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:

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Smokey
August 29 2013, 09:48AM
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Just Hall or Ebs. New article please.

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#2 oilbaron
August 29 2013, 10:04AM
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I love how every oilers fan and their mother has an opinion on who should be the captain, and how so many think Hall will be offended if he isn't named captain.

This team isn't exactly loaded with veterans, and thus it is a bit of a unique situation. With so many young guns, it is obvious that most of them can lead, a letter on a jersey won't change that fact.

Personally I would like to see anyone but hall named captain just because it would offend everyone (except the actual OILERS) so much

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#3 extroy
August 29 2013, 10:04AM
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Does it matter who the captain is in August? Rotating for a year does not seem like a bad idea to me. Let Smyth have the first stint, after that let each player earn it. No rush and by the end of the year it should be clear who owns the captaincy.

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#4 Ari Gold
August 29 2013, 10:08AM
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A coach needs to consider what the captaincy will do to a young, maturing player. I honestly think that Hall, Ebs, Nuge & Yak need to concentrate on their offensive development, Eakins will take care of the 200 foot player parts. This is why I think Gags is a great candidate, as he needs to develop in many areas besides offensive output. The captaincy would turn in into a complete player. The other kids aren't ready or are inappropriate chorines.

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#5 madjam
August 29 2013, 10:21AM
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It's Gagner . Hall to volatile and Eberle to passive - thus more veteran Gagner eakes in .

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#6 Spydyr
August 29 2013, 10:35AM
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So you're saying be like Tambo and assess the situation for a year or two? Have we not had enough of trying to run things by doing nothing. I know I have.

Not my choice of the way to go.As you mentioned unless you are an insider you are just guessing. That being said, my guess would be Ference or Smid.

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#7 trentonl
August 29 2013, 10:39AM
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Ference will be a buyout candidate by the end of his contract. Huge mistake to pick him.

If not Gagner or Hall then Smyth should be the placeholder till one is ready.

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#8 Sanaa Montana
August 29 2013, 10:40AM
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If Gagner is named captain, then, Omark needs to be one of his assistants.

Only reason the Oilers would name Gagner captain is because they wouldn't want to choose between the four kids who run the team and the team belongs to.

Captains are leaders, Gagner is a fortunate son.

"The skilled can fill their people with energy to confront the emptiness of others, while the incompetent drain their people in face of the fullness of others." Since Gagner joined the Oilers. they have done nothing but sucked. Gagner didn't fill anyone with hope, nor did he make any of his teammates better.

Gagner is not a leader, never has been. He never took a game over in the 7 years he's been on the Oilers. He only performs when he's got a line to ride on. On his own Gagner is average at best.

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#9 northof51
August 29 2013, 10:46AM
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@Sanaa Montana

8 points, 1 game.

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#10 Batfink
August 29 2013, 10:46AM
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Sanaa Montana wrote:

If Gagner is named captain, then, Omark needs to be one of his assistants.

Only reason the Oilers would name Gagner captain is because they wouldn't want to choose between the four kids who run the team and the team belongs to.

Captains are leaders, Gagner is a fortunate son.

"The skilled can fill their people with energy to confront the emptiness of others, while the incompetent drain their people in face of the fullness of others." Since Gagner joined the Oilers. they have done nothing but sucked. Gagner didn't fill anyone with hope, nor did he make any of his teammates better.

Gagner is not a leader, never has been. He never took a game over in the 7 years he's been on the Oilers. He only performs when he's got a line to ride on. On his own Gagner is average at best.

*sigh* Is this you DSF? 8pts v Chicago?

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#11 Batfink
August 29 2013, 10:47AM
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northof51 wrote:

8 points, 1 game.

lol, beat me to it!

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#12 Sanaa Montana
August 29 2013, 10:50AM
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Batfink wrote:

lol, beat me to it!

Don't worry. Go ahead, mention it again.

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#13 dano
August 29 2013, 10:52AM
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It would be funny if they gave the captaincy to one player for a certain amount of games for the season, say 20, therefore having 4 captains throughout the year.

Further they could put a stipulation that whichever player had the best record as captain for their 20 game stint would become the permanent captain.

