The Captaincy: There’s No Rush

Jonathan Willis
August 29 2013 09:44AM

Thanks to our own Wanye Gretz, everybody’s talking about who the Edmonton Oilers’ next captain should be. Should it be one of the team’s young stars? Should it be Sam Gagner? Should it be a veteran like Andrew Ference?

I can’t help thinking there’s no rush to make a decision.

No Rush: Part One

It’s been made clear over the summer that rookie head coach Dallas Eakins will be the guy deciding who will captain the Oilers now after the departure of Shawn Horcoff. He’s new to the group, and it only makes sense that he wait until he’s seen them together in training camp, talked to the various candidates (and heard from other players about the various candidates) and just generally observed the team.

No Rush: Part Two

The other issue is that it might make sense to consider something other than a full-time, permanent captain at this point (something Jason Strudwick has suggested here previously). So far, there has been no indication that the Oilers are considering a rotating captaincy or a group of alternates without a designated captain, but it’s an idea that in my view has some merit.

First, the caveat. I was asked the other day by a very smart guy what I thought of the potential of Sam Gagner as captain. I told this person that I really didn’t know because I think it’s extremely difficult for an outsider to answer that question. To what degree the captaincy matters it matters inside the dressing room, and without a really good feel for the mix of personalities it’s difficult to be certain which player is the best fit for the role.

With that said, the sense that I get is there is a lack of certainty about who the best choice is. Taylor Hall’s exceptional 2013 campaign has established him as the best young player on the team right now. A year ago, Jordan Eberle would have been the consensus pick as the best of the bunch and as the team’s only full-time alternate was seemingly the favourite to be the captain in the future. Andrew Ference seems to be highly regarded and is joining the team from an extremely successful Bruins’ club, but he’s also 34 years old. Sam Gagner has been praised by general manager Craig MacTavish for his character but seems a step below the team’s upper tier skill-wise. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins seems universally praised as a mature young man and though he hasn’t been mentioned often in this context a year from now that might be a very different story.

To me, it’s a group that seems well-suited to the old Jacques Lemaire strategy of having a rotating captain. If there is a reluctance to name one of the younger stars captain now, it saves the team from the installation and subsequent tricky removal of a short-term veteran captain while at the same time offering those young players a sort of trial run. It also stresses group leadership and allows the coach to reward especially compelling performances. With the five players named above, plus Nick Schultz and Ladislav Smid there seems to be no shortage of potential candidates for such a system, and unlike in Minnesota it would be a run with a definite end date – after one season, doubtless the choice for the permanent captaincy would be clearer.

I don’t expect the Oilers to go this route, but it wouldn’t bother me in the least if they did.

Recently around the Nation Network

At Canucks Army, the very funny Graphic Comments asks what the problem is with Tony Gallagher calling Roberto Luongo a diva:

I mean, really, doesn't every team want their starting goalie to be a highly distinguished performer that plays a leading role for them? Yes, but the Canucks are the only ones that can ice a goalie of Italian heritage, thereby making the "diva" label highly appropriate.

Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 MessyEH!
August 29 2013, 04:19PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Jonathon :

You present the captaincy as still undecided.

Wanye presented it as fact that gagner will get the C.

Are you disagreeing with Wanye? And if so, why not say so above?

No one I have ever met has openly disagreed with Wayne. I figure it's cause theys be dead. All hail Wayne.

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#52 Trentonl
August 29 2013, 04:22PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Let me get this straight you are saying no to Ference because he will be "be a buyout candidate by the end of his contract" in say 3-4 years. Then you mentioned Smyth as a choice. No matter how much one loved Smyth he will be gone long before Ference.

I am saying choose Hall/Gagner. If they are too young in mgmt eyes then choose Smyth for this year and maybe one more if he plays another, then pass it to Hall. Ference will be dead weight by the end of his contract. Remember how it was to have Ethan Moreau as captain near the end....

I don't care if Smyth is captain for one season even, just a better pick then having Ference in his inevitable bad seasons.

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#53 Serious Gord
August 29 2013, 04:25PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

You don't want to know what happens when you disagree with Wanye

*Thinks about the time he disagreed with Wanye...goes back to sucking thumb in fetal position*

There are four possibilities: (please correct me if I am wrong)

Wanye:

1. Is exagerating (aka lying about) the sureness of the informant(s) who told him gagner will be captain.

2. 's informant(s) lied to him.

