THE LETTER: ALL IN GOOD TIME

Robin Brownlee
September 05 2012 02:15PM

If Milan Hejduk of the Colorado Avalanche can recognize the lay of the land and peel the "C" off his jersey and hand the captaincy over to a teenager like Gabriel Landeskog, why can't Shawn Horcoff do the same with Taylor Hall?

Well, Horcoff can and, in good time, he likely will, but there's absolutely no reason for the third-year Oiler captain to follow Hejduk's lead and hand over the letter to Hall, or anybody else, between now and the start of the 2012-13 NHL season, whenever that is.

I understand the sentiment – and there has been plenty of it in these parts in recent days – that Horcoff, facing a diminished role as his career winds down, could get out in front of the inevitable transition that will see youngsters like Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins take over as the on-ice leaders of the team. That swing is already underway.

And I get the argument that if Hejduk, a more accomplished and dynamic player in his prime than Horcoff ever was, can give the letter to Landeskog, who is younger than Hall and Eberle, there's no good reason it can't happen here. And that's true. It could, and will, happen. Just not now.

LEADERS WILL LEAD

I've said it before and I'll say it again: leaders will lead by nature whether they have a "C" or an "A" on their jersey or not. Hall, a two-time Memorial Cup MVP with the Windsor Spitfires, is one of those players. There's no doubt in my mind he has captain written all over him.

Hall, easily Edmonton's most dynamic player, has given us glimpses of his desire to have a bigger voice on and off the ice with the Oilers, and he did so this spring, long before he and Eberle hit the jackpot with their new contracts.

"As players, we're all maturing," Hall said in response to a question by Jason Gregor when we scrummed him at the end of the season. "I know myself, I'm doing the same thing. In the room I want to be more vocal and try to take that next step.

"I want to be here for a long time. I want to be here when we're the team that's contending and we're in the playoffs and everything like that, so I'm looking forward to kind of taking that next step next year along with Ryan and Jordan and having a bigger voice in the room."

TIME WILL COME

The voice Hall talks about will carry greater weight and resonance in the dressing room moving forward. Horcoff, entering his third year as captain, would have to be exceedingly dim not recognize that. But it's the player, not the letter, teammates respect. The player makes the letter, not vice-versa.

The captaincy, at least in Edmonton, isn't about pinning the letter to the best or most dynamic player. If that was the case, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Kelly Buchberger and Jason Smith, to name just four, would never have worn it with the Oilers. Points totals, popularity and jersey sales aren't the measure.

There is something to be said, especially with a young team like this edition of the Oilers, for experience and gamesmanship and context. Horcoff, despite his shortcomings, brings that. So does Ryan Smyth, also facing a diminished role.

At some point, and in the not-too-distant future, that experience will give way to the dynamic Hall, and it should. I'm guessing that Horcoff, if I know him at all after all these years, will recognize that time when it comes and he'll do exactly what Hejduk just did.

That time is not now.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Quicksilver ballet
September 05 2012, 02:16PM
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Most seniors who go hiking, do so accidently. Be careful Shawn.

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#2 justDOit
September 05 2012, 03:06PM
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I agree with RB on this one, there's no need to rush Hall or Eberle into a leadership role.

Horcoff is sure getting it from all angles lately; from suggestions of giving his #10 to a rookie, to handing over the captaincy, and finally being targeted for a buyout should contract amnesty be included in the new CBA.

He's already earned some of his salary for the year, just having to sit idly by while rabid fans plot his demise. Reminds me of a Zappa lyric: "Ain't got no friends, and all the others they hate me."

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#3 Neilio
September 05 2012, 03:52PM
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Personally I can't wait for this team to move away from the "Grinder Captain" paradigm. MacTavish, Corson, Buchberger, Smith, Moreau and now Horcoff. For the last 20 years only Doug Weight was the "Best Player Captain". All of those other guys worked hard, blocked shots, got the crap beaten out of them (Bucky), were vocal in the dressing room and when the game was on the line, they were either on the bench or firing a puck directly into the goalies crest. At most, they could change the tempo of a game with a big hit or solid defensive play. Horcoff had a few solid years but has settled into his third line grinder heritage.