Not a great measure of leadership, but it would be mighty entertaining...

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#14 David S
August 29 2013, 10:55AM
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Sanaa Montana wrote:

If Gagner is named captain, then, Omark needs to be one of his assistants.

Only reason the Oilers would name Gagner captain is because they wouldn't want to choose between the four kids who run the team and the team belongs to.

Captains are leaders, Gagner is a fortunate son.

"The skilled can fill their people with energy to confront the emptiness of others, while the incompetent drain their people in face of the fullness of others." Since Gagner joined the Oilers. they have done nothing but sucked. Gagner didn't fill anyone with hope, nor did he make any of his teammates better.

Gagner is not a leader, never has been. He never took a game over in the 7 years he's been on the Oilers. He only performs when he's got a line to ride on. On his own Gagner is average at best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWruORVacD8

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#15 Batfink
August 29 2013, 10:56AM
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Sanaa Montana wrote:

Don't worry. Go ahead, mention it again.

8pts v Chicago?

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#16 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
August 29 2013, 11:02AM
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Sanaa Montana wrote:

If Gagner is named captain, then, Omark needs to be one of his assistants.

Only reason the Oilers would name Gagner captain is because they wouldn't want to choose between the four kids who run the team and the team belongs to.

Captains are leaders, Gagner is a fortunate son.

"The skilled can fill their people with energy to confront the emptiness of others, while the incompetent drain their people in face of the fullness of others." Since Gagner joined the Oilers. they have done nothing but sucked. Gagner didn't fill anyone with hope, nor did he make any of his teammates better.

Gagner is not a leader, never has been. He never took a game over in the 7 years he's been on the Oilers. He only performs when he's got a line to ride on. On his own Gagner is average at best.

gosh, must be nice to be around the team and in the room.

or, are you trying to determine leadership qualities by watching the games on Sportsnet?

Fact is, none of us have any clue what happens in the room. Gagner could be developing into the type of guy behind the scenes that could captain material.

I will defer to the guys that, you know, are around the team all the time and have played the game to know what a "leader" is.

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#17 Spydyr
August 29 2013, 11:19AM
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trentonl wrote:

Ference will be a buyout candidate by the end of his contract. Huge mistake to pick him.

If not Gagner or Hall then Smyth should be the placeholder till one is ready.

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.

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#18 Spydyr
August 29 2013, 11:20AM
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Batfink wrote:

8pts v Chicago?

Lowe has six rings. Means about as much.

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#19 Batfink
August 29 2013, 11:26AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Lowe has six rings. Means about as much.

I believe the qualifier for the statement was "Gagner is not a leader, never has been. He never took a game over in the 7 years he's been on the Oilers." Please include the context. Lowe was in a diatribe about his hockey knowledge. To my knowledge, Sam has never blown his own trumpet about that night.

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#20 Paukl
August 29 2013, 11:30AM
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@Batfink

Or that time he stripped the Vancouver D of the puck and danced past the entire Canucks line to make Luongo look completely silly...or that time he, Penner, and Hemsky combined for 13 points on the night...you know....those times. I don't get why people think he doesn't do anything to lead. Just because he's not potting 5 goals a night and being loud on the bench doesn't mean he has zero leadership qualities.

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#21 Tim in Kelowna
August 29 2013, 11:30AM
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For me, statistical performance is the least important factor in choosing a captain. If your best player is truly the best candidate for the captaincy then that's just a bonus.

I'm more concerned about how he inspires, supports and motivates his teammates, and how he represents the team in the media and around town. By this metric, I would choose Gagner or Ference.

Choosing Hall because he is our most dynamic player makes no sense to me.

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#22 Zamboni Driver
August 29 2013, 11:36AM
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Gagner - "Hey new third-line centre guy."

What'shisface - "What?"

Gagner - "Gotta start pulling your weight better."

New Guy - "Hey Cap, STFU, win a face-off and figure out who your man is in our end."

Gagner - "I had EIGHT POINTS IN ONE GAME."

