The NHL Network is a great source for thought-provoking hockey content. Recently, NHL Trade Talk took a glimpse at the Network’s list of top 20 defensemen vs the top 20 paid blueliners. It was an interesting look at the differences between value and earnings. Earlier today, the NHL Network sent out this tweet:
Surprisingly, only three of the seven teams in today’s feature had a captain for the 19/20 season – one of those three captains was moved during last seasons trade deadline. Further, the Vegas Golden Knights have never had a captain in franchise history. Will that change?
See below for an alphabetical list of team’s former captain (if applicable) and a candidate(s) that might fill the captaincy role for next season (or beyond), in alphabetical order.
Detroit Red Wings – Former Captain: Henrik Zetterberg
At team that had steady leadership for years before the franchise started losing, the Red Wings have been captain less for the last two seasons. Specifically, since Henrik Zetterberg could no longer continue playing after the 2018 season, the Red Wings haven’t picked an official new on-ice or locker room leader.
It sounds like the Red Wings are set to name a captain for the upcoming season, and there is really one name that stands out – Dylan Larkin. The Wings former 15th overall selection in 2014, Larkin is heading into his 6th NHL season and was one of three alternate captains’ last season. At age 24, Larkin already has a great blend of experience and youth which should help him lead the rebuild in Detroit.
After the Anthony Mantha signing on Tuesday, Larkin is only one of two players the Red Wings have committed to the club under contract past the 2021/22 season.
Minnesota Wild – Former Captain: Mikko Koivu
Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin made a clear decision to move the team in a ‘new direction’ by not re-signing long time captain Mikko Koivu. A big loss, but the Wild are not starving for leadership.
The two alternate captains last season, Ryan Suter (age 35) and Zach Parise (age 36) are very good candidates to take over the captaincy reigns. Either choice would likely work, but could their age be an issue? Will Dean Evason stick with the veterans or go with a younger player like Jared Spurgeon?
New Jersey Devils – Former Captain: Andy Greene
The Devils traded their captain at the 2019 NHL trade deadline when the New York Islanders acquired veteran defenseman, Andy Greene. It was part of a series of moves that suggested the Devils were in rebuild mode.
As a rebuilding team the organization will wait for a clear candidate to emerge or likely give the captaincy to 21-year-old, 2017 1st overall selection, Nico Hischier. He’s the clear star on the team moving forward, but also one of the more experienced despite his short run in the NHL.
If not Hischier, the other two options would be Kyle Palmieri (29) or Travis Zajac (35). While all three players were alternate captains for the Devils last season, the question becomes how long they’ll stay with the team. My guess is that the Devils will pass the torch to Hischier. He’s not going anywhere.
New York Rangers – Former Captain: Ryan McDonagh
The Rangers have not had a captain since they sent Ryan McDonagh to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018. With an up and coming powerhouse of a team, the Rangers might intend to add a captain for the 20/21 season.
The two frontrunners at this point appear to be Chris Kreider (29) and Mika Zibanejad (27). I have been a fan of Zibanejad since he was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2011, but from a distance Kreider seems like he might be more apt in that role, and in that market. Kreider has been a member of the Rangers since 2009 when he was drafted 19th overall.
Ottawa Senators – Former Captain: Erik Karlsson
Like the Rangers, Ottawa has not had a captain since Erik Karlsson left for San Jose in 2018. For now, Head Coach DJ Smith wants to take the patient approach in naming a new captain. “It’s not going to happen this season,” Smith told Postmedia Thursday afternoon. He added, “We’re going to transition some of the younger guys into a leadership role.”
When Smith and the Sens are ready, they likely have two young candidates to take over that role in Thomas Chabot (23) or Brady Tkachuk (21). Taking on that type of role during a restructuring would be a massive responsibility so I am going to say the Sens eventually give the captaincy to the older of the two players in Chabot.
St. Louis Blues – Former Captain: Alex Pietrangelo
The St. Louis Blues lost their captain to free agency this summer when the Vegas Golden Knights signed highly coveted offseason UFA, Alex Pietrangelo. The 2019 Stanley Cup Champions have some good options, but realistically there is only one player to take on the captaincy – Ryan O’Reilly.
At 29, O’Reilly has the makings of a tremendous captain for at least the last three years on his contract, and likely beyond. He’s been a leader in previous situations with other clubs and this may be the most natural transition for any NHL club.
Vegas Golden Knights – Former Captain: None
Amazingly, I missed this. Vegas has never had a captain in it’s franchise history. Mid-season replacement coach, Pete DeBoer, likes having a captain so it sounds like the team will name a definitive leader by the start of next season.
Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Reilly Smith were the alternate captains last season. Pacioretty has already been a captain in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens so perhaps he might be a good fit in that role.
The other option is to transfer Pietrangelo’s status as captain from St. Louis straight over to Vegas. A well built team – the Knights have some solid options for the first captain in franchise history.
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