Tag: captaincy

New York Rangers v Washington Capitals

NHL teams shouldn’t simply hand the “C” to their best player


To be honest, I often roll my eyes when people attach a mountainous amount of importance to “leadership.” In most of those cases, the player in question was just really good. (Mark Messier didn’t get by on being scary looking alone, after all.)

That being said, it seems like quite a few NHL teams flippantly give their best player the captain’s “C” even if that guy is as inspiring as a tub of tapioca pudding.

Ovechkin and Nash: natural leaders?

It’s likely that Rick Nash and Alex Ovechkin exhibit better leadership qualities than an oddly textured dessert, but their recent runs in the spotlight got me thinking about this subject again.* While each player’s respective team is in a very different situation, it’s hard for me to an accept an argument that their teammates would “battle in the trenches” (or some other goofy and inappropriate war analogy) for them.

Sure, the Columbus Blue Jackets weren’t exactly overflowing with options for their captaincy, but they might as well have done a ceremonial shoulder shrug when they handed Nash the “C.” The Washington Capitals might be more misguided, however, as it is painfully obvious that Brooks Laich (and even Mike Knuble) is the superior choice.

Assuming that Nash and Ovechkin even wanted that honor, I’d imagine that they would have easily dried their tears with a few $100 bills from their enormous contracts.

Other examples

source: APThose two aren’t the only guys whose teams didn’t seem to put a lot of thought into the whole thing, though.

  • Ryan Getzlaf has a great mean streak and buckets of talent, but he hardly screams “captain material” – especially considering his tendency to take bad penalties.
  • Zach Parise has a lot of the qualities you look for, but the parallels between his situation and Ilya Kovalchuk’s* should make New Jersey Devils fans a little queasy.
  • Vincent Lecavalier’s improved recent play upgrades him from “colossally overpaid” to “significantly overpaid.” Still, I can’t see why the team didn’t hand the job to Martin St. Louis instead – unless he outright refused it.
  • Mark Streit went from missing the entirety of the 2010-11 campaign to becoming the New York Islanders’ captain this season. It went by without much of a reaction because, let’s face it, we expect weird things from the Isles now.
  • I don’t have a big issue with them, but others might question the logic of appointing Joe Thornton, Dion Phaneuf, Jason Pominville and Milan Hejduk as captains


Ultimately, leadership is an intangible quality that is frequently blown out of proportion. Still, when things go bad, there are quite a few teams who seem to lack a go-to guy to turn to because management based their captaincy decision on box scores alone.

* – The moment that really planted this idea in my head came when the Atlanta Thrashers made Kovalchuk their captain. The team was desperate to keep the Russian star in the fold, so they handed him the “C” to try to convince him to stay. That failed spectacularly, and amusingly enough, Kovalchuk is displaying more leadership qualities in New Jersey than he ever did in Atlanta.

Discussing bigger leadership roles for Steven Stamkos, Erik Johnson

Lightning Bruins Hockey
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While the New York Islanders bucked the trend a bit by handing the “C” to veteran defenseman Mark Streit, young players are receiving more and more leadership roles around the NHL. From Alex Ovechkin’s captaincy with the Washington Capitals to Sidney Crosby leading the Pittsburgh Penguins and on, graybeard captains are rapidly giving way to guys who might not even be able to grow a beard.

It almost seems like a No. 1 overall pick should receive at least an alternate captain’s “A” when they sign an entry-level contract. Here’s a look at two top picks who could see an increase in responsibilities in the near future.

Should Erik Johnson be Colorado’s next captain?

The Colorado Avalanche are at tough team to gauge. After a Cinderella run to the playoffs in 2009-10, the mostly young squad absolutely fell apart last season. Young players such as budding power forward Chris Stewart and offensive defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk were traded (as was goalie Craig Anderson) during that campaign, while scoring blueliner John-Michael Liles parted ways with the team during the off-season.

With all that change in mind, the team’s 2011-12 fortunes could rest on the shoulders of players they traded for: goalie Semyon Varlamov and defenseman Erik Johnson. Johnson was the first overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, in front of players such as Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, Jordan Staal and Claude Giroux. While Johnson has shown flashes of the brilliance the St. Louis Blues were hoping for, he fizzled out badly in 10-11 before being traded to Colorado for Stewart and Shattenkirk.

