Pucks On The Fly

Oh Captain…7 Teams Need Captain

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The National Hockey League is deep in tradition and one of those traditions is that of the captain. Aside from wearing a “C” on their jersey the captain is the only person able to talk to officials regarding ruling and takes part in pregame ceremonies. Currently there are seven, yes you read that correctly, seven teams currently without a captain those include: Buffalo Sabers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks. These teams will have time to make their decision with all but the San Jose Sharks going into training camp with alternate captains.

Ottawa Senators

The Senators lost their captain Jason Spezza over the summer in a trade by his own request to the Dallas Stars, so the Senators will have a tough decision on who will replace him. The front runner for the captaincy should be defenseman Erik Karlsson. Karlsson has been a workhorse for the Sens on defense and signed a seven-year extension with the club back in 2012, he would give the club the stability they haven’t had since longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson left for Detroit. Another plausible option for the Senators would be using the captaincy as a bargaining chip with next summers pending free agent Bobby Ryan as the Senators have said they will attempt to keep Ryan, so would a “C” on his chest and a large contract be enough incentive?

Projected Captain: Erik Karlsson, The Senators need some stability and Karlsson can provide that with the potential of Ryan being trade bait at the deadline.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been without a captain since 2012 when they traded Rick Nash to another team of this list, the New York Rangers. There are a few great options for the Blue Jackets this upcoming season one of which being recently acquired left winger, Scott Hartnell. During his time with the Philadelphia Flyers he was an agitator on the Flyers first line with a scoring touch. The next option would Brandon Dubinsky, who currently wears an “A” for the club. The third option is also currently and alternate captain and that’s defenseman Jack Johnson. Johnson is a large part of what the organization, who will continue to be going forward and rack up a lot of minutes.

Projected Captain: Brandon Dubinsky. Johnson and Hartnell are two great players but can lead without the “C” on their sweater. Dubinsky has been a steady player for the Jackets and his recent six-year extension shows he is committed.

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers were left without a captain after pulling of the first captain for captain trade at the deadline which sent Ryan Callahan to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Martin St. Louis. With the vacancy during the second half of the season there are a lot of options that remain for the Rangers, first being defenseman Dan Girardi. One of the current alternate captains for the Rangers, Girardi has missed only five regular season games since the 2007-2008 campaign and logged over an average of 22 minutes per game in the cup final against the Los Angeles Kings. Another option for the Rangers is the player they acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets Rick Nash. Nash spent four-years as a captain in Columbus and could easily be a contender for the blue shirts on opening night. The most interesting option would be the player the Rangers received for Callahan, Marty St. Louis. The diminutive right wing has defied odds everywhere he has been and his request to be traded from Tampa Bay only to the Rangers shows he want to be there but how many more seasons does the 39 (will be 40 when contract expires) has left in the tank?

Projected Captain: Dan Girardi. This was a tough selection as Nash has not lived up to the expectation so far in New York and the added pressure of the “C” might not help. In Addition, St. Louis cost the Rangers two first round picks (with one in pasts summers 2014 draft, second in 2015 much deeper draft) if the Rangers are out of contention come deadline St. Louis could be moved to regain a pick.

Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers bought out former captain Ed Jovanoski’s final year of his contract so they will be looking for a new captain. The Panthers went out and spent a lot of money this offseason and with the number one overall pick in defenseman Aaron Ekblad, they are looking for a rebound year, but who will lead the ship? The first option would be current alternate captain Scottie Upshall although on the final year of his deal, he has spent the last three years with the club and could step into the role. The second option could be one of the free agents the club signed this summer, Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen comes to Florida with his leadership skills and ability to help this young squad. The final option to be offered is young gun Jonathan Huberdeau, who was selected number third overall at the 2011 Draft and won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2012-2013. Although taking a step back in the 2013-2014 season, he has continued to shown growth in his game and has a strong presence on the ice.

Projected Captain: Scottie Upshall, This was a tough decision although Upshall could be traded at deadline being an unrestricted free agent next summer. Jokinen could wear an “A” and coming off a rough sophomore year the pressure is already mounting on Huberdeau to live up to his rookie performance.

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens have a vacancy at captain after former captain Brian Gionta signed with the Buffalo Sabres. There are a few players that could wear the “C” for Montreal, but there is only one who truly deserves it that is defenseman P.K. Subban. Subban is one of the league’s top young defensemen and after heading to arbitration with the Canadiens, the two sides came together and inked an eight-year deal worth $72 million. For Montreal to commit that type of money to Subban they have shown they are committed. The other option is left winger Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty was drafted 22nd overall by the Canadiens in 2007 and has been a key scoring option for the team.

Projected Captian: P.K. Subban. This option is clear after the team and Subban went through arbitration, he has surpassed goaltender Carey Price as the face of the franchise and has already shown he can be a premier defender in the NHL.

Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres are without a captain since Steve Ott was sent to the St. Louis Blues along with goaltender Ryan Miller (now in Vancouver) at the trade deadline last season. The options for captain of the Sabres are interesting, beginning with Matt Moulson. Moulson was a member of the Sabres for a short time before being traded to the Minnesota Wild on March 5th and then signed as a free agent back with Buffalo. Another option is former Canadiens captain Brian Gionta, as his time as a captain could fare him well in the decision along with the fact he was born in Rochester might help. The most interesting option could be that of center Tyler Ennis, as the 24 year old recently signed a five-year extension which will keep him with the team through the 2018-2019 season.

Project Captain: Matt Moulson. This was one of the toughest decisions on the list, and even though Gionta will be in a leadership role with the team, the aging veteran will be better placed with an “A” which will be the same for young Ennis. Moulson has spent time with the struggling New York Islanders and will want to push this team forward in its rebuild.

San Jose Sharks

The most interesting captaincy that will need to be decided is the Sharks. Recently removed captain Joe Thorton and alternate captain Patrick Marleau, although coach Todd McLellan said the team is “just cleaning the slate” which means both could earn back their letters. With both as options, there are three other Sharks players to be considered. First, Joe Pavelski, the 30 year old is under contract through 2018-2019 and is a scoring force. The next option would be defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is solid on the back end at 27 years of age is in his peak years if the Sharks want to rebuild on the fly, he can be a core piece and a leader. Lastly, the player to be considered is 25-year-old centerman Logan Couture. If the goal of the Sharks is to change the culture of the team, then the hard working Couture could be the next man up.

Projected Captain: Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sharks need to change their mentality after being a monster team during the regular season and fizzle out during the post season shows it’s time for a change. If the sharks reinstate Thorton or Marleau it might be McLellan who will be out more than a letter next offseason.

With seven teams making a change next season it will be interesting to see who comes out of training camp wearing the “C” for these teams. One thing for sure, it does not have to be playoff time for there to be drama in the NHL.

 

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