3. fabricated it from whole cloth (iow flat out lied)

4. was told the truth and the decision to make gagner the captain has been made.

The tone of jonathons post would indicate he thinks its one of the top three options. IOW someone is lying - either Wanye or wanye's informant(s).

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#54 The Soup Fascist
August 29 2013, 04:34PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

There are four possibilities: (please correct me if I am wrong)

Wanye:

1. Is exagerating (aka lying about) the sureness of the informant(s) who told him gagner will be captain.

2. 's informant(s) lied to him.

3. fabricated it from whole cloth (iow flat out lied)

4. was told the truth and the decision to make gagner the captain has been made.

The tone of jonathons post would indicate he thinks its one of the top three options. IOW someone is lying - either Wanye or wanye's informant(s).

Dude, you are way too serious.

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#55 The Soup Fascist
August 29 2013, 04:39PM
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MessyEH! wrote:

No one I have ever met has openly disagreed with Wayne. I figure it's cause theys be dead. All hail Wayne.

Another way to be sleeping with the fishes .....

Making the mistake of calling WANYE, WAYNE.

Nice knowing you, MessyEH!.

*Whistles nervously and hopes Wanye does not think he actually knows MessyEH!.

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#56 freelancer
August 29 2013, 04:51PM
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Trentonl wrote:

I am saying choose Hall/Gagner. If they are too young in mgmt eyes then choose Smyth for this year and maybe one more if he plays another, then pass it to Hall. Ference will be dead weight by the end of his contract. Remember how it was to have Ethan Moreau as captain near the end....

I don't care if Smyth is captain for one season even, just a better pick then having Ference in his inevitable bad seasons.

The contradictions here are fantastic

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#57 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
August 29 2013, 04:53PM
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Letz all Hail Wanye!

Master of the Interwebs.

I don't wanna die.

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#58 Dangilitis
August 29 2013, 04:56PM
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@MessyEH!

Last time the Oilers had those odds of winning the Cup, it was 05-06 season. I know, because my friend bought me a $10 ticket in October when he was in Vegas (for the record, I was more choked that the team lost than the fact that I had already spent the extra $300 in my head)... So another deep run in the playoffs would be fantastic, DSF. I get your point about public opinoin, but that's why the games are played.

A lot of pundits said the Oil were going to do a lot better last year, which was way premature. Maybe they don't want to make a risky be again, but Etem, Silfverberg, Smyth-Pelley, Palmieri, Holland, Marroon and Vatanen are just as risky. Losing Selanne and Souray, and needing Cogliano and Koivu to be as good as last year is also unlikely.

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#59 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 29 2013, 05:01PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Dude, you are way too serious.

Dude, it's right there in his name....

No soup for you!

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#60 The Soup Fascist
August 29 2013, 05:05PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

Dude, it's right there in his name....

No soup for you!

Thanks for pointing that out, Old Retired Guy. That tidbit of irony was lost on me. What are you - old or something? ;^)

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#61 Where's Your Towel
August 29 2013, 05:06PM
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Those of you who live in Edmonton (I don't or I would have done this by now), go meet up with @Ferknuckle for one of his #NovProject workouts and let me know if you still think he'll be dead weight at the end of his contract.

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#62 Serious Gord
August 29 2013, 05:06PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Dude, you are way too serious.

Dude - we are talking about multi-million dollar egos here. Asserting something as fact in regard to them is a serious thing.

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#63 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 29 2013, 05:11PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Thanks for pointing that out, Old Retired Guy. That tidbit of irony was lost on me. What are you - old or something? ;^)

I'd be willing to change my name to Ancient Retired Guy...or Too Old To Catch the Sarcasm Guy.......if Gord would be willing to change his name to Way Too Serious Gord!

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#64 The Soup Fascist
August 29 2013, 05:12PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Dude - we are talking about multi-million dollar egos here. Asserting something as fact in regard to them is a serious thing.

Just so I am clear, whose multi-million dollar ego are we talking about? Gagner's, Hall's, Willis' or Wanye's.

Because last time I saw Wanye he was living on Ichiban noodles cooked on a hotplate and Keystone Beer. Not that there is anything wrong with that .....

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#65 The Soup Fascist
August 29 2013, 05:16PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

I'd be willing to change my name to Ancient Retired Guy...or Too Old To Catch the Sarcasm Guy.......if Gord would be willing to change his name to Way Too Serious Gord!

