Why the Rush?

Jason Strudwick
August 07 2013 11:57AM

It has been a few years since the Edmonton Oilers have had to select a new captain. Shawn Horcoff was the obvious choice after Ethan Moreau left. He had been here his whole career and was at the right age to assume the captaincy.

An Easy Choice

When you consider the raw hand that Horcoff was dealt during his time as captain I think he did a pretty good job. He could not control the incredible number of injuries that hammered the team or the strength of the team compared to the rest of the league.

He played hard each night. I always was impressed by his commitment to conditioning. He is the type of player that understands how important spending time in the gym is during the season. When you are losing many players lose interest in doing the extra gym time that is required but his commitment to that was solid. It was a good thing for the newer players to witness.

Win or lose he was always there to stand in front of the media. He was well spoken and understood that as captain it is part of the job to give the media his time and sound bits. I wouldn't imagine it was always fun taking bullets for the rest of the team but that role comes with the "C".

After Moreau left the Oilers, picking a captain for the head coach was pretty easy. Tom Renney was the new head coach for the Oilers but he had been the associate coach under Pat Quinn the year before. He had intimate knowledge of what was going on inside the Oilers dressing room. He knew how each player worked, listened and could possibly lead. He had been studying and watching for a whole season.

A Hard Decision

With Horcoff having been traded this off season the Oilers need a new captain. I don't think it will be so easy this time for new Oiler head coach Dallas Eakins.

Eakins is a first time NHL head coach. He has done everything right to get to this point in his coaching career. He had great coaches when he was a player with many of them influencing his coaching style. He also has coached at different levels and in different roles to get to this point, coaching the Oilers.

But... he doesn't know any of the core players in the Oilers dressing room. They are all new to him. New Oilers GM Craig Mactavish has said the selection of the new captain will be left up to Eakins.

How do you walk into the NHL as a new coach and pick a captain before the season starts? You don't. I don't think Eakins should name a captain until he has had time to get to know his team.

Imagine walking into a room full of twenty five people you don't know and in two weeks having to select the leader of those people. Very tough.

If Eakins can turn this group of players into the type of team he talks about Eakins could be here in Edmonton for quite a few years. That means the captain he chooses will be his partner for those years as well. This is a decision that he wants to get right.

I know that the same assistants are coming back to support Eakins along with Keith Acton. They could give him their input but as the new coach do you want to base you choice for captain on someone else's opinion?

Why rush it?

An NHL captain should help his coach promote the style of play the coach is laying out for the team. The captain is a conduit between the players and the coaches. Is important that the coach trust his captain one hundred percent.

You can get to know a player/person through off ice meetings. I bet Eakins has met with some of the core players for the Oilers since his hiring. He wants to get to know them and them him before the season starts. But those types of meetings are always fun and easy in the summer.

After those types of meeting I expect Eakins to know Taylor Hall's goals for the season or Eberle's family story but he has no idea how those two or any of his players will react in a very tough game. Or how they will deal with a slump or injury. Or how they will react to a super-hot streak or someone else's hot streak.

These types of actual "in season" situations are impossible to replicate during the off season.

So I come back to the point of this whole article. How can a Eakins be expected to pick a the new captain for the Oilers when he doesn't know the type of captain this team needs or the type of people inside his locker room? He can't.

I think Eakins should announce the first day of camp that he will delay making his choice for captain. He should say he wants to study the group and the individuals so that he can make the right choice for the long term.

I would have no issue with the decision taking till Christmas or beyond. I played on a New York Ranger team that didn't have a captain all season. We all knew Jagr was the captain but he didn't want it on his jersey. We made the playoffs and the dressing room was a strong one.

The choice was so obvious there, it isn't as clear for the Oilers. Give it time Eakins, get it right. Don't rush a decision.

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#51 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
August 07 2013, 01:46PM
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@oldhippy

I think your comparison to Mario is a little off, because he was given the captaincy when he was the best player on the ice. Additionally, taking the captaincy away from a player has a much different connotation than never giving it to them.

I think the best way to describe my position would be to draw an analogy to the business world.

