by Georgia McCann
Currently, six of the 32 teams in the NHL are without a captain. Here, we take a look at those teams and which of their players would be the best suited to the prestigious leadership role.
Following the trade of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes are now without a captain, but are not leaderless. Currently, their alternate is Phil Kessel and he brings great experience, two Stanley Cups and a fun persona to the locker room.
But with Arizona in rebuild mode and trade rumours swirling around the American it may be best to choose a younger talent to be the face of the franchise. In step Jakob Chychrun.
The Florida-born Canadian has seen his development in the league shoot up with each year and he is widely considered to be one of the best players for the ‘Yotes, if not the best.
Drafted by Arizona, he likely holds the team close to his heart and despite being only 23, he would have the support of both the aforementioned Kessel and many of the veterans brought in this offseason to assist him.
Once again, it is a recent departure has left a team without their captain. This time, Mark Giordano was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, leaving the Flames without their leader.
To replace him, my choice would be Matthew Tkachuk. Whilst Tkachuk is a controversial figure – especially in Edmonton – he is a born leader, who brings his teammates to battle without hesitation and already wears the ‘A’.
Giordano’s role will be huge to fill as he was beloved within the organisation and the city of Calgary alike, so don’t be surprised if this selection takes a season or two to be made, but another couple of seasons to develop a little more maturity on the ice could be exactly what the American needs.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Just like Ekman-Larsson, a trade led to another veteran heading north of the border, this time Nick Foligno (who has since signed with Boston).
Foligno’s departure was also part of a rebuild, with multiple potential replacements having being shipped out, but one potential candidate remains – Zach Werenski.
The Michigan native was drafted by Columbus and has just committed for six years. For a team that sees it’s major stars opt to leave in trades and free agency, the move has delighted fans, who now consider him the face of the franchise – even over Finnish superstar Patrik Laine. The next step – give him the ‘C’.
NEW YORK RANGERS
Since the departure of Ryan McDonagh in 2018, the Rangers have held off from nominating a captain but have had plenty of leaders, many of whom wore the alternates ‘A’.
However, with the rebuild starting to draw to a close and many young stars needing that go-to guy, the time is now to formally appoint a captain.
Out of all the senior members, it is Chris Kreider who stands out. Drafted by the Rangers in 2009, he has called Madison Square Garden home since he made his debut in 2012 and is around for the long-run, having signed a seven year extension in February 2020.
Kreider is a proven leader for the Rangers, having worn the ‘A’ for some time now and the Blueshirts’ large Russian contingent already likely benefit from his skills in the language. Whilst he does face competition from the likes of Mika Zibanejad and it is highly likely New York native Adam Fox could take over the captaincy once he leaves, Kreider is the obvious choice.
Just like big brother Matthew, Brady Tkachuk has every chance of being awarded his team’s vacant captaincy.
One of the Sens most talented players, with a style similar to his brother’s – although perhaps less of a pest – the young team could benefit greatly from a leader who is their peer, with a couple of season’s experience under his belt.
Tkachuk wears an ‘A’ already and although there could be competition from fellow alternate Thomas Chabot, it seems more like when, not if, the American will be promoted to captain.
Finally, we have the NHL’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken. As noted above, the Kraken selected an established captain in Mark Giordano and many would consider him a no-brainer.
However, the Canadian is 37 years old and could retire following the expiry of his current deal at the end of the season or even return to Calgary in free agency.
To lose a team’s very first captain after just one year is a bit of a risk to take. Instead, Adam Larsson, recently signed for four years, could wear the ‘C’.
The Swede served as an alternate for four of his five years with the Edmonton Oilers and his play as a shutdown defenceman was impressive.
The former New Jersey Devil was popular within the Oilers’ locker room and with fans alike, winning a number of team awards. Perhaps not the most glamourous choice, but Larsson would provide experience and leadership to a new team.
As seen with the Rangers, captain selection can take time and it is important to get it right. The chosen player doesn’t have to be the best on the squad, but set an example for his teammates on and off the ice – although if you are lucky, you land a McDavid or Crosby, who can be both.
It will be interesting to see who each team goes with and hopefully it is the right choice for them.