Auston Matthews' situation should not re-open the captaincy debate

So Auston Matthews did an incredibly stupid thing.

After presumably consuming too many drinks on a night out in his hometown of Scottsdale, AZ., about a month after the Toronto Maple Leafs’ season had ended, the star centre along with a group of friends allegedly attempted to open a car door while a female security guard sat inside filing paperwork. That security guard, Fayola Dozithee, a U.S. veteran that suffers from PTSD, told police that she responded to the break-in attempt by exiting the vehicle and instructing them to leave. They obliged, Dozithee said, but after walking away “some distance,” Matthews allegedly dropped his pants down to his ankles and gestured toward her. His boxers were left on.

Despite the best efforts — or maybe pleads — from a friend that was sober enough to understand that harassing a security guard was wrong, or at the very least a bad look for Matthews, and in that moment could at least contemplate the potential repercussions his famous friend apparently couldn’t, Dozithee went ahead with her right to pursue legal action. A police report was filed a few days later, with security footage apparently supporting her claims.

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Now Matthews is facing a disorderly conduct charge in his home state, and his lawyer will represent him in court this week.

With only pre-cooked statements from the franchise and from Matthews, followed by a brief question and answer with head coach Mike Babcock, myriad questions remain.

With the least important of them being: What does this mean for the Maple Leafs’ captaincy?

With training camp winding down, and Babcock’s assertion that the team will soon end the speculation, every expectation was that a press conference would soon be called, and alumni invited back, so Matthews could be properly unveiled as the 19th captain in franchise history — and the first since Dion Phaneuf — sometime before the Leafs opened their season versus the Ottawa Senators next Wednesday night.

That seems less certain now.

(And read into this as you will, but Matthews will not serve as an alternate captain for tonight’s preseason game).

Auston Matthews (34) skates with the puck in the third period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)
Auston Matthews (34) skates with the puck in the third period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Of course, mere suggestion that the incident would cost Matthews such a moment of prestige and distinction has been nothing short of devastating for those unwilling to sympathize with Dozithee — let alone consider what the security guard might have felt when a group of men approached her car in the darkness and pulled on one of the handles.

Even still, those without fandom overriding basic human consideration are hotly debating whether or not Matthews’ mistake means that someone else will be named captain.

For a second ignoring the mostly insignificant symbol of status in the context of normal life, it’s not a political campaign, or reality television. In no way should this open the door for Morgan Rielly or John Tavares to swoop in at a moment’s notice and seize the glamour and everything that comes with being the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For all intents and purposes, the organization made the decision long ago to appoint Matthews to that role, and making him the face of the storied franchise.

Now, after playing a significant role in the harassment a female security guard with mental health challenges borne from her time with the military, and ostensibly hiding the charges (and the fact that he had fingerprints taken) from the organization until his court information was unearthed, the real question is:

Can the Maple Leafs live with it?

Tavares, Rielly and Babcock spoke out in full support of their teammate after Matthews delivered his brief statement, defending his character. They essentially said in agreement that the team would stand behind him through these challenges, and together they would learn and grow as a team, and as an organization.

“We’re going to look after Auston, and we’re going to look after our actions,” Babcock said.

For Matthews, this moment will serve as a reference point for his growth as a human, as a professional, and as a leader.

And that’s regardless of whether or not he has some stitching on his shoulder.

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