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 Dipstick
August 07 2013, 12:54PM
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@Sanaa Montana

I believe that all contracts signed by players over 35 are subject to that rule to prevent teams from backloading salary on contracts.

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#52 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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#53 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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#54 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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#55 Woogie63
August 07 2013, 12:35PM
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Since 2000 10 of the 12 Stanley Cup champs have been captained by a Hall of Fame type player. The recent cup winners have been Toews, Chara, who seem like they are bound for the hall. Not sure Rod Brind Amor or Dave Andreychuk (sp?) did enough to get into the hall.

So it seem obvious to win the cup you need a HOF captain. Or it could be plausable that if you captain a Stanley Cup winner or two you get into the HOF?

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#56 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
August 07 2013, 01:17PM
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oldhippy wrote:

Do you see the Oilers winning the cup this year? I get that Toews is a talented player and a great captain. I get that Chara was a huge part of the Bruins cup win. The Oilers aren't there yet. Like I said about Fogolin, he wasn't the captain when the Oilers went to the Finals. He was an interim until Gretzky had the age and respect necessary.

And really guys, I know Smyth has lost a step and isn't the player he was. I know He will be a healthy scratch. I know he wouldn't be everyone's choice, but does he deserve the amount of derision he gets?

My comment wasn't intended to be disrespectful to Ryan Smyth, I'm just trying to be realistic when it comes to what he's currently able to contribute.

Smyth deserves all the accolades the team can throw at him once he retires, but sitting your team captain in the pressbox is embarrassing.

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#57 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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#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 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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#60 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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#61 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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#62 Dipstick
August 07 2013, 12:42PM
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Sanaa Montana wrote:

Smid, Ference, Eberle and Hall will all wear an A to start the season.

If Eakins decides to put a C on someone to start the season, in my opinion, it will be Ference. Due to the respect the Oilganization has for Smyth-I can't see that happening.

They will go with 4 As, and sometime during this season, or next year give the C to Hall.

I'm really hoping Smyth retires at the beggining on the season, I don't see his body or play surving the whole year with the Oilers. How much cap space would his retirement clear?

Smyth's contract counts even if he retires.

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#63 Lochenzo
August 07 2013, 01:23PM
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That's a great way to build consensus in the locker room. Give it a couple of months into the season, I think the players in the room will know who is most deserving and accept the choice of captain.

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#64 oldhippy
August 07 2013, 01:33PM
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@Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

I realize you weren't bashing. That was aimed at all the crap the guy takes from a certain type of fan.

My point is, not always is the most talented or the most dominant player, necessarily your captain. When Mario was in and out of the line-up, did they take away his captaincy. Captains are going to be injured, miss games. At one time the primary job of the captain was the coaches voice on the ice, talk to ref's. Now it seems the captains job is not to be an embarrassment when fans talk to their friends in Calgary/Vancouver. Screw what fans of other teams think.

I'll be cool with whoever is chosen but, Hall has yet to establish himself as the guy who can hoist this team on his shoulder. RNH could yet become that guy. I would be happier with a one year captain and see who the dominant guy is by seasons end. What happens if Hall is made captain to start the season and he slumps from last seasons obvious jump?

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#65 Will
August 07 2013, 01:36PM
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In favour of making Hall Captain, just look at the the various failures and successes around the league. Crosby, mixed since they really haven't repeated the cup and for the last two years in the playoffs the Pens just seem lost on the leadership front.

Toews, huge success. Captain serious is the leader on that team surrounded by a solid core who pushes him, and vice versa.

Stamkos, mixed since the guy is far and away the best player on and off the ice, but that team has such a hard time with success. I think it's a good example of how skill and work ethic will only take a captain and its team so far.

Giroux, success. Even though they haven't won the cup with him at the helm, he commands a rather young core by matching up and dominating other young captains int he league. The kid is a flat out warrior.

Tavaras, success. They built a franchise around this kid and are slowly riding him to more success than a team like the Islanders deserve on paper. This is who most closely resembles Hall.

Landeskog, no idea yet. He just got it and could help the Avalanche crawl out of the basement.

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#66 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
August 07 2013, 01:39PM
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@WhattaMike

Couldn't have said it better myself

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#67 Ducey
August 07 2013, 01:42PM
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There is a decent chance Ference will be the "C" by the end of the preseason.

He is a vet, has played on a few different teams (and therefore has experience with different groups), has 113 games in the playoffs and has a ring. He also will be around for 4 years due to his contract.

Of course, I have no idea what he is like, but on paper he would be the best choice.

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#68 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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#69 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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#70 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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#71 Sanaa Montana
August 07 2013, 01:00PM
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Dipstick wrote:

I believe that all contracts signed by players over 35 are subject to that rule to prevent teams from backloading salary on contracts.

Oh, I thought you knew not believed what you were talking about.

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#72 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
August 07 2013, 01:22PM
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toprightcorner wrote:

Based on this theory, you think Kessel, Subban, Vanek, Flieschman, Gaborik and Bufeglien should all be captains of their team?

Do you think Brett Hull should have been captain of all of the teams he played for?

Best player had nothing to do with best leader.

Byfuglien is far from the best player on the Jets. Andrew Ladd was 19th in league scoring last season, so he doesn't fit with the rest of your argument (which - for the record - I agree with).

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#73 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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#74 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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#75 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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#76 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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#77 Sanaa Montana
August 07 2013, 12:49PM
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@Dipstick

Really? All of it?

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#78 Dipstick
August 07 2013, 01:04PM
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@Sanaa Montana

Maybe someone who "knows" can confirm.

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#79 Sanaa Montana
August 07 2013, 01:10PM
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Dipstick wrote:

Maybe someone who "knows" can confirm.

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.

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#80 Archaeologuy
August 07 2013, 01:46PM
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Jason, who do you think this team will think of as the Captain even if he doesnt have the C on his chest?

Hall, Gagner, Eberle, Ference?

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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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