When this team was great, we had captains that would not only lead in the dressing room, they would go out there and win the game. They lead from the front. The difference they made on the ice was more powerful than anything you can say in the room. Hall is that type of guy.

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#4 T__Bone88
September 05 2012, 03:26PM
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I am starting to get on the bandwagon that Horcoff deserves what he is making simply due to the treatment he gets from fans & media. Until he goes to another team or personally gives Hall or Eberle the "C" there should be absolutely no discussing of naming a new captain. Sure this will be the kids team in less than 5 years but what does that say to your older players that bleed copper & blue for years "thanks for showing up but because your over 30 your value to the team doesn't mean much".

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#5 Reality Check to the head
September 05 2012, 05:07PM
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The oilers just made a large financial commitment to Hall, they do not need to pin the "C" on him right now. Let Horcs deal with any of the pressure associated with being a NHL captain. Let Hall focusin on going out and earning the large contract the Oil just gave him.

Let him grow into the role, not pushed into it.

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#6 Toro
September 05 2012, 07:20PM
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Cant believe Im the first to say this BUT, why don't you start him off with an "A" first then make him captain later on, jus sayin

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#7 justDOit
September 05 2012, 04:15PM
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@DonDon

Some teams let the players vote on captains and alternates, some award the positions.

That's quite an ability you have; being able to judge a person's personality by watching the occasional clip on tv. Can you bend spoons with your mind as well?

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#8 steelymac
September 05 2012, 04:30PM
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Remembering back to last season Hall wasnt getting the calls and the reffs were not giving him the time of day.I do believe its to early for him to get the C.Hallzy has yet to gain the respect of the officials and that could hurt the team.In do time.

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#9 Rindog
September 05 2012, 05:28PM
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Neilio wrote:

Personally I can't wait for this team to move away from the "Grinder Captain" paradigm. MacTavish, Corson, Buchberger, Smith, Moreau and now Horcoff. For the last 20 years only Doug Weight was the "Best Player Captain". All of those other guys worked hard, blocked shots, got the crap beaten out of them (Bucky), were vocal in the dressing room and when the game was on the line, they were either on the bench or firing a puck directly into the goalies crest. At most, they could change the tempo of a game with a big hit or solid defensive play. Horcoff had a few solid years but has settled into his third line grinder heritage.

When this team was great, we had captains that would not only lead in the dressing room, they would go out there and win the game. They lead from the front. The difference they made on the ice was more powerful than anything you can say in the room. Hall is that type of guy.

Agree 100%.

Just take a look at just about every other NHL captain in he league.

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#10 pelhem grenville
September 06 2012, 02:57PM
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...get out the boo birds for this take ... Taylor Hall needs to move forward with the "C" as soon as training camp starts because... he needs to mature both in physical stature and more importantly from a mantality point of view...i think , given the "C", he could greatly benefit by having and learning of the on AND off ice discipline it takes to lead a team...the team everybody says is already his?...Hall as Captain would not be out at the bar all night long ...Hall as Captain would not be skating around taking unnecessary chances as much and getting injuried as much either ... Hall as Captain could be the Captain of the this franchises' future... now! whereas, please tell me if i'm wrong, Shawn Horcoff must surely recognize that he is NOT!and never will be... ...and finally Hall as Captain would be obliged to put an end (somehow) to the ridiculous Hall & Ebs 'big boy beds' stupid insulting cartoon piece on the radio as well...being the Captain is serious business...

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#11 vince
September 05 2012, 02:52PM
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Where's the youtube link for "the letter" by the box tops?

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#12 RexLibris
September 05 2012, 03:01PM
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The leadership group in this team, as I can see it from a fan's point of view, might become Hall, Eberle, Whitney, Smid and perhaps Nugent-Hopkins. Lander was often referred to as a potential captain or leader for a team, but at this point I think we have to wait and see if he can stay in the NHL first.

I absolutely agree with your last point. Great read, Robin, thank you.