No doubt about it, the Avs hope that Johnson not only bounces back from last season, but that he’ll put together the best season of his young career. Denver Post writer Mark Kiszla goes one step further, though: he thinks Colorado should make him their new captain after Adam Foote retired from the job.

Matt Duchene​ brings the dash and flash that sells tickets. Milan Hejduk​ has more gray in his beard, Paul Stastny​ flinches less than a rock.

But are any of these fine men really the answer at captain?

Johnson is the right choice. He represents where the Avs want to go. This is a team obviously trying to tell the league it’s tired of being a pushover. At 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, you don’t want to mess with Johnson at the blue line.

Personally, I’d go with Stastny, but Johnson would be a great representation of which forces will be most pivotal for Colorado next season.

Should Steven Stamkos wear the “A” in Tampa Bay?

Lightning head coach Guy Boucher made Stamkos an alternate captain during a preseason game, but it remains to be seen if the letter will stick. Then again, it might be right to think that it’s just a matter of time for the star sniper. Of course, it could be a while before he becomes more of a leader than current captain Vincent Lecavalier and invaluable winger Martin St. Louis, but he’s obviously a crucial cog in what should be a consistent contender.

“We know how he can play, and it’s not necessarily bringing a certain amount of points,” Lecavalier said. “It’s what he brings to the table. We know he’s going to bring more leadership this year. He deserves it.”

More than that, Boucher said, “He earned it.”


Stamkos seems like an easy choice for an alternate role, but what about Johnson’s possible quick turnaround as the Avalanche captain? Should it instead go to a veteran as a stopgap (Milan Hedjuk) or a player entering his prime like Stastny or Matt Duchene? Let us know in the comments.

Islanders make Mark Streit the NHL’s first Swiss-born captain


Going into the 2010-11 season, Mark Streit ranked as a significantly underrated offensive defensemen and arguably the top reason why the New York Islanders might have been feeling optimistic. His prodigious skills and hockey IQ were on display during the 2010 Olympics, when he stood out alongside goalie Jonas Hiller on an over-matched Swiss squad that gave the U.S. and Canadian teams some serious headaches.

Of course, things fell apart when a preseason shoulder injury ended that 10-11 campaign. Combined with Kyle Okposo being sidelined for a big chunk of the season, it seemed like the Isles were doomed from the start.

Heading into this summer, the Islanders faced a touch decision: who should become the team’s next captain now that Doug Weight retired? Some people argued for 2009 first overall pick John Tavares while others championed Okposo. Yet if the Islanders decided to break with the recent trends of naming a young face of the franchise and instead opt for a veteran, then Streit would be the obvious choice.

Arthur Staples reports that the Islanders decided to go with Streit, which makes him the NHL’s first Swiss-born player to become a captain. The Islanders confirmed the news moments ago.

After scoring a career-high 62 points in his last season with the Montreal Canadiens in 07-08, many believed that the Islanders might get burned by signing Streit after a breakout year. While Streit hasn’t matched that lofty point total in Long Island, he was outstanding in his two seasons with the Islanders, scoring 56 points in 08-09 and 49 in 09-10. The 33-year-old blueliner fought his way to the NHL, premiering with the Habs during the 05-06 season at age 28.

In my opinion, the Islanders really couldn’t go wrong with either Streit, Okposo or Tavares. It might indeed be wiser to go with a veteran presence, especially since the team can transition the “C” to Okposo or Tavares once Streit retires, leaves for a different squad or fades from relevance. Streit only has two years remaining on his current deal, so it’s possible that the team might move on to a new leader after the 2012-13 season.

Either way, it’s a great reward for a player who paid his dues. The Islanders are among a handful of “wildcard” teams who could be playoff contenders as easily as they could have lousy seasons, so the onus will be on Streit & Co. to get the job done.

Sean Bergenheim hopes to continue playoff momentum and help Panthers break their slump

Sean Bergenheim

The Florida Panthers made a lot of gambles through trades and free agent signings during the off-season, with Sean Bergenheim’s four-year, $11 million deal ranking among their leaps of faith. While it wasn’t their riskiest investment (that award goes to the 35+ contract they handed to Ed Jovanovski), the hope rests squarely on a small sample of playoff games representing a “breakthrough” rather than a series of lucky breaks.