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#23 WhattaMike
August 29 2013, 11:49AM
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IMO, I would say there are two right choices here, at this time even though I also agree there is no rush for a new permanent Oiler captain yet as well.

The first type choice...is that it would be right to offer Ference the captaincy while with him knowing he would be this for about 2 yrs. He, in effect, would then be perfect to lead the team while also give mentoring to any one and/or all... of the kids...Hall, Eberle, or RNH.

The other right type choice is to give it to Hall now as he is definitely the strongest new leader. He has put in the time (3 yrs already), he's a leader in team scoring, he shows up every night, and he deals with the media excellently before and after games, etc.

Although Gagner would not be a bad or wrong choice, his contract issues with the Oilers as to being here long term are not yet secured and to give it to him then suddenly he is traded does not make sense. I would give him an "A" if Hall is promoted.

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#24 Batfink
August 29 2013, 11:58AM
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@Tim in Kelowna

I agree. Gator, Moreau, Horcoff prove this and this is just the Oilers. Look around the league. Ovie is only now finding his feet as skipper. Crosby is a cry baby. Landeskog? WTF? Sedin? Now I'm snorting my milk down my nose trying not to laugh. But then there's guys like Toews, Chara, Alfie to name a few.

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#25 oilersnation
August 29 2013, 12:11PM
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Spydyr wrote:

So you're saying be like Tambo and assess the situation for a year or two? Have we not had enough of trying to run things by doing nothing. I know I have.

Not my choice of the way to go.As you mentioned unless you are an insider you are just guessing. That being said, my guess would be Ference or Smid.

so is sam the captian

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#26 DSF
August 29 2013, 12:11PM
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The bookies are speaking:

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Kings 3/2

Vancouver Canucks 3/1

Anaheim Ducks 9/2

San Jose Sharks 19/4

Edmonton Oilers 7/1

Phoenix Coyotes 16/1

Calgary Flames 30/1

http://kuklaskorner.com/hockey/comments/division-odds

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#27 Czar
August 29 2013, 12:16PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

gosh, must be nice to be around the team and in the room.

or, are you trying to determine leadership qualities by watching the games on Sportsnet?

Fact is, none of us have any clue what happens in the room. Gagner could be developing into the type of guy behind the scenes that could captain material.

I will defer to the guys that, you know, are around the team all the time and have played the game to know what a "leader" is.

Might be a second tier fan but that's a first rate opinion.

Or as spyder said "unless you are an insider you are just guessing."

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#29 Eddie Shore
August 29 2013, 12:21PM
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@DSF

Bookies also had the Blue Jays favoured to win the World Series.

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#30 Batfink
August 29 2013, 12:22PM
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Just watching TSN and it looks as if they might know that they've come across as a bit 'anti-oiler' and are placating us by saying J-Shultz has a shot at Olympics.

Now, I drink every flavour of Kool-Aid the oilers sell, but even I know that he would have to score at least 2pts a game, have a +/- of +50 and probably post a .950 save percent for this to happen. Just admit you're wrong and say Hall has a good shot will ya?

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#31 Oilers need Ogie Ogilthorpe!
August 29 2013, 12:24PM
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Sanaa Montana wrote:

If Gagner is named captain, then, Omark needs to be one of his assistants.

Only reason the Oilers would name Gagner captain is because they wouldn't want to choose between the four kids who run the team and the team belongs to.

Captains are leaders, Gagner is a fortunate son.

"The skilled can fill their people with energy to confront the emptiness of others, while the incompetent drain their people in face of the fullness of others." Since Gagner joined the Oilers. they have done nothing but sucked. Gagner didn't fill anyone with hope, nor did he make any of his teammates better.

Gagner is not a leader, never has been. He never took a game over in the 7 years he's been on the Oilers. He only performs when he's got a line to ride on. On his own Gagner is average at best.

Everybody else took care of the most obvious problem here, so what about 'filling anyone with hope'?