Imagine two employees are being considered for the same managerial position in a company. One is 2-3 years away from retirement and has been a faithful employee for 30 years, and the other has been with the company for 5-10 years, but has the potential to be the future CEO if he maintains his current career trajectory. It is important to acknowledge the older employee's contributions to the company, but if you are making a business decision you have to consider two primary issues:

1) Is the impending retirement of the older employee a potential detriment to the company (ie. lack of continuity)

2) Which employee is able to effectively connect with their direct reports to ensure that they meet their potential

With respect to issue 1, I'd say it's dangerous to downplay the importance of continuity. How do you think the revolving door of head coaches has affected this team?

With respect to issue 2, Gen Y is probably the least likely generation in 100 years to follow a leader because of their prior contributions. Speaking as someone who was born in the mid-'80s, I can tell you that I'm motivated by leaders who garner respect by doing their job well, rather than pointing to their resume.

Disclaimer: There are obviously several more considerations in hiring, but these are the two that best fit the analogy I was making.

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#52 Ron Burgundy
August 07 2013, 01:47PM
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csaw84 wrote:

You gotta think that Gagner might be in the mix. You can say all you want about his size, faceoff ability and offense, But he plays hard and has great character.

He is also a good candidate to perfectly fit the recent(ish) trend of us running our captain out of town once we have fastened goat horns to his head...

I know its August 7 and there's nothing else to talk about, but from a fans perspective I'm not sure why any of us care. Isn't the C more of an honorary thing? I mean, leaders are leaders regardless of the letter on their sweater, and stuff goes on in the dressing room we will never know about. Example - when Gretz was Captain do you think nobody listened to Messier?

The room will figure it out regardless of who Eakins picks, or when. And in that case I'd like to look back at the list of captains of the Oilers some day and see Smytty's name.

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#53 15w40
August 07 2013, 01:49PM
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I don't like the interim idea. Just keep a permanent "A" like Ferance and rotate 3 or 4 more through.

Can you have 3 assistants on the game roster?

Once the coach has his captain, name him and go forward with it. Even if you go the entire next season without one.

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#54 Ron Burgundy
August 07 2013, 02:00PM
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Sanaa Montana wrote:

Maybe.

Not that I'm saying that your beliefs are wrong, but, I believe that paying full amount, and being capped for, the player that is no longer in play-is kind of silly and stupid at best.

I believe that 60 km/hr is a stupidly slow speed to drive on a residential street; that don't mean it's not the law.

The CBA says that if a player signs a contract after the age of 35, but retires before the term is over, his full cap hit continues to apply for the remainder of the term of the contract. Mr. Smyth signed when he was 36 (I believe).

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#55 oldhippy
August 07 2013, 02:09PM
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@Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

Cool analogy.

Being a boomer and a tradesman, I rarely saw the best tradesman elevated to the foreman's rank. (and rarely did they aspire to be that guy) The push on a project was often the best guy on that job, but not the over-all leader. Occasionally a foreman was somebody who was close to retirement and acted as a mentor, passing on years of acquired knowledge. Experiments with super tradesmen as leaders rarely worked, as they could not relate to their peers.

Not sure any analogy outside of sport, works.

Hall is going to be the captain on this team, sooner or later. I would rather it be later. I would rather he wait one more year. I see him being Toews eventually, but he isn't there yet.

Play devil's advocate. Hall named captain, Oilers struggle, Hall continues to play well, but with fewer goals. Do you take the captaincy away? I would rather the Oilers wait one more year. One more year of improvement and development. He's 21 and signed to a six year contract. There is time to honour age, youth will always be served.

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#56 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
August 07 2013, 02:47PM
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oldhippy wrote:

Cool analogy.

Being a boomer and a tradesman, I rarely saw the best tradesman elevated to the foreman's rank. (and rarely did they aspire to be that guy) The push on a project was often the best guy on that job, but not the over-all leader. Occasionally a foreman was somebody who was close to retirement and acted as a mentor, passing on years of acquired knowledge. Experiments with super tradesmen as leaders rarely worked, as they could not relate to their peers.

Not sure any analogy outside of sport, works.

Hall is going to be the captain on this team, sooner or later. I would rather it be later. I would rather he wait one more year. I see him being Toews eventually, but he isn't there yet.

