One of the many factors that sets hockey apart from other sports is the importance and respect placed upon the position of captain. Wearing the “C” is an age old tradition that indicates the face of a franchise and in many cases of a city. Teams without a captain are seen as teams in transition, looking for a new face to carry them into the future. As the 2013-2014 season looms many teams are undecided about who they will anoint their next captain.
Three teams in the Western Conference find themselves without a leader, all of them having traded their previous captain within the past year. Calgary and Dallas will be forced to replace players with legendary status within their respective franchises while Edmonton searches for the right player to lead the revolution of youth. None of these situations provide easy answers, which make them all the more compelling to examine now and dissect once the final decision has been made.
The Calgary Flames are undoubtedly the most cumbersome of the three due to the fact that it is unknown who will remain with the team longterm. The ultimate example of a team who refused to rebuild until too late, they are a mix of expendable veterans and unproven youth. You look down the depth chart and no name stands out as a franchise player. Long gone is Jarome Iginla, the man who would have remained captain in the city for as long as he decided to lace up his skates. Jay Bouwmeester, a natural contender to be a replacement, has also since departed.
There remain few who are well equipped to take on the captaincy, however among that group lies the answer. Curtis Glencross provides a compelling case as to why he should be given the captaincy. Veteran sniper Mike Cammalleri is the biggest star on this team with Iginla gone and could assume leadership. Yet of all the possibilities, Mark Giordano makes the most sense.
For a team that may soon house a completely different roster should the firesale of last season continue as it should Mark Giordano will remain on the roster for the foreseeable future. His age of 29 years old coupled with his defensive abilities make him less expendable than Cammalleri or Glencross. He’s certainly no Tig but Calgary may not have another player like that for a long time.
Meanwhile, the situation is a little more bright for the Dallas Stars. A number of positive off-season transactions have the team looking prepped to start playing playoff hockey again on a consistent basis. With the major hole at centre being plugged with the acquisitions of Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin and Shawn Horcoff the Stars only have one major hole left to fill. Who will lead the newly shaped Stars into their new era?
As mentioned all of the three captainless teams in the Western Conference saw their former leaders traded. While Brenden Morrow was shipped off to the Pittsburgh Penguins and is now a free agent the Stars were involved in another captain trade. Shawn Horcoff, who wore the “C” in Edmonton is now a Star, although this does little to help his case as Stars captain. He has not been with the club long enough and does not know its inner workings.
The big question in Dallas is whether Jamie Benn is ready, or will ever be for that matter given his reputation of not being incredibly outgoing. Benn will also be switching to the wing this year as there is no room at centre anymore. It might be best to give Benn some time to adjust to this position and observe the dynamics with his new teammates before giving him the captaincy.
Furthermore, the Stars could go with three “A”s but that is never the preferable option for any club. This is why it makes sense to give veteran defender Stephane Robidas the short term captaincy and wait and see with Benn as well as other players. Robidas has been plenty committed to the Stars and has always contributed.
Finally, things come down to The Edmonton Oilers, probably the most interesting case. The Oilers have one of the youngest cores in the league and therefore it is difficult to find a player who is ready to take on the captain’s responsibilities. Jordan Eberle could very well be the captain of the future as things seem to be trending in that direction. However, at this point Eberle needs to focus more on getting consistent scoring totals and the “C” could prove a distraction to that conquest.
This is why another almost “interim” captain should be named like Robidas would be for Dallas. No player better fits that bill than veteran Oiler Ryan Smyth. Smyth has been an excellent leader his entire career and often dawned the “C” for Canada in international competitions. Giving him the captaincy in Edmonton would not only be a sign of good will for a player who has given so much to the franchise but it would also be an intelligent move from a development standpoint. The Oilers are up and coming but they need some experience to show them the way forward.
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