Am I the only one who remembers a pretty exciting rookie season, some sweet shoot out goals and some big nights with (unanimously adored) Hemsky and Penner? When I saw Gags playing as the youngest player in the league (not positive on that one) I was certain we'd be right back in the playoffs, and we wouldn't even need to boo our former #44

On another note; if you have 7 captains, you have 0 captains. I hate the rotating captains idea, but as others have pointed out, I don't know the locker-room dynamics. I hope someone emrges, and Hall looks like the guy from my perspective, as the clear leader. Someone who brings it in the gym and at every practice. Someone who sets the bar high for performance in training, and has the credibility to hold teammates accountable when they are not pushing themselves at all times. It's my understanding that that's what led the Red Wings to be so successful for so long.

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#33 David S
August 29 2013, 12:30PM
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Zamboni Driver wrote:

Gagner - "Hey new third-line centre guy."

What'shisface - "What?"

Gagner - "Gotta start pulling your weight better."

New Guy - "Hey Cap, STFU, win a face-off and figure out who your man is in our end."

Gagner - "I had EIGHT POINTS IN ONE GAME."

Gagner - (Motions to the room with circling finger)..."Boys"

(Entire team surrounds "new guy")

Gagner - "Now we can do this the easy way...or the hard way. Doesn't matter to me."

New Guy - "Man I gotta start pulling my weight around here."

Gagner - "What was that? I didn't hear you!"

New Guy - "SIR YES SIR! I GOTTA PULL MY WEIGHT AROUND HERE."

Gagner - "That's what I though you said. Ladi, you can let him down now."

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#34 DSF
August 29 2013, 12:31PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Seems relatively reasonable.

They're higher on the Ducks than I'd be comfortable with. Or, rather, they're comfortable that the Ducks will look like enough of a steal for people to bet on them.

I'm surprised they have the Ducks ahead of San jose but otherwise it seems reasonable.

A lot will depend on how well the Ducks young guys Etem, Silfverberg, Smyth-Pelley, Palmieri, Holland, Marroon and Vatanen play.

That's a lot of relative inexperience but they are very good prospects.

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#35 velo
August 29 2013, 12:50PM
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Ference all the way. Great leader on the ice and off. Come to @Nov_ProjectCAN and see for your self.

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#36 Spydyr
August 29 2013, 12:59PM
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Batfink wrote:

I believe the qualifier for the statement was "Gagner is not a leader, never has been. He never took a game over in the 7 years he's been on the Oilers." Please include the context. Lowe was in a diatribe about his hockey knowledge. To my knowledge, Sam has never blown his own trumpet about that night.

Nope what the qualifier is winning six rings means so much more than getting 8 points in a regular season game.

You know what getting 8 points in a regular season game amounts to? Two points in the standing on a team that ended as a lotto pick. Big picture other than it being a shiny bauble it means next to nothing. Six Cup rings or a 8 point game what would you rather have?

Moving forward to today ,the past is the past, what you do next game is what really matters.

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#37 Batfink
August 29 2013, 01:03PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I had the same thought when I saw Justin Schultz listed there. He might not make Team BC, let alone Team Canada.

Yes, I've no doubt Jnr will be a very good, possibly great player at NHL and international level, but he's not there. Not yet.....

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#38 AGuy
August 29 2013, 01:11PM
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Rotating for a year is just implying to the team that "we don't have an identity, yet". I'm not really in favour, and I think the team should do the harder thing, and pin-point a captain, the right captain, right now - in camp.

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#39 WILDTHING
August 29 2013, 01:18PM
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Eakins is the one making the choice. He is new to the team and has never seen any of the players in a team atmosphere. I personally think there is no rush. There is more to captaincy than just wearing a "C". He has to do the extra curricular activities like plan the functions, team meetings, be respected between his peers and act as a liaison between the players and the coaches. (Which may not be what one of the kids needs right now). As a fan it really should not matter to us who wears the "C" (unless you are a 10yr old) as none of us are privy to what actually does go on between the players themselves. See Horcoff, Moreau, Buchberger, Smith, MacT and Fogolin.

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#40 Larry
August 29 2013, 01:19PM
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I don't think to many of us bloggers spend much time in the oil dressing room. Let the coach decide.

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#41 Senator Theo
August 29 2013, 01:21PM
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I don't really care who gets names captain. I don't think it should make that much difference to fans.