Play devil's advocate. Hall named captain, Oilers struggle, Hall continues to play well, but with fewer goals. Do you take the captaincy away? I would rather the Oilers wait one more year. One more year of improvement and development. He's 21 and signed to a six year contract. There is time to honour age, youth will always be served.

I wasn't trying to say that the best assembly line worker is the best person to manage the assembly line. What I'm saying is that Gen Y is more likely to be motivated by a manager who is good at their job right now, rather than one who has a history of success but is bordering on irrelevant right now.

Boomers, on the other hand, tend to respect hierarchy quite a bit more than Gen Ys. They are much more likely to do what their boss tells them because they are the boss.

I'm not saying one attitude is better than the other, or that every Boomer or Gen Y is exactly the same. These are just prevailing trends in each generation that can lead to conflict in the workplace, and I don't think it makes much of a difference who's signing your paycheque.

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#57 The_CWD_GarbageMan
August 07 2013, 03:01PM
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My vote is for Gags. Listening to Gags speak he is very engaging because of this unforgettable wisdom which he possess. Considering he is only 6 months older than Eberle, it appears he conducts his personal life as if he was a medical student as opposed to a beer tub girl.

The entire dressing room has missed having that 'movie star' in the group that everyone looks up to off the ice (since the departure of Souray or Stoll). Gags is not that movie star that Stollie/Souray was to the boys, but to Hall, Ebs, RNH,and Yak, Gags is kind of the old grandfather they look to for that swagger and wisdom. He is still very young, that movie start leader ideally would be in their late 20's, but beggars can't be choosers.

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#58 Rheal1
August 07 2013, 03:12PM
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Obviously it's between Hall and Eberle... but it can wait until after xmas if required. My personal choice would be: Taylor Hall C Jordan Eberle A Andrew Ference A

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#59 russ99
August 07 2013, 03:30PM
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Ference is my guy for the "C".

He's a leader, has experience of how a team gets from where the Oilers are now to cup contention and has a ring.

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#60 Cal Oatway
August 07 2013, 04:20PM
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In reply to my previous comment, I said that the best player or the one that shows the top leadership qualities, should wear the "C". I think Kessel and Subban will one day make excellent Captains. I prefer to compare to the leadership and success to the likes of Toews, Chara,

On another note, I am not a big fan of the shared "C" and I totally agree with 47#WhattaMike's comments.

Agree to disagree, it's always fun to read all the comments and fun to debate the comments. I wonder if MacT reads them?

Jason Strudwick, keep the articles coming. I really enjoy reading them !!

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#61 Pouzar99
August 07 2013, 04:23PM
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First of all this is an excellent column that only a thoughtful and reflective ex-player could write with such authority and perception. So thank you, Jason. As fans we sometimes have to accept our limitations. We see what happens on the ice, but we don't see what happens in the dressing room, or on the plane or during practices, etc. We don't know who the other players respect the most and are more likely to follow.

Like most posters, Hall seems to me to be the logical choice based on his on-ice performance and his obvious burning desire to win, but that choice should be made by the coach based on his observation of the complete picture which we lack, and there is no reason to rush that decision before he is comfortable he is making the right one.

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#62 westcoastoil
August 07 2013, 04:24PM
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Struds - I recall seeing/reading an item at the time Moreau was made it was somewhat of a tradition on the club that the outgoing captain would give his input and to who the next captain should be...and this was often followed.

different circumstances here because (I think for the first time) there's a change of coach and captain in the same season.

If Hall isn't ready (and I think he may be) a possible solution is to name Smyth captain as that would set up a transition year until next season when the coach knows his players better and the leadership role is evident.

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#63 Spoils
August 07 2013, 04:24PM
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Sanaa Montana wrote:

If we're going to wait on RNH, we might as well wait on Yakupov as well. No?

If timid little RNH is to be considered, then Yakupov deserve a chance too.

Man do I LOVE Yak. Just don't see him as a Captain. Certainly not this year.

Again my gut says it should be "timid little RNH" as soon as he is able to make the rest of the NHL look like the boys he made his cohort look like at the WJC.

When is that though - when he is 24?

JSchultz would be my next bet (but again not this year). He was the best when they were all rocking the AHL (ie. playing in a league where they were on top).

