The Seattle Kraken took former Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano in the expansion draft earlier this summer, leaving them without a captain. So that begs the question, who should be the next captain? Of course, the Flames could decide not to name a captain this season. It doesn’t seem like they will right away, at least according to recent comments from coach Darryl Sutter. There are plenty of teams in the NHL without captains including: the Arizona Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and Seattle Kraken. But if the Flames do decide to name one player to lead above all the rest, Matthew Tkachuk would be a good fit.
Matthew Tkachuk’s Game
In 349 career regular-season games with the Flames, Matthew Tkachuk has 110 goals (including 10 game-winners), 168 assists and 278 points, averaging 17:07 of ice time. He has a 61 percent Corsi and a relative Corsi of 12.8.
Last season, his 43 points were third on the team behind Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm. His 16 goals were fourth on the team, and his 27 assists were third on the team. The Flames were particularly not fun to watch. They finished fifth in the North Division, only above the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks. But Tkachuk and his line mates often refused to give up no matter how far down they were, meaning the games usually had their fair shares of excitement. In 2019-20, Tkachuk led the team in points.
According to CBC Sports, before the start of last season, Tkachuk had drawn a league-leading 163 penalties since he entered the NHL.
Matthew Tkachuk’s Physicality
When he’s not able to get himself on the score sheet, he’s getting himself involved in the game physically. Tkachuk has 503 hits, which averages out to 1.4 hits per game. He has 33 hits in 15 playoff games. He has 357 penalty minutes in the regular season and 32 in the playoffs. He’s also not afraid to get into a fight to stand up for himself or his teammates or to try to change the momentum of the game when the Flames are losing.
According to hockeyfights.com, he’s gotten into 16 fights in his NHL career, including two in the playoffs. He has such a reputation for stirring the pot on the ice that fans and the Flames like to call any game he does so another stop on the “Matthew Tkachuk Friendship Tour.”
He has been suspended three times in his career, all during his first two seasons in the league. He’s calmed down a little since then, taking less penalties and focusing more on his offensive side of the game. He’s playing more like a captain should.
While he’s the type of player a team would want as captain, his future in Calgary is unknown. Tkachuk only has one year left on his contract. Rumuors have been circulating that he might want out of Calgary, maybe even to go to his hometown St. Louis Blues. However, he will be a restricted free agent. That gives the Flames the opportunity to match any offer sheets he is given. If he wants to stay and the Flames are able to sign him to a contract extension, it might be more likely that he gets named the captain.
Besides Tkachuk, three other names in the conversation are Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, and Milan Lucic.
Backlund has been on the team the longest. He was drafted 24thoverall by the Flames in the 2007 NHL Draft and played his first NHL game in the 2008-09 season. He’s been an alternate captain since the 2018-19 season, the same season Tkachuk was named an alternate captain.
Monahan has been an alternate captain for the longest, since the 2015-16 season. He was taken sixth overall by the Flames in the 2013 NHL Draft and played right away.
And Lucic has the most experience on the team. He was drafted 50thoverall by the Boston Bruins in the 2006 NHL Draft and began his NHL career in the 2007-08 season. He won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.
All of these players have more experience than Tkachuk. While you want experience in a captain, most teams also want a player who will be on the team for a long time moving forward. Backlund is already 32 years old, and Lucic is 33. Monahan, 26, and Tkachuk, 23, have the potential to play the longest.
Tkachuk has already proven that he would make a good captain. He’s the type of player his younger teammates can watch and learn from and he’s served as an alternate. But, he isn’t the only option, and there are a lot of unknowns about his future with the franchise. If he were to be named captain, it would make the most sense for him to sign a contract extension first.