The Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced yesterday that forward Ben Smith will serve as the team’s captain for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Forwards Colin Greening and Rich Clune will serve as Smith’s assistants.
If you’re wondering why it took this Marlies this long to announce their leadership group, you’re not alone. The team has played 35 games so far this season, with Smith leading the way in both goals (15) and points (28). According to The Faceoff Circle’s Jeff Veillette, this will be the first time in his career that Smith will wear the “C”.
The 29-year-old Smith has never worn the C for a high-level hockey team. In fact, he’s only worn an A twice, once in his senior year with Boston College in 2009/10, and once with the Rockford IceHogs in 2012/13, a year before his stretch of NHL regularity began.
So… why Smith and why now? Frankly, it comes down to a lack of options for the Marlies. They’re a good AHL team and provide the Leafs with a lot of call up options, but the tricky thing is with naming a leadership group for your AHL team is you don’t want your captains getting called up and removed from your team each week. With the recent call up of Frederik Gauthier, it’s clear that Smith is not in the plans for the Leafs this season… maybe ever. It makes sense to entrust him with leadership duties in the AHL and see where it takes him. Really the choice came down to three players: Smith, Greening and Clune. They’re all leaders and great role models for the Leafs’ next generation.