The New York Islanders ended an era on Wednesday when they shipped captain Mark Streit to Philadelphia.
Streit, 35, had worn the “C” for New York since 2011 and, in doing so, became the first-ever Swiss born captain in NHL history.
In turn, Streit led the club to its first playoff appearance since 2007 and provided solid veteran leadership to a young team that took Pittsburgh to six games in the opening playoff round.
But now he’s gone, and the attention turns to his successor — which player will step up and become just the 14th captain in franchise history?
Logic suggest John Tavares, who served as an alternate this season, will be that guy.
Tavares, 22, led the Isles with 47 points in 48 games and earned his first-ever Hart Trophy nomination for league MVP (should he win, he’d be the first Islander to capture the award since Bryan Trottier in 1979.)
He’s the club’s most talented player and the face of the franchise. The only question, it seems, is if the Isles are ready to anoint a 22-year-old with the “C”.
For the most part, current NHL captains are experienced veterans (the notable exception being 20-year-old Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog). There have been other exceptions — Sidney Crosby was given Pittsburgh’s captaincy at 20, as was Chicago’s Jonathan Toews — but recent history shows the Isles have leaned towards giving the “C” to older players.
Prior to Streit (who was 34 at the time of his appointment), 38-year-old Doug Weight was the captain.
Prior to him, it was 37-year-old Bill Guerin.
The Isles could choose to go this direction with their next captain. Lubomir Visnovsky is one of the club’s elder statesmen (36 years old) and, after an acrimonious start to his tenure on Long Island, recently showed his commitment to the team by re-upping on a two-year, $9.5 million deal.
The Isles could also reward their longest-tenured player, Frans Nielsen, who’s been with the club since 2006 and has appeared in nearly 400 regular season contests.
Kyle Okposo is another option, having served as an alternate last season as well.
Such moves are possible, but ultimately unlikely.
It’s hard to think the Isles will pass on giving Tavares the honor of joining Hockey Hall of Famers Clark Gilles and Denis Potvin as players to serve as team captain.
It’s the the next logical step in this becoming Tavares’ team.