In fairness I should have highlighted the word SERIOUS, but I am too dumb to figure out fonts or bolding on this site and if I capitalize, PEOPLE THINK I AM YELLING!

And frankly I am too lazy to use the little wavy line thingamajig.

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#66 Where's Your Towel
August 29 2013, 05:16PM
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I hadn't considered 89 as Captain until Wanye's article. Once you consider it, it *does* make some sense.

I really expected Ference to end up as the Captain. He seems to mesh with Coach Eakins mindset pretty well and I fully expect he'll be in Chelios shape at the end of his contract if his rep and apparent personality are even half true.

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#67 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 29 2013, 05:23PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

In fairness I should have highlighted the word SERIOUS, but I am too dumb to figure out fonts or bolding on this site and if I capitalize, PEOPLE THINK I AM YELLING!

And frankly I am too lazy to use the little wavy line thingamajig.

Now wait! Is this sarcasm?!?...cause Fascists don't typically care about fairness and explaining themselves....

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#68 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 29 2013, 05:24PM
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And PLEASE....stop yelling...just cause I'm old doesn't mean I'm deaf!

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#69 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 29 2013, 05:27PM
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Now back to trashing Gagner.......I think Gagner should be Captain because Frodo is the KEY to the rings!

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#70 The Soup Fascist
August 29 2013, 05:33PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

Now wait! Is this sarcasm?!?...cause Fascists don't typically care about fairness and explaining themselves....

I am only an autocratic autoritarian when it comes to French Onion, Mulagatani and Chicken Noodle soups as well as Seinfeld trivia. Otherwise I am pretty (small "l") liberal in my thinking.

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#71 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 29 2013, 05:37PM
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But seriously, and I'm not being sarcastic, I'm trying to understand your argument Gord.

From listening to what you had to say on 1260 and your posts here, and please correct me if I'm wrong or missing the point....you're asserting that Wanye is blowing smoke...and you are concerned that his starting this rumour about the captaincy will lead to a ground swell of support for the idea...to the point where Oilers management will cave to the pressure of public sentiment and as a result, name Gagner as the next Captain of the Oil?

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#72 MessyEH!
August 29 2013, 05:47PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Another way to be sleeping with the fishes .....

Making the mistake of calling WANYE, WAYNE.

Nice knowing you, MessyEH!.

*Whistles nervously and hopes Wanye does not think he actually knows MessyEH!.

*Gulps nervously* Pacing back and forth he has only one thought. "Heres hoping Wanye is disgusted by the smell of a grown mans urine."

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#73 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 29 2013, 05:52PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

I am only an autocratic autoritarian when it comes to French Onion, Mulagatani and Chicken Noodle soups as well as Seinfeld trivia. Otherwise I am pretty (small "l") liberal in my thinking.

*in his best Homer Simpson voice*

Mmmmmmmmmmmm.....Mulagataniiiiiiiiiiiii.........

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#74 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 29 2013, 05:58PM
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The reason I think this topic is so devisive is because there is an element of the Oilers fan base that like or love Gagner and would like to see him rewarded .....and there's the other, albeit smaller, element that would like to see Gagner traded for "the big center"......and if they give Gags the C......he won't be part of that trade.

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#75 Freewheeling Freddie
August 29 2013, 06:00PM
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It only makes sense that Gagne would be the next captain because our captains always get traded. Someone has told me the Oilers thought of having a playing coach just like Bobby Hull and JC Tremblay . Also Yak for captain.

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#76 Pucker
August 29 2013, 06:04PM
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Training camp can't come too soon.

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#77 BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull
August 29 2013, 07:08PM
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The last couple of days of August are a wash with "man the summer is over." but on the other hand the fun is just about to begin. "mega stoked" With the young talent and Eakins passion for commitment this should be fun. As for a Captain I will pick the hardest worker and a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, Married to a local girl and has always given 100%

Vlad Smid

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#78 Quicksilver ballet
August 29 2013, 07:24PM
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Instead of players handing out a cap/hat of some sort, or a silly jacket for an unsung hero of the game award. Why not give the chosen player of the game the C for the next game? Put some punch behind that award for the first couple months of the season/till a full time one is appointed by Dallas Eakins. Maybe now's the time to focus on effort/winning rather than irrelevant humour.

