Thursday, August 21, 2008

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.

Los Angeles
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.

The Rangers
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.

Tampa Bay
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.


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At 8:05 a.m., August 21, 2008, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) As we wrote on our blog last month Never has an honor/assignment been so over rated!
2) Giving a player "The C" doesn't make him a leader and a leader doesn't need "The C" to be one. Its an absolutely overblown/over rated title

At 9:41 a.m., August 21, 2008, Blogger penzrule said...

Give the Toronto captaincy to McCabe! It would be funny to have a guy they can't wait to get rid of be their captain!

At 10:57 a.m., August 21, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

Sabres still going with the rotating captaincy? That worked out terrible last year. They should just give it to Pommer or Miller, yeesh!

At 11:15 a.m., August 21, 2008, Blogger Down Goes Brown said...

As I argued on my blog, the Leafs should go without a captain next year. They've done it before (1986-89), and given that the only guy on the roster who's even close to deserving is the usually quiet Kaberle, they should do it again.

Without any good candidates right now there's no reason to force the job onto somebody who isn't ready, especially in this market.

At 11:30 a.m., August 21, 2008, Blogger dwgs said...

Let the team vote on it rather than have the coach decide.

At 12:07 p.m., August 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite captain was Lee Fogolin but some kid got his C and the rest is hockey history.

At 12:55 p.m., August 21, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Sabres still going with the rotating captaincy? That worked out terrible last year. They should just give it to Pommer or Miller, yeesh!

It is illegal to have a goalie wear the C. I would think Pominville or Roy are the two logical choices in Buffalo, with maybe a nod to a d-man like Lydman.

Whatever happened to the days of the unheralded role player being the captain? I guess it's all part of marketing now. I miss the days of Basil McCrae, Brad Marsh, and an aging 4th liner Lanny MacDonald wearing the C.

So I guess James isn't buying the widely reported McCabe trade to Florida after Labour Day just yet...

Based on the role player theory, Atlanta should go with Ken Klee, Florida between Skrastins or Belak, LA should choose Armstrong, NYR should be Naslund or Drury (somewhat against the theory, but even then stars could be captains), I like Hatcher or Knuble for Philly, Tampa is Roberts for sure, Toronto is Mayers, and Vancouver should've had Linden as captain last year with Mitchell succeeding this year.

Like I said, it's all about marketing now a days. Which proves Faux Rumours' assertion that this is an incredibly overrated honour.

At 1:04 p.m., August 21, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I just included McCabe because I knew, knowing my audience, that the poll would get flooded with people picking 'other' and putting his name in.

At least this way there's an outlet.

At 1:26 p.m., August 21, 2008, Blogger Jack Hazard said...

Man, there's just no good choice for Atlanta. When Kovalchuk is on the short list for captaincy, that's bad news.

At 1:47 p.m., August 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The LA question is a no brainer. Dustin Brown has played like the captain for the last two years. He's always stepped up and elevated his game, and no one who isn't giving his all can look him in the eye and say otherwise.

At 2:38 p.m., August 21, 2008, Blogger Andrew Bucholtz said...

I can't see Mitchell getting the "C" in Vancouver, as he's still in Alain Vigneault's doghouse. I'm thinking it probably goes to Ohlund: he's got the history with the franchise, and he won't ruffle too many feathers. Kesler is an intriguing option as well, but I think he'll probably be considered to be too young.

At 3:35 p.m., August 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor Lee Fogolin... damn punk kids, eh? Dan Frawley feels his pain.

At 4:06 p.m., August 21, 2008, Blogger Derek from Cloud9 Sports said...

Kovalchuk, Horton, Brown, Drury, Richards, Lecav, Kabby, Mitchell. Eat that


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