Should the Montreal Canadiens choose their next captain by a player vote?

sakukoivulasthabscaptain.jpgPuck-based change (and all the naive optimism that comes with it) is in the air as training camp arrives this week for most NHL teams. Some will tell you that one of the biggest choices that many franchises face involves placing a “C” on the jersey of a deserving captain.

While the journey to find a new captain to replace Roberto Luongo in Vancouver has been well-publicized, the Montreal Canadiens still need an official leader since Saku Koivu departed. Playmaking center Scott Gomez thinks that it isn’t that big of a deal, but Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette disagrees.

Fisher also suggests a method of finding a new captain that reaches all the way back to the days of Jean Beliveau and “Boom Boom” Geoffrion: let the players vote for the captain.

Head coach Jacques Martin says he will name a captain before the Canadiens open the regular season after discussions with other off-ice officials. Bad move. Coaches and/or general managers don’t select captains. Players do. It’s the players who know better than any coach which player they want as a leader on and off the ice. I can’t think of a single instance when Canadiens players were not asked to vote for their captain.

Then again, Fisher wrote that a Habs vote that gave Beliveau the captaincy left Geoffrion in tears – a hockey player in an even tougher era who popularized the slapshot, for goodness sakes – so it’s far from a fool-proof concept. While it would be vaguely charming to imagine Hal Gill weeping into his gloves after he lost hockey’s version of Homecoming King, I think it might be best if coach Martin simply makes the best choice possible.

Or maybe they should just wait until the choice is obvious again … as long as it’s not Carey Price.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.