The mark Kawhi Leonard left on Toronto - and Canada - is indelible. The Californian changed the north's sporting landscape beyond recognition when he joined the Toronto Raptors, virtually hand-delivering the country's first NBA championship to the 6ix. And it seems that's had a marked impact on the city's beloved hockey team, as head coach Mike Babcock said on Friday that he wants his new Toronto Maple Leafs captain to be just like Kawhi.

The Leafs have been without a captain for each of the last three seasons since Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators in 2016. Last season, Morgan Rielly, Mississauga native John Tavares, and veteran Patrick Marleau operated as alternatives.

The team appears set to return to a permanent captain for the upcoming season, though, and Babcock wants Kawhi on the ice, essentially.

Speaking to media on Friday, Babcock said: "There was a guy who played for the Raptors last year, I don't know if you remember his name. He came into town and he changed things overnight with an unbelievable demeanour, with a stick-to-it-iveness like I haven't seen, with a competitive edge, not bothered by much, left all his talking to his play, and they were able to win the championship. And I thought he made the team better around him.

"To me, that's leadership, that's what they do — they bring it every single day."

It's hard to argue.

The Raptors already had leadership figures in the likes of Kyle Lowry, but Kawhi's arrival changed everything through both his ability and his mentality.

So who on the Leafs team fits the bill? TSN's Leafs reporter, Kristen Shilton, seems to have some idea.

Matthews would surely be a popular choice, though he's far from the only candidate.

Whoever is chosen, let's hope the comparison to Kawhi doesn't stretch to that player leaving Toronto at the end of the season.

Although a similar championship-winning impact wouldn't go amiss, eh?


There are stories everywhere. If you spot a newsworthy event in your city, send us a message, photo, or video @NarcityCanada on Twitter and Instagram.


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