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 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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#52 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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#54 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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#55 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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#56 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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#57 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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#58 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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#59 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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#60 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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#61 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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#62 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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#63 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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#64 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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#65 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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#66 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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#67 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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#68 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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#69 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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#70 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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#71 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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#72 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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#73 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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#74 Wax Man 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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#75 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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#76 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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#77 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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#78 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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#79 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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#80 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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#81 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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#82 Pucker
August 29 2013, 06:04PM
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Training camp can't come too soon.

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#83 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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#84 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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#85 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
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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