Hall is a great choice for obvious reasons, Ference too for that matter.

Sam also great qualities that you want in a leader. It also doesn't hurt that he can score anywhere between 0 and 8 points per game.

What's most important is that the players buy in to whomever is named.

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#42 Spydyr
August 29 2013, 01:42PM
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Larry wrote:

I don't think to many of us bloggers spend much time in the oil dressing room. Let the coach decide.

Really, I expected Eakins to contact each and every one of us for our opinions.

It is the dog days of summer let the diehard fans have a bit of fun.

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#43 NJ
August 29 2013, 01:47PM
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A couple things to consider: age is irrelevant if the leadership qualities have shown through in the past. Some players lead by example, others verbally. Crosby was a spoiled brat around the time he became a captain, I would suggest, because of his play on the ice. The sight of Hall bursting by a defense and snapping a goal is an inspiring sight and he plays hard. Toews: quiet leadership, inspiring play. Eberle has always been clutch, he always wants on the ice in pressure moments, a leader. I would also suggest that goin with old balls Smyth or Ference would be a mistake as it reminds me of Vinny Lecavalier and Alfredson. Smyth is done this year. It makes 0 sense.

Verbally: it's hard to say who could be the verbal leader simply because we don't know the locker room, or any locker room, but speaking from personal experience, it's always been more inspiring as a player to have someone go play his heart out, then run his mouth off and not put out on the ice.

I don't mind Gagner as the choice based on what I've heard about his work ethic and watching him drop the mitts makes me spill beverages all over my lap in my excitement to get on my feet. Not that my choice is being considered, darn you Dallas Eakins.

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#44 Buke
August 29 2013, 01:53PM
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Ari Gold wrote:

A coach needs to consider what the captaincy will do to a young, maturing player. I honestly think that Hall, Ebs, Nuge & Yak need to concentrate on their offensive development, Eakins will take care of the 200 foot player parts. This is why I think Gags is a great candidate, as he needs to develop in many areas besides offensive output. The captaincy would turn in into a complete player. The other kids aren't ready or are inappropriate chorines.

Let me get this straight...giving the captaincy to Gagner will improve his faceoffs and defensive awareness?

Man, someone should have given Peckham the 'C' so that he would come to camp in shape!

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#45 Czar
August 29 2013, 02:04PM
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With all the 8 point night talk you'd think Paul Coffey's name would have been mentioned as well.It's something a player will look back on after his carreer is over and appreciate. What it has to do with selecting a captain I'm not sure.

Oilers finish ahead of the Ducks, book it.

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#46 MessyEH!
August 29 2013, 02:21PM
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http://www.vegasinsider.com/nhl/odds/futures/

Pittsburgh Penguins5/1

Chicago Blackhawks6/1

Boston Bruins9/1

St. Louis Blues10/1

Los Angeles Kings12/1

Vancouver Canucks12/1

Detroit Red Wings14/1

New York Rangers14/1

San Jose Sharks16/1

Montreal Canadiens20/1

Anaheim Ducks20/1

Toronto Maple Leafs25/1

Ottawa Senators30/1

Edmonton Oilers30/1

New York Islanders30/1

Washington Capitals30/1

Columbus Blue Jackets40/1

Philadelphia Flyers40/1

New Jersey Devils40/1

Carolina Hurricanes40/1

Minnesota Wild40/1

I agree with this list more then your DSF. Especialy the Oilers ahead of Minny.

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#47 mayorblaine
August 29 2013, 03:42PM
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if we truly lived by the words "none of us spend any time in the locker room" then what the heck are we even discussing anything, anytime.

that's stupid saying. have an opinion. stick with it/change it, no matter just stop saying that. it's just dumb.

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#48 Serious Gord
August 29 2013, 03:47PM
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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?

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#49 The Soup Fascist
August 29 2013, 04:05PM
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I think it should be just like many minor hockey teams. Coach's kid is captain, gets to wear #9 (sorry Andy), and is 1st line centre.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 14th Captain in Oiler's history .......

WILL ACTON!!!!

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#50 Wäx Män Riley
August 29 2013, 04:05PM
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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?

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*

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