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#13 DonDon
September 05 2012, 03:57PM
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Robin remarked: "...leaders will lead by nature whether they have a "C" or an "A" on their jersey or not" is absolutely correct.

It really doesn't matter if Horcoff hangs on to the C for an indeterminate time; the real leaders have already begun to take their place on the team.

By the way, who in the organization determines the ACs and Cs?

If it is important to Horcoff to hang on to the C and answer media questions with monotone and short, meaningless answers, so be it. It just makes him appear to be the jerk that many believe he is.

On another point, all this matters little in the big picture, an imminent NHL lockout by the owners and the loss of a partial season or, as in the last iteration, the whole season.

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#14 DonDon
September 05 2012, 04:57PM
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@justDOit

You haven't noticed the Horcoff's responses to answers during the scrums after the games?

This isn't about his real character. It is about his approach to play the role of C when your team loses more than it wins. This approach may work for him, but it comes at a cost as people perceive what they want to perceive.

You seem pretty smart. I'll bet you can bend spoons too.

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#15 yawto
September 05 2012, 05:12PM
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Off topic but a question for you RB. On you blog yesterday someone made the mistake of fisting your post. As anyone who comes here knows (hell I was mad the first time it happened to me) this does not fly on your blogs. One thing though, on the precipe of being fun, you need to come up with an Oilersnation term to add into the glossary of getting 'Brownleed'. To me, that is any one of us monkey's that decides to fist your posts and the following comment you decide to replace it with. I am sure you can come up with a better term, but in fun for us readers, I think it is something that needs to be added to the ON glossary.

On the other note, Totally agree with you RB. That time will come, it is not today. That 'C' will make its way onto the proper chest in the next couple of years and the people in charge of it will know when the time is right. Having a Captain that can't even legally enter a bar in a fair number of states kind of sounds funny. Not saying you need to enter a bar to be a Captain but it carries more weight when you want to have a meeting with the boys at a pub instead of Denny's or McDonalds. Just sayin.

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#16 Eulers
September 05 2012, 05:21PM
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My sentiments exactly, Robin! Amen!

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#17 justDOit
September 05 2012, 06:26PM
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@DonDon

I know that media scrums would be difficult to deal with at the best of times, let alone on the worst team in the league, in a town that eats players like Gilbert for fun.

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#18 RexLibris
September 05 2012, 06:54PM
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A real man bends spoons with other people's minds.

Specifically their skulls.

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#19 Oilcruzer
September 05 2012, 07:18PM
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I dunno, but I look at that pic of Horcoff and I swear it's him on the ice saying...

"Derp Derp Derp"

Look closely...

---

What's wrong with an exemplary hard working take it for the team never complaining (overpaid) soldier staying on as Captain?

WTH is the rush?

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#20 vetinari
September 05 2012, 07:46PM
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Whoever has earned the most stitches in an Oiler's uniform should be Captain! Especially if it turns out that he bleeds blue!

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#21 voom04
September 05 2012, 08:34PM
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little off topic RB, do you know if the oilers would have had the 2nd overall pick did they have there sites set on murray if they hadnt won the lottery? just curious about the truth on how close the selection of yak(n64) over murray was?

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#22 voom04
September 05 2012, 08:39PM
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Also like to add n64 is the only guy I`ve ever seen(vidio) that shoots remotely close to the way brett hull shot.

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#23 SilentNoise
September 05 2012, 08:50PM
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What ever happened to earning your stripes and having that experience be recognized?

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#25 Kenneth Zubiri
September 05 2012, 10:35PM
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Great read Brownlee! "The player makes the letter, not vice-versa." - sums it up perfectly.

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#26 Sanaa Montana
September 06 2012, 12:16AM
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I saw Hemsky in Nice in July-he told me he will be passing his A to Eberle at the beginning of the season.(E8)

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#27 V-Man
September 06 2012, 12:28AM
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It can't feel great to know as a player that you are a lightning-rod for criticism deserved or not.

Horcoff's early history with the fans was somewhat critical from the start. The real turning point came though with the "Contract".