Point is the Oilers are best selecting someone for this year and probably next.

Pull the trigger based on the room at camp. Ference seems ideal - anybody on the team wants to argue that call they can go win a cup.

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#64 WhattaMike
August 07 2013, 04:48PM
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In post #47, I wrote a fair bit on why Taylor Hall should be the next captain of the Oilers...and i still stand by that post with my reasoning and my opinions. With regards to those who are stating that one of Smyth or Ference should be a type temp captain, I ask why to do this when... it is Hall who will be leading this team forward by performance and talent and will-power like as he should be?

Fact: It is an entire new era with the Oilers right now...a new GM, a new coach, and now - a new captain..and it's not a total rebuild still or a blast from the past regime either.

Smyth would be but just an honorary named captain at this stage and... with this surely being his last yr on the Oilers, him being named would stunt the year for the Oilers again (no disrepsect meant to him). It should have been Smyth being named the captain awhile ago when Moreau was let go but it did not happen then...nor should this happen now.

Ference, being a possible other good choice... did not grow with this teamn or lose with this team these past few years and also, he comes at the near end of his career...so this would also stunt the dressing room growth of the team in some ways.

These two players are of excellent calibre to be leaders but their time to be captain is gone. Taylor is here for the next 6 yrs plus and it is his time to speak, to show, and to lead...now!!! My support reasons are some that are listed back in post #47.

Ference and Smyth know they don't need the C or the A to show their near career ending leadership abilities and for the guys they are...they are already fully respected in the room always...

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#65 Spoils
August 07 2013, 06:07PM
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WhattaMike wrote:

In post #47, I wrote a fair bit on why Taylor Hall should be the next captain of the Oilers...and i still stand by that post with my reasoning and my opinions. With regards to those who are stating that one of Smyth or Ference should be a type temp captain, I ask why to do this when... it is Hall who will be leading this team forward by performance and talent and will-power like as he should be?

Fact: It is an entire new era with the Oilers right now...a new GM, a new coach, and now - a new captain..and it's not a total rebuild still or a blast from the past regime either.

Smyth would be but just an honorary named captain at this stage and... with this surely being his last yr on the Oilers, him being named would stunt the year for the Oilers again (no disrepsect meant to him). It should have been Smyth being named the captain awhile ago when Moreau was let go but it did not happen then...nor should this happen now.

Ference, being a possible other good choice... did not grow with this teamn or lose with this team these past few years and also, he comes at the near end of his career...so this would also stunt the dressing room growth of the team in some ways.

These two players are of excellent calibre to be leaders but their time to be captain is gone. Taylor is here for the next 6 yrs plus and it is his time to speak, to show, and to lead...now!!! My support reasons are some that are listed back in post #47.

Ference and Smyth know they don't need the C or the A to show their near career ending leadership abilities and for the guys they are...they are already fully respected in the room always...

Hall is gutsy and talented as all hell, but the Oilers aren't winning the cup this year. Being wrong about making him Captain is an unnecessary risk.

Going without a Captain would be OK if the amount of time we will likely need to wait wasn't as long.

So, if Ference is a fit early having only 2 good years left actually makes for the ideal "stunt".

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#66 Bruner
August 07 2013, 06:30PM
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@Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

Doesn't matter who the captain of the Jets is...they were not a playoff team. They were led nowhere

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#67 Geoff
August 07 2013, 07:57PM
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Oh just pick Hall already. He is the leader dude of the super kiddies and everybody knows it!

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#68 oilerman53
August 07 2013, 09:17PM
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This is Taylor Halls team now, he lead the Spitfires to back to back Memorial Cups. When hes out there running and gunning the team follows suit, hes been being groomed to lead this team to the promised land ever since he was drafted. He has his two gunslingers as assistants in Eberle and Nuge. Hall took the turn to superstar status last season, when he goes the team follows.

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#69 Oiler Al
August 07 2013, 09:22PM
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I think Eakin will have a look see attitude on this. Likely will start with "A" only and see who the real leader is on and off the ice. See who has the maturity to handle ice and off ice stuff.

I think it could be between Hall and Gagner .

If Hall can show maturity , then he would likely get the nod.

Good thing Ruff is not the coach or Hall would not have a chance.