When it comes to out-of-nowhere goal scorers, one of the best ways to tell if someone’s production is a fluke is to look at his shooting percentage. It’s not a fool-proof mode of assessment, but sometimes players get an unsustainable amount of “puck luck” that should leave general managers weary.

One can blame at least some of Bergenheim’s great run with the Tampa Bay Lightning on luck. As opposed to his career 7.7 shooting percentage (which was his exact rate during the 2010-11 regular season), Bergenheim connected on 19.6 percent of his attempts in the 2011 playoffs. After scoring just 14 goals in 80 regular season games at his typical rate, Bergenheim scored nine goals in 16 playoff games – a run that included the only tally in Tampa Bay’s decisive Game 7 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

If you look at his larger body of work, his typical expected scoring rate is 10-15 goals. Yet while he has serious one-hit wonder potential (or as I like to call it, “Pisani potential”), there is the outside chance that Bergenheim could build on that breakthrough and become a consistent goal-scoring threat for his new team, the Florida Panthers. That’s certainly what he hopes to achieve starting next season.

“We obviously had a great run there last year, and I was very happy with the way I played in the playoffs,’’ Bergenheim said after Saturday’s opening practice of training camp. “I want to bring that here. I learned a lot last year, and my goal is to play at that level the whole season. In the playoffs, I really found my game — I had it there before — and that’s the challenge this year. I have to play that way all year.’’

Considering all the changes that have taken place in Florida, he should have a great chance to earn a prominent role with the team and receive opportunities to make good on his postseason run. It’ll be interesting to see if he can prove that his playoff output wasn’t a fluke.


In other Panthers news, the team hasn’t decided which player should serve as their new captain next season. It makes sense that the franchise might want to drag their feet a bit with that choice considering the changing identity of the roster.

Coach Kevin Dineen said no decision has been made on who will be the Panthers’ new captain. “We’re still a ways away on that one,’’ he said. Center Stephen Weiss and defenseman Ed Jovanovski are considered the favorites.

“You look at [Weiss] as always having a leadership role for his tenure here and the way he plays the game,’’ Dineen said, talking about Weiss working out with rookie Jonathan Huberdeau on Saturday. “Matching him up with one of our future star players is a good mix.’’

Jovanovski might be a hit with fans who fondly remember his first run with the team, but I’d recommend going with Weiss, who’s been with the club through thin and really thin. Ultimately, the most important leader might be new head coach Dineen, who must find a way to take a roster that seems like an unshaped mass of clay and sculpt them into a playoff contender.

Getting Bergenheim to match his playoff pace certainly wouldn’t hurt the cause.

Rangers make Ryan Callahan their new captain, tab Marc Staal and Brad Richards as alternates

Ryan Callahan

As many expected, the New York Rangers decided to make heart-and-soul winger Ryan Callahan their new captain today. The 26-year-old forward will be joined by alternate captains Marc Staal and Brad Richards.

While the team has its fair share of hustle players in depth positions, Callahan embodies the kind of playing style that head coach John Tortorella loves to see at a high-level position. Callahan is the type of player who throws his body around with reckless abandon, which indicates that he’ll have the “lead by example” part of the job nailed down. Unfortunately, that selfless style has its downsides; Callahan’s willingness to block shots caused him to miss 22 regular season games and the team’s playoff series because of two separate injuries (a broken hand and ankle).

Even after missing all of those games, Callahan produced career highs in goals (23), assists (25) and points (48) last season. That allowed him to sign a lucrative contract extension as the Rangers avoided salary arbitration with the value forward.

Jesse Spector points out that Callahan is the team’s first homegrown captain since Brian Leetch played that role from 1997-2000. In the mean time, Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury donned the “C” in New York.

Rangers fans should be as delighted by this decision as they must have been when the team managed to retain Callahan and his partner in crime Brandon Dubinsky. Cally might have a tough time matching his breakout year in 2011-12, but even if he doesn’t light up the scoreboard at the same rate, he brings qualities to the ice that extend beyond the box scores.

That’s why he might be the best fit to wear the “C” at Madison Square Garden in quite some time.