It stands to reason that Ethan Moreau isn’t going to be the Captain of the Oilers for much longer. Even if Dieciocho sticks around for the 2010-11 NHL season fulfilling the final year of his contract, sooner or later the reins are going to be handed over to a new proverbial chuckwagon driver to pilot the next leg of the journey.
And hey – as luck would have it, not only is the heir to the Captaincy going to be the dreaded 13th Captain in the history of the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club, but he will be taking over a franchise that counts both its NHL and AHL affiliate as dead last amongst their on ice peers.
In addition, the Big Club currently sports a dressing room so poor that Oilers brass recently decided to send superstud Jordan Eberle to the Springfield Falcons for seasoning, the theory being that "the Falcons might also be the worst team in their respective league, but at least Eberle will retain a will to live beyond 2011. This cannot currently be guaranteed in Edmonton."
Captain 13 will be inheriting a room that is dead, a team that’s in last place in the league and a meddling braintrust/coaching staff that numbers in the thousands – though the decisions they have actually made can be counted on less than a full hand of fingers. Free agents are shunning Edmonton with alarming regularity and a child was recently roughed up at a local school after being caught crying on the scoreboard at Rexall.
In short: things are dire in the OilersNation.
Sounds like it’s time for someone to step up doesn’t it?
This is something we are going to debate right into the ground over the summer and we thought we would kick it sooner rather than later. There is little else to get excited about locally – though it should be noted that the Rush have clinched a playoff spot in the NLL.
It has been so long since something Edmonton based made the post season we almost forgot how to appropriately cheer as we were in attendance last Saturday night, but luckily remembered at the last possible second and drank everything sold by everyone.
Anyway, back to the Oilers search for a Captain. There will undoubtedly be four separate schools of thought on the matter:
1. GO WITH YOUTH
"Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it."
There are a great many veteran players in the Oilers dressing room who may or may not buy into a new regime in the years to come. There are other veterans who may not want to wait around until the Oilers return to respectability, fearing it will come late in their careers when they will be long past their prime.
Going with a young Captain ensures that this player will be a key part of the new team. Many folks have been quick to jump on this bandwagon screaming things like "that’s what Chicago did! That is also what Pittsburgh did!" and these points are valid for some teams looking to go with youth.
It should however be noted that these two teams were looking at the Toews’ and the Crosbys of the world in their internal search for the great big C – established premiere NHL players who can withstand the pressures of leadership and being called on to produce despite their young age.
Standout players of that magnitude aren’t exactly growing on trees here in E-tizzy. In the absence of a guaranteed HHOFer (Croz) and one of the most intense players on the planet (Toews) certain Oilers could be considered to fall into the category of "Captain of the Youths." More on Eberle, Gagner, Cogliano, Hall and possibly even a Seguin later in this series.
2. GO WITH EXPERIENCE
"Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people."
The counter point to handing over the keys to one of the greatest franchises in Pro Sports to some punk assed kid is to tap a veteran player for the job. This would seemingly go against the "don’t trust anyone over 28" segments of the OilersNation but might bear some further thought even if the team is looking to get younger for the 1,575th time in Franchise history.
Know what will be everywhere in the dressing room at RX1? Youth. Know who runs the show of youth quite effectively? Veterans. Perhaps the firm hand of experience is exactly what this team will need for the next few years.
3. TRADE FOR A CAPTAIN
"Leadership is diving for a loose ball, getting the crowd involved, getting other players involved. It’s being able to take it as well as dish it out. That’s the only way you’re going to get respect from the players."
"Can’t find a worthy replacement to Ethan Moreau on your current roster of not quite Superstars, unproven talent, bubble players and soon to be forgotten journeyman? Get on the old telematrix and make a deal for one then!" This is what we would suggest to the brain trust of the Oilers, should they ever return our daily letter to Central Command.
A year ago, a great many in the Nation would have been on board with this line of thinking. Virtually every single NHL team currently has a Captain* and with the Oilers shedding salaries like Arizonian Home Builders of late – money does exist to bring in a hired gun to take the helm.
In an era where many US cities are sweating bullets due to the economy, Edmonton has been mercifully spared the worst parts of the economic meltdown currently underway south of the border and is one of few teams with salary cap space and the ability to shoulder large contracts.
However if the embarassing summers of 2007, 2008 and 2009 have taught us anything, its that the Oilers are going to have a tough time luring free agents up this way until they start winning. Spare us the idea that "no one wants to play in Edmonton ever." If the Oilers start winning, the UFAs, RFAs and ZFAs will start arriving en masse.
But until that time the Oilers may elect to save us all from the 56th free agent rejection in the past 36 months and look inside the dressing room for C13.
*16 of 30 teams at last count
4. GO WITH AN INTERIM CAPTAIN
"To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way."
It has been ages since the Oilers did this hasn’t it? This option effectively allows the team to hedge their bets between options 1, 2 and 3 allowing them to see what cream will rise to the top for a long term solution to the problem.
With all due respect to Jon Willis, a Jason Strudwick type player might just be what this team needs to elect as C13 until they can figure out the long term player to fill this role. Not the greatest player in the NHLPA, a Strudwick type player could still command the room with his grizzled veteran presence and allow the next generation of players (including the future C14) to develop free of the pressure of being the Captain of a losing NHL hockey team.
This is a matter that is going to be an awesome debate over the summer and we have taken a look at several players. Height, weight, turn ons, turn offs. This will be part two in the series.
In conclusion, we conclude.