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#70 FastOil
August 07 2013, 09:30PM
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Thanks Struds. After reading, Ryan Smyth should be interim captain. No one else has the Oiler cred. Someone else should prove and step up through the season.

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#71 nuge2nail
August 07 2013, 09:37PM
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Oiler Domination To Follow

When Hall goes 100mph crashing into the net or boards...

It's going to be real nice saying, "rest of the team has to get pumped seeing their captain flying up and down the ice, no fear of injury, just all heart"

He leads by example, and he's the leader of the super kids, this is a no brainer...

Blackhawks did it with Toews, Pens with Crosby, it's time for the Oilers to pass the torch to the youth...

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#72 seanjohn667
August 07 2013, 10:16PM
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blah, blah, blah. do it this way, do it that... whatever. in the end Taylor Hall will be the captain.

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#73 voom04
August 07 2013, 10:35PM
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At the start of reading this I was not sure but after reading the comments I think you have to be "BOLD" and this means Hall, although RNH might not be a bad choice in a yr or two.

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#74 Andropod
August 07 2013, 10:37PM
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I saw in that Oilers documentary series that the social leader of the pack was in fact Eberle. That he is a little older, and a little more mature and stable, and perhaps the most cerebral of the players? makes him seem to me perhaps the better fit for the C.

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#75 zeek
August 07 2013, 10:54PM
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If I was Eakins being a new coach and not having a team captian I would let the players decide who their captian should be. If the social leader gets selected or the alpha so be it.

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#76 Gret99zky
August 07 2013, 11:08PM
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Roshambo.

It's the only way.

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#77 Harry
August 07 2013, 11:38PM
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Are you people insane!!?? Ference? Really?! A first year player on the team after a guy like Hall? Taylor Hall is absolutely everytjing you want in a captain. Among plently of other things the guy absolutley HATES to lose. Hes the kind of player that will put the team on his back on the odd night and grind out a win.

HALL WILL BE CAPTAIN BY DECEMBER

COUNT ON IT!

Ference? Wow

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#78 K_Mart
August 08 2013, 07:39AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

You have to give your captaincy to best player!

The player who goes as your team goes.

Giving Eakins sole decision making for the Captiancy is not a smart plan here, nor is giving Smid or Ference the Captiancy.

First, Ference doesn't need to wear a letter to be a leader, nor does Smid.

As an orginization you want the face of your franchise to be the leader, the inspiration for your players, the fans and the community.

Hall has to be the Captian, it would be an orginization fail if he's not. Also the sooner the better.

Are you in the dressing room? On the bench between shifts? I know it seems obvious to an outsider, and Hall is likely the rightchoice, but you just ccan't know for sure unless you've spent a good chunk of time with each player.

Ovechkin was the wrong choice IMO. Just an example of how the face of the franchise shouldn't always be captain.

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#79 HOFFFF
August 08 2013, 12:09PM
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Harry wrote:

Are you people insane!!?? Ference? Really?! A first year player on the team after a guy like Hall? Taylor Hall is absolutely everytjing you want in a captain. Among plently of other things the guy absolutley HATES to lose. Hes the kind of player that will put the team on his back on the odd night and grind out a win.

HALL WILL BE CAPTAIN BY DECEMBER

COUNT ON IT!

Ference? Wow

Totally agree. I find it hard to contemplate giving the 'C' to someone that has never even worn the jersey.

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#80 Oilblood
August 08 2013, 01:12PM
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JORDAN EBERLE! Everyone seems to have really jumped on the hall bandwagon after his great year. While there's no questioning his work ethic and skill he still comes off as being immature and cocky, not really traits you'd want in a captain. Eberle may not have the same top end physical ability as hall, but no one can doubt his hockey sense and pure skill, and from what's shown in Oil Change he has a real voice in the locker room and respect among his teammates. Anyone remember halls temper tantrum at renney on hnic? Not saying he hasn't changed since then but he does have his flaws, it's not like ruff benched him in the WC for nothing. Eberle shares the characteristics of someone like toews in terms of work ethic, leadership and humble attitude, always expecting more from himself.

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#81 Oilcruzer
August 08 2013, 11:33PM
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I'd give it to Yak for a game just to see if he put up a "K".

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