Picking a captain
Good ol' miserable mid-August. The weather hasn't even been that nice here in Toronto, which is usually the consolation for no hockey.
Only four weeks till training camp, however. (Craig Custance is keeping track, by the way. He's bored too.)
Here's the question of the day: How do you pick a captain?
Do you go with age and experience? Youth? A forward or a defenceman? A North American or a European? Grit or finesse?
If we assume Joe Sakic's coming back in Colorado and Mats Sundin's headed for parts unknown, there are eight NHL clubs searching for a captain in training camp this year: Atlanta, Florida, Los Angeles, the Rangers, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Vancouver.
Many of the others are set in stone, although Buffalo and Minnesota go with a rotating captaincy and are likely to stick with that trend.
The two most recently named captains, Rick Nash and Jonathan Toews, both fell into the young, face-of-the-franchise category, and that's quickly becoming the norm.
Being a forward helps, too. Of the 20 teams with established, non-rotating leaders, only four defencemen wear the 'C': Chris Pronger in Anaheim, Zdeno Chara in Boston, Nick Lidstrom in Detroit and Eric Brewer in St. Louis.
With all of that in mind, let's name a few captains:
Niclas Havelid, Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov were all alternates last season behind Bobby Holik, who signed in New Jersey. My guess is Kovalchuk takes the reins given the organization wants him to stay on long term.
New coach Peter DeBoer is going to have quite a tough choice to make here, with newcomer Cory Stillman and young stars Nathan Horton and Jay Bouwmeester in the mix to take over for Olli Jokinen. Horton is only 23 and Bouwmeester is not regarded as much of a take charge leader (and could be on his way out), so this one's wide open.
Another toughie for a new coach. The Kings are going with one of the league's true youth movements, as the only over 30 skaters are Derek Armstrong, Michal Handzus and Denny Gauthier. Of the young guns, Dustin Brown is the best choice, but Jarret Stoll, Alexander Frolov and Anze Kopitar are possible too.
This one's easy: Chris Drury deserves the right to succeed Jaromir Jagr and is the hands down favourite to wear the 'C'. The potential arrival of Sundin in a leadership role is the only way I don't see that happening.
Mike Richards may be only 23, but he's the logical choice here given his new 12-year contract and breakout season last year. Other decent options include Simon Gagne, Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen.
It'd be a shocker if Vincent Lecavalier isn't handed back the captaincy. Former coach John Tortorella took it away from him prior to the 2001-02 season when he was just 21 (and Lecavalier went onto a 37-point season), but that's ancient history now. If an 11-year, $85-million extension doesn't say this is his team, what does?
Minus Sundin, this will be a tough call for new coach Ron Wilson. It's likely he goes with a veteran, but there are few to choose from: Jason Blake, Boyd Devereaux, Jamal Mayers, Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina and Bryan McCabe are the only skaters aged 30 and up. Mayers might be a decent heart-and-soul choice, but Kaberle, given his longevity in Toronto, probably is the pick.
Another team down its long-time Swedish leader. The logical options are Willie Mitchell and Mattias Ohlund on the blueline, although Ryan Kesler could get some consideration, too. My guess is they go with Mitchell for now while Kesler is groomed for the role down the line.