That put too much of a bright light on Horcoff and suddenly his play came under much more scrutiny.

He managed to ingratiate himself with Lowe and MacT and that was all she wrote. They panic-signed him and in summary they didn't make his stay here very comfortable.

It can't feel great knowing that many fans are waiting to throw a party when you finally leave.

I'm not saying any of this is fair necessarily but who would want a burr like that under your saddle for 15 or 16 years of your career?

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#28 madjam
September 06 2012, 08:33AM
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I remember when i called for Horcoff to be captain over Moreau . Fans thought i was crazy and i took quite a bashing for even thinking it . Time now for Horcoff to stand down , and hand the reigns over to the youngsters , and take on a diminished assistance role .

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#29 Spydyr
September 06 2012, 08:47AM
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One thing the Oilers are good at is rushing their kids.

No rush with the captaincy give it time and it will work itself out.

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#30 TwoSkidoos
September 06 2012, 08:53AM
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I'm thinking Colorado is pinning the C on Landeskog because he's really the only one eft standing.

Who would you give it to there?.... I hear crickets.

Edmonton is full of "leaders" - Whitney, Hall, Smyth, Eberle, Nuge, Gagner, and to a lesser degree Smid.

There is no rush to change Captains as of yet, just like RB and others have said already.

The seed has barely sprouted - let it grow a bit first.

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#31 Rob...
September 06 2012, 09:55AM
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Time and time again we see referees failing to give a young player the benefit of the doubt or respect that is given to an older player. We'd be stupid to hand the C over to any player still facing that bias.

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#32 madjam
September 06 2012, 10:07AM
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ROB: Did you not see how Moreau got no slack being captain as aging captain ? Penalty after penalty in crucial areas of game . Sorry , don't buy your argument !

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#33 Rob...
September 06 2012, 11:05AM
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You misunderstand my argument. A captain and the assistants number one job is to communicate with the officials, something hindered by a bias against those perceived as rookies. Nowhere in the rulebook does it state that wearing a letter absolves you of your own stupid behavior; something Moreau never seemed to learn.

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#34 Puckstopper
September 06 2012, 01:20PM
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Rindog wrote:

Agree 100%.

Just take a look at just about every other NHL captain in he league.

I also 100% agree a captain should be the player that all the other players want to be, when the Oil had the great capitains of the 80's it was a total different mentality to win not just to make it. Your capitain needs to be the player that makes everyone around him better. Great teams have great captains average teams have grinders as captains

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#35 Oilers Al
September 06 2012, 06:49PM
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I am with the gang, that says wait at least one more year to give the "C" to Hall.I think at this point he is heir to the letter.but Horcoff should maintain it for this year at least.Hall, has the skill, outgoing personality etc, but I think he needs to mature a bit more . Stand back and see how other captains in the league operate. For one thing, you cannot be a whiner, otherwise the ref's, will never give you or your team a break.

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#36 pelhem grenville
September 07 2012, 06:43AM
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http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/maturity-over-age-made-gabriel-landeskog-easy-choice-140534368--nhl.html#more-40723

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#37 Rama Lama
September 07 2012, 11:20AM
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I for one agree with the article........no need to rush this changing of the captaincy.

I believe that the best captain is the one that shows the greatest passion, heart, and drive.........talent aside.

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#38 roger
September 07 2012, 03:26PM
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vetinari wrote:

Whoever has earned the most stitches in an Oiler's uniform should be Captain! Especially if it turns out that he bleeds blue!

i think smyth might be at the head of the line with this after taking that zone clearing shot by pronger in the chops in 06....ouch.

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#39 NewAgeSys
September 08 2012, 12:20PM
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Good read,thank you for the thoughtful insights.

I believe that aside from putting a box in the corner and giveing everyone a vote there is only one logical choice beyond Horcoff,and that is Sam Gagner.

Sam is an established NHLer who has gained the respect of his peers the coaches and the NHL referees,Sam is respectfull but not a pushover,he is intense and has a voice but he DOES NOT WHINE HE ACTS LIKE A PROFESSIONAL.

