Wednesday, September 14, 2011

C is for Captain

It’s one of the greatest honors you can be given in a team sport, and two more NHL players are now part of that club.

The NY Rangers announced on Monday that 26-year-old winger Ryan Callahan will wear the “C” this season, becoming the 26th player in team history to hold that honor. Last Friday, the St. Louis Blues named power forward David Backes the franchise’s 22nd captain since 1967.

Callahan and Backes join a pretty solid list of players who have captained either the Rangers or Blues, from Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, to Brian Leetch and Al MacInnis. With that extra bit of fabric on your shirt comes a lot of responsibility in the dressing room and on the ice, but I’m sure both players are up to the challenge - it’s not something that coaches give out just for the sake of having a captain.

Just ask the NJ Devils, the Buffalo Sabres, the Florida Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche.

They’re among the six teams without a captain at this point, but no one seems to be in any hurry to change that. The Devils traded Jamie Langenbrunner away in January, while the Sabres and Panthers have been without a captain since trading away Craig Rivet and Bryan McCabe at the deadline. For Colorado, the captaincy became vacant with the April retirement of Adam Foote.

So, who should rock the “C” in those cities?

It’s a tough one in New Jersey, but I’d give it to Zach Parise. He’s been brought up in that Devils organization around some great leaders and I think it’s his time to shine in that respect. He spent most of last season on the sidelines with a knee injury, so you know he’s itching to get back onto the ice and back to what he was doing in previous years.

In Buffalo, it’s between Derek Roy and Jason Pominville for me, two younger veterans who have spent their entire careers so far with the club. I would imagine that both players are leaders in that locker room and I just get the vibe from watching Roy that he’s the natural choice there. To be honest, I’m a bit surprised they haven’t named Ryan Miller the captain though, like they did with Roberto Luongo in Vancouver.

Up next: The Florida Panthers. This is an easy one – there’s no question that Ed Jovanovski should be the captain of this team. He’s a lead-by-example, hard-nosed player who has done a lot and seen a lot over his 15 seasons in the show. Case closed.

They’re going through a real youth movement in Colorado, with guys like Matt Duchene garnering a lot of the attention, but Milan Hejduk’s name comes to mind for me when it comes to potential new captains. The “C” went from Joe Sakic to Adam Foote, and it only seems natural that it now land on the chest of Hejduk so that he can one day pass it along to a guy like Duchene.

Now, not every team that doesn’t have a captain is a holdout like these four: For the Islanders, they don’t have one because Doug Weight retired this summer. It’s a bit different for the Flyers – they need to fill the void after trading Mike Richards away to make room for Ilya Bryzgalov.

Love him or hate him, I’d give the “C” to Chris Pronger in Philly because not many players make a clear impact on a team like Pronger does. When it comes to the Islanders, I think they should rotate the captaincy in order to see who wears it best.

Between guys like John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson, to name a few, they’ve got a solid core of guys who are probably the heart and soul of that locker room. I’m not a huge fan of rotating the “C,” but I think this is a situation where it works.

What do you think: Who is the greatest captain of all time?

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