, though again he may be too young to handle the strain of facing the press all the time in a rebuilding year.
Alex Steen - Facing enough pressure to produce more offense without the woes of being a young captain too.
Bryan McCabe - Well, it would likely quiet down the rumors of him being benched or traded, but again, I'm not sure McCabe would be willing to put himself out there one more level where fans might be more willing to place all blame on his back.
Still, he's a smart tough player who might respond well.
Tomas Kaberle - Despite all these years in Toronto, it's hard to say that he's ever been the sort of guy who speaks up when there's a problem as he's always had plenty of others around to do that. Still he leads well by example on the ice.
Boyd Devereaux - A veteran, role player, and a guy who's been in the pressure cooker before. However, he - like Mayers - may not see enough ice time to justify a Captain's role.
Pavel Kubina - Has a reputation that might lend him some credibility, but until his trade window closes, he's be a paper doll waiting for a strong breeze to blow him over.
So, in my opinion, it's a team in search of a potential captain, one with experience, smarts on the ice and in front of the camera, and one who can lead by example or motivate with a well chosen word or well timed goal. A guy who is no quitter - as there will likely be lots of nights where the Leaf's just won't have the talent or experience to come back from behind or keep playing hard in the face of a deficit.
If you are going for a youth movement - you NEED to have a leader in the house to take the pressure off the young guys at the right time and put it on their shoulders when they need a push. Right now, I don't feel that player is signed.
The Leafs surely realize this too. Expect a move to come.
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