Some pretty curious stuff coming out of Edmonton today.
First, from the Journal: A back-and-forth radio exchange between Oilers broadcaster Bob Stauffer and ex-Oiler Georges Laraque, in which the two dance around the rumor that Taylor Hall will replace Andrew Ference as team captain.
Then, from Sportsnet: A piece suggesting Ference will have troubles cracking Edmonton’s defense this season, with a telling closing question — “How many nights can a captain spend in the press box before he can’t be the captain anymore?”
Per TSN, Ference has already spoken to head coach Todd McLellan and GM Peter Chiarelli about ceding the captaincy, should the organization decide to go that way.
It could be the best move for all parties involved.
The last thing Edmonton wants — or Ference, for that matter — is to have a situation like Buffalo had with captain Craig Rivet in 2010; once head coach Lindy Ruff started healthy scratching Rivet, the whole thing became a distraction.
As for the timing? One has to think that, if the Oilers are going to make a leadership change, they’ll pull the trigger soon. If McLellan learned anything from his final year in San Jose, it’s that an unresolved captaincy issue is an unnecessary headache. Probably doesn’t want to go into his first season in Edmonton under similar circumstances.
Hall seems the likely choice as new captain, given his six years (time flies!) spent in the city and a contract that runs through 2020. Others have floated the possibility of Connor McDavid or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but to most, Hall remains the guy.
The more complex decision is how to handle Ference.
Despite diminishing skills on the ice, he remains an important figure off it; he’s regarded as a quality leader and extremely active in the community, and also has a fairly hefty contract remaining (two years at $3.25 million per, with a no-movement clause).
The Oilers wrap their preseason on Saturday, and open the regular season on Oct. 8.
Will the decision be made by then?