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#79 The Last Big Bear
August 29 2013, 08:56PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Instead of players handing out a cap/hat of some sort, or a silly jacket for an unsung hero of the game award. Why not give the chosen player of the game the C for the next game? Put some punch behind that award for the first couple months of the season/till a full time one is appointed by Dallas Eakins. Maybe now's the time to focus on effort/winning rather than irrelevant humour.

That is a highly unorthodox idea, but I honestly kind of like the sound of it.

I'm seriously tempted to try this with my men's league team.

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#80 Walter Sobchak
August 29 2013, 09:02PM
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Hall should be captain.

That is all.

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#81 Devolution
August 29 2013, 11:13PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

That is a highly unorthodox idea, but I honestly kind of like the sound of it.

I'm seriously tempted to try this with my men's league team.

The only problem with this approach, or any rotating captain approach, is that the captains duties are just not on the ice. I don't know how much, but there are duties to the league, player's association, etc. and it doesn't make sense to have people constantly rotating.

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#82 Serious Gord
August 29 2013, 11:21PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

But seriously, and I'm not being sarcastic, I'm trying to understand your argument Gord.

From listening to what you had to say on 1260 and your posts here, and please correct me if I'm wrong or missing the point....you're asserting that Wanye is blowing smoke...and you are concerned that his starting this rumour about the captaincy will lead to a ground swell of support for the idea...to the point where Oilers management will cave to the pressure of public sentiment and as a result, name Gagner as the next Captain of the Oil?

That's pretty much it. As I posted on Wanye's original thread, I think gagner would be a disaster for several reasons with the impact on hall being the most significant.

By possibly portraying gagner's captaincy as fact Wanye could be doing serious damage to the team.

If it is indeed fact, then MacT et al are bigger screw ups than even I thought they were. I truly do think that oil fans need to be vocal about what a bad idea this is - if Wanye is relaying the facts then maybe an uproar can reverse it.

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#83 Serious Gord
August 29 2013, 11:26PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

The reason I think this topic is so devisive is because there is an element of the Oilers fan base that like or love Gagner and would like to see him rewarded .....and there's the other, albeit smaller, element that would like to see Gagner traded for "the big center"......and if they give Gags the C......he won't be part of that trade.

Pretty accurate from where I sit. (That and I think giving gagner the c send the wrong message to the franchise player)

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#84 Reg Dunlop
August 30 2013, 12:07AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Pretty accurate from where I sit. (That and I think giving gagner the c send the wrong message to the franchise player)

Which franchise player are you referring to?

I am sure you mean Hall but my point is why wouldn't RNH or Ebs potentially feel slighted by being bypassed? Maybe by inferring that Hall is THE franchise player you could be unleashing a train of events that results in Huge demanding a trade to a team that appreciates him.

When does training camp start?

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#85 Quicksilver ballet
August 30 2013, 02:46AM
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Devolution wrote:

The only problem with this approach, or any rotating captain approach, is that the captains duties are just not on the ice. I don't know how much, but there are duties to the league, player's association, etc. and it doesn't make sense to have people constantly rotating.

In this day and age, where there's 3 support types for every one player on staff, I think these duties have been distributed to support staff whenever possible. Some things may still hinge on player input, but many of these mundane duties can be delegated to the support staffs.

I'm not speaking from experience of course, but teams go to great lengths to allow players to focus solely on on ice issues/duties.

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#86 Pucker
August 30 2013, 12:53PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

That is a highly unorthodox idea, but I honestly kind of like the sound of it.

I'm seriously tempted to try this with my men's league team.

I coach young kids and find this very effective.

Wouldn't work with The Oiler's but it's great for kids.

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#87 Spydyr
August 30 2013, 01:46PM
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Trentonl wrote:

I am saying choose Hall/Gagner. If they are too young in mgmt eyes then choose Smyth for this year and maybe one more if he plays another, then pass it to Hall. Ference will be dead weight by the end of his contract. Remember how it was to have Ethan Moreau as captain near the end....

I don't care if Smyth is captain for one season even, just a better pick then having Ference in his inevitable bad seasons.

Smyth is in inevitable bad seasons right now.It is sad and hard to watch such a great warrior running down.

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#88 Big Dummy
August 30 2013, 07:24PM
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But think of the poor bastards in charge of stitching on another "C" for every game. Give them a raise!

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#89 gcw_rocks
August 31 2013, 10:51AM
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This is a team that hired its last two head coaches and it's current GM without conducting a proper search. Why should we expect anything different in selecting a captain?

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