Sam fights for his teammates not himself and he has excellent grasp of the moment in games ,he knows when to do the proper things to keep the team rolling in the right direction,his leadership qualitys are becomeing overwhelming to be frank.Gagner works for 60 mins every night,and what you get in minute one you get in minute 60,that is serious leadership,and if anyone watches the 8 pt night tapes please watch the FACES of the players Sam is LEADING out on the ice,they are BLOWN AWAY by the overwhelming command of the entire ice surface Sam teaches them how to execute,Sam is the only player we have with Pedigree that is ANYWHERE NEAR becomeing a Captain,he is a high pick who boxed up his offensive tendencies and learned defence very young,he was forged under pressure and he was lucky enough to have been put in positions where he recieved critical minutes through wins and losses teaching him to be accountable for every step he makes out there for 60 mins.

We have at least five men who would become Captains on many NHL teams.

But the perfect storm only exists for one of them and thats Sam Gagner,the timeing is perfect the evolution of his career is perfect the ages of the core are a perfect fit to respect him and what he has done since he was 18,the young guys KNOW sam understands evry step they are going through,and i will end with the Big Night because when i am prepareing myself to walk into the fires of hades and I look to my right,I want to see the man who can put up 8 pts,the man who can in two games break a team record owned by the Great One,I dont care how much everyone else is willing to bleed beside me,I AM WILLING TO BLEED but i NEED a superpower in human flesh beside me to take me into the flames without fear.

All respect to the many leaders we currently have here,but if we are talking future,there is only one way to go and that is forward the same direction Sam Gagner has grown for his entire career to date.Truth is Sam is ready now and he has pushed the schedule forward on his own.

Is there going to be a change in the room??Well I have faith in Horcoffs ability to feel the moment,he is a professional,if anything I would like to see him keep the C this year and make a career statement for himself,then hand the C to Sam at the end of our Stanley cup parade after we blow up the NHL with the NHS.

Hallsy has work to do,he doesnt need the letter right now,he knows he hasnt earned it with offense,and he hasnt earned it by sacrificeing for the team enough yet,he also knows he will soon have done all of these things and will have his day,I dont believe he is obsessed with it at all,I think he wants to WIN plain and simple,and just wants to get down to chopping heads already.He doesnt care who leads the charge as long as he has a front seat for all the action.

I think all of our young core are win orientated,and I seriously doubt they care who has the C as long as that man works as hard as they do to WIN games every night.You will earn the respect of the young guns if you show their desire to win and if you work harder than them every night,you need the passion to be burning and you need the physical endurance to outwork them or at least push them to work harder.

I think this is the year where we see our next Captain emerge,the hows and whys defeat me as I am a fan,not a pro,but this has to be the year as per the ages and curve of the evolution of this group,the core is set already so we can make these analysis pretty darn accurate as far as when things need to happen,names are impossible to nail down but times sure arent,everything has a shelflife. Somehow i get this memory that our Captains usually get traded or leave immediatly after the pass the letter?? If history repeats we will see Horccs gone before the deadline unless we are ripping it up.

Landeskog may not be ready yet,that was a questionable move,now we will all may get to see the worst side of early exposure to the NHL and its pressures.Sad for Landy,but then again he got lucky when Nuge was hurt as it pumped up his value,had Nuge smashed him by 20 points then he would be in a different dynamic.Never look a gift-horse in the mouth as they say.

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#40 capcanfan
September 08 2012, 05:44PM
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I think were all on the outside looking in and making our best guesse.

It should be the team that picks the C not the fans or to a lesser degree the owners/managment let the players vote on there capten for all we know hoc could be as respected by his teammates as he is disrespected by his fans

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#41 Wax Man Riley
September 08 2012, 09:50PM
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madjam wrote:

I remember when i called for Horcoff to be captain over Moreau . Fans thought i was crazy and i took quite a bashing for even thinking it . Time now for Horcoff to stand down , and hand the reigns over to the youngsters , and take on a diminished assistance role .

They thought YOU were crazy???

*turns around, looks to the sky, and whistles while walking away*

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