Rick Zamperin: Why John Tavares earned the ‘C’ for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares (91) looks on during second period NHL hockey action against the Ottawa Senators, in Toronto on Wednesday, October 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The Toronto Maple Leafs have finally named a new captain.

For the first time since Toronto traded Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9, 2016, the ‘C’ has been stitched onto a Maple Leafs sweater.

Interestingly enough, the Leafs faced the Senators Wednesday night in the first game of the 2019-20 National Hockey League season where John Tavares was introduced as the franchise’s 25th captain.

READ MORE: John Tavares named Maple Leafs’ captain

Morgan Rielly and Auston Matthews, who were also rumoured to be in the mix for captain, along with Mitch Marner will act as Toronto’s alternate captains. The latter two will rotate throughout the season.

So why did the Leafs go with Tavares? There are several factors that were taken into account.

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Tavares has the most NHL experience in the Leafs dressing room, playing 751 regular season games and 31 playoff games.

He is a proven producer on the ice, scoring 47 goals in his first season in Toronto last season — a record for a Leafs centre — and since entering the league in 2009-10, Tavares has scored the third most goals (319) in the league and is seventh with 709 points.

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The 29-year-old Oakville native has also starred for Canada’s world junior, world championship and Olympic teams.

He has already been a captain in the NHL, wearing the ‘C’ with the New York Islanders for the last five of his nine seasons with the team before he signed a seven-year, $77-million contract with the Leafs in the summer of 2018.

Most importantly, though, Tavares is a humble person with a stoic presence who commands respect on and off the ice by his teammates and peers.

With a roster that is loaded with young players, president Brendan Shanahan, GM Kyle Dubas and head coach Mike Babcock made the right decision by electing a proven leader to guide this generation of Maple Leafs.

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