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 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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#52 oldhippy
August 07 2013, 12:55PM
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@Woogie63

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?

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#53 toprightcorner
August 07 2013, 01:05PM
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Cal Oatway wrote:

Personally, I think the holder of the "C" should be the best player on the team as well a the person who displays top leadership qualities. When your one of the best on the team, you can expect the same from your team mates. As much as I like Horcoff and respect him as a "class act", its hard to lead when your on the third line and producing sub par results. you cannot expect 100% from others and expect others to follow, unless you lead by example. The Oilers have a few good candidates and for them to make the playoffs, they will need to be able to lead, hold accountability, kick ass and become the face of the team.

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.

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#54 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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#55 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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#56 WhattaMike
August 07 2013, 01:36PM
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IMO, the best player while combined with being the leadership type guy the team needs in the dressing room should be the next captain of the Oilers.

About Taylor Hall....he is now 21 yrs old and will be turning 22 just after when the season starts (Nov). This will be his 4th season in the NHL and he has now been thru part of the Oilers bad yrs. For Taylor...He wants this "bad" ended now!!!! - and I like this.

As for accountability for himself and team ... he speaks his mind/opinions graciously and openly in public/to media...which is excellent. As well,...they (media and many scouts primarily) all now pretty much say and agree upon that Hall is a beast on the ice. He is a deserved new rising NHL all-star. He finished in the top ten in scoring this last yr and therefore... also lead his team as well.

He previously lead his Windsor Spitfires to two consecutive winning memorial cups thru both skills/talent and belief in himself/team.

Look just back even at when during the memorial cup rounds when Hamonic grossly pasted him into the boards and then Taylor rose (slowly) then very quickly scored a high-light reel goal. It was Inspiring and Awesome!

I have seen Hall lead on the ice already for the Oilers... with either his play or even his looks and type conversing on the bench with others. I saw him quite correctly (as a type winner)question Tom Renney on a stupid pulled goaltender situation.

By all I wrote...I completely support...that Taylor Hall absolutely is the right next captain for the Edmonton Oilers and it is the right time to give it to him. We have seen worse captains on the Oil such as Shayne Corson (example) and Hall is far better than that.

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#57 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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#58 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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#59 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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#60 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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#61 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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#62 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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#63 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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#64 Butters
August 07 2013, 12:53PM
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This team belongs to the kids now. They have the keys. Give one of them the 'C'(Hall) imho.

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#65 Will
August 07 2013, 01:03PM
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Struds how important is the in room personality to gaining captaincy, and or being respected once it is gained? I ask because in terms of on ice give a crap, Hall seems to be the clear cut winner. In terms of off ice work ethic, again from what I've heard Hall is a cut above. In terms of wanting to win and demonstrating that every single shift, he also once again seems to lead here. I mean, the kid got his face stepped on and was on the bike seeing if he could return that freakin night. Finally, he is great with the media, always taking a loss on his shoulders, and dishing credit for a win to the rest of the team, all while holding himself and others accountable for any losses. It never seems okay to lose with Hall.

From all accounts, the only spots where he might be lacking are his communication with the Refs, and perhaps how he gels in the dressing room. That last one seems a bit strange since he's obviously good friends with Ebs, Nuge and J Schultz.

So my only question is what is holding Hall back from from getting the C?

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#66 vetinari
August 07 2013, 01:30PM
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I would think that Eakins could easily wait until Christmas or New Year's to name a captain, and go with 3 or 4 AC's in the interim (maybe pair a youngster with a hardworking vet and rotate them around until January-- like Hall and Ference take home games and Eberle and Smid take road games?). Eakins can approach it like an audition for the captain's chair. If one of the kids is ready for the captaincy, then name them on January 1st. If the kids aren't ready for it yet or the team is in the basement again, then name a vet who can handle the load in an interim basis.

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

Couldn't have said it better myself

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#68 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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#69 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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#70 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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#71 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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#72 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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#73 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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#74 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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#75 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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#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 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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#79 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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#80 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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#81 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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