Anytime Brian Burke has a scoop you should probably take it with a grain of salt. In regard to the Leafs captaincy, however, he may be right this time.
Self-hating would be appropriate to describe myself as I write that Brian Burke may have something right about an NHL scoop. Yes, I’m potentially crediting the same man who vehemently stood by the statement that the Leafs are in “cap hell” and can’t sign Nylander, Matthews, and Marner.
Fast forward to now and Burke was clearly wrong on the cap situation, but I genuinely do think he’s right about John Tavares being the next captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not based on his merit as an NHL “inside” but rather because the Leafs know that he’ll fire his mouth off immediately with any news he gets.
The easy answer is that Tavares isn’t Auston Matthews. Is it so hard to believe that the Leafs were preparing to have Matthews be the next captain but the recent disorderly conduct charge caused them to pivot from that plan? I suggest no, if for no other reason than Matthews didn’t tell the team immediately after the incident happened.
The Leafs need a benign, ‘stay-the-right-thing’ kind of guy to be the face of the team, one with exceptional talent to match his media perfection. Fortunately for the team they have three candidates that perfectly fill this, however, Matthews has obviously dragged his reputation here and consequentially dropped the “leads by example off the ice” quality, too, forcing the late audible.
Using the Media as a Tool
Rather than be frustrated that the media is largely full of tools, Kyle Dubas and Co. could be using the media as a tool in regard to the Leafs captaincy. By leaking that John Tavares is the next captain, that the decision was made a while ago, and that his successor was also a part of the decision, the Leafs get out from under the idea that Matthews charge changed their team direction.
The story is completely controlled by the Leafs in this situation and it allows them to cool the story of Matthews blowing his chance at being the Leafs captain due to drunken stupidity. By adding in the successor clause the door also remains open for Matthews donning the C eventually.
The precedent for media tactics was seemingly set in the William Nylander/Mitch Marner contract negotiations. Under Lou Lamoriello, leaks were non-existent in the media. Lou operated in a cone of silence with the unvoiced threat of ending up like Ralph Cifaretto policing his inner circle. With Dubas at the wheel, contract specifics were leaked in both negotiations, eventually accelerating talks and leading to eventual deals.
I respect the 21st Century tactics by Dubas and strongly believe the likeliness that he and his team are leaking information is much more probable than Brian Burke getting a scoop correct. Sadly, it makes from a business perspective as well. Matthews was the perfect choice to be captain but the PR nightmare would be unbearable in the immediate future. Lucky enough, Tavares or Reilly are perfect candidates to hold the position on an interim term.