John Tavares said Toronto Maple Leafs players don't think much about who could be named captain but that there is no shortage of worthy candidates for the "special" job.
"I think certainly we've got plenty of guys that can fill that role and do a great job at it," the Maple Leafs center told TSN in comments posted on its website Monday. "I think that's a real special thing to have is when you've got so many quality people and quality players that can really fill that role and really embrace an opportunity. Obviously, there's special significance to it, so when the time's right, I know [management will] address it and do that if it's necessary."
Toronto has not had a captain since defenseman Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9, 2016.
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Tavares was captain of the New York Islanders for five seasons before signing a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Maple Leafs as a free agent July 1, 2018. Tavares, defenseman Morgan Rielly and forward Patrick Marleau, a former San Jose Sharks captain who is an unrestricted free agent, were alternate captains last season.
"I know from speaking from my own experience when I was a captain … you're kind of the voice of the team and a lot of media and fans kind of look to you for what's going on, on a daily basis," Tavares said, "so I think it's a very special and significant role, especially being with the Maple Leafs and the history of it and there hasn't been one here in a little while.
"So certainly, there can be a lot made about it, but we have so many good, quality people and players in our locker room, we know it's not going to change the way we go about our daily business or how we focus for the season and how we prepare."
At the 2019 NHL Draft in June, Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock mentioned Tavares, Rielly and goalie Frederik Andersen in praising Toronto's leadership group, The Athletic reported, and said players such as forwards Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander must "continue to evolve and become leaders themselves and really good pros and set an example."
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Babcock told The Athletic earlier in 2018 that being captain is easier with many other teams than with the Maple Leafs.
"And so, do we need to put the extra weight on somebody?" he told the website. "I don't know the answer to that question."
Matthews told The Athletic last August he'd feel ready to be captain if he were asked.
General manager Kyle Dubas said before last season that the Maple Leafs were in no hurry to name a captain.
"The way that I look at it is, I want to get into it day to day with these people and see who's best suited to handle that if we do determine that we need somebody to handle that," Dubas told TSN. "If we feel we have a void in leadership because we don't have a formal captain, then it's something that I think we can address."