TIME FOR A CHANGE?

In October of 2010 the Oilers named Shawn Horcoff the 13th captain in Oilers history. Under his leadership the Oilers have finished 30th and 29th, and many fans want to blame the captain. Wearing the "C" is an honour, but it also heaps a lot of responsibility on the guy wearing it.

Blaming Horcoff for the Oilers woes is off-base. Does anyone honestly believe that if Jordan Eberle was wearing the "C" he would have scored 90 points instead of 76, or if Taylor Hall had it, he would have stayed healthy all year?

The Oilers are getting closer to changing their captain, maybe as early as the 2013/2014 season, but next year isn’t the right time, but I think it is the right time to annoint one of the young players as a leader.

I think some fans, bloggers and media types underestimate how much pressure comes with being the captain. Most of it comes internally from the player, but once they stitch a "C" on your jersey the expectations increase. Some players can handle it, while others try to do too much.

Ethan Moreau was a fine soldier for many years. He was a blood and guts guy. He gave everything he had on every night, but when he became the captain he put too much pressure on himself to be more than he was. Moreau was an incredibly proud player, and he took the responsibility of being captain very serious, maybe too serious. It is a lot of pressure being a captain of an NHL team, and it is even harder when you are the captain of a losing team.

The Oilers are coming off 30th, 30th and 29th place finishes, so now is not the time to tell Hall or Eberle they need to be the guy to lead this team out of the depths of suckville. Trust me, those two want to win, and they will be the leaders on the ice, but I wouldn’t add to their responsibilties and make them the captain.

Especially with no on the job training, however, I think one of them should become an alternate captain next season.

I think handing them an "A" would make much more sense.

People forget that Sidney Crosby was an alternate captain for a year and a half before he was name Captain. Players feel a great sense of pride and responsibility when they get any type of letter, but there isn’t as much pressure when you are an alternate instead of the captain.

It would also allow for a smoother transition in my opinion. The kids could learn how to deal with the added responsibility, and they might feel more comfortable addressing their teammates with a letter on their jersey. Successful teams need to have more than three or four leaders, but annointing Hall as an alternate next season would make it clear that this organization is transitioning into a new phase of leadership, and hopefully on-ice success.

Hall would love the responsibility and honour of wearing a letter, and I think he’s a bit more of an Alpha male than Eberle, so if I was picking one of them I’d give it to Hall. The Oilers could easily give both of them a letter if they want more than two alternate captains.

This year the Oilers and eleven other teams; Ducks, Flames, Hurricanes, Hawks, Wild, Predators, Devils, Rangers, Senators and Coyotes had the traditional two alternate captains.

Twelve teams had three alternates: Bruins, Sabres, Avalanche, Blue Jackets, Stars, Wings, Canadiens, Islanders, Flyers, Penguins, Sharks and Leafs.

The Blues, Lightning, Canucks, Capitals and Jets had four alternates, usually two at home and two on the road, while the Panthers had four alternates, but no captain.

Keep in mind that Sidney Crosby was named captain of the Penguins after they had made the playoffs. The Pens were a competitive team, and he’d worn an "A" for 18 months before he was named Captain on May 31st, 2008. The Penguins didn’t have a captain when he was an alternate, and during the 2007/2008 season they offered him the captaincy.

Crosby turned it down during the season and explained why during the press conference when he was named captain.

 

"I just thought it wasn’t right for me. As a team, we were playing great and you don’t want to disrupt things like that. Individually, I was not ready to accept that responsibility quite yet. Going through the playoffs and having that experience has probably given me more confidence. I understand there is going to be a lot more responsibility on my shoulders with this, but it’s something I’m ready for, I feel very comfortable with it and I’m just excited to get things going.

 

Players need to be ready for the responsibility, so why not let Hall or Eberle learn on the fly as an alternate?

Jonathon Toews also wore an "A" before being named captain. Chicago and Pittsburgh recognized that Toews and Crosby were leaders and they put them in a position to learn to be a leader. They let them get their feet wet, before handing them all the responsibility of being the captain. It paid off for both franchises.

I think it is imperative that whoever is coaching this team in October recognize that they need to make the transition as smooth as possible for Hall or Eberle.

Success doesn’t happen instantly, and neither does understanding the responsibility and pressure of being a leader, but the Oilers need to start the process next season.

  • Jason Gregor

    Part of any successful athelete is learn to deal with failure and work hard.

    A good leader is able to drive the team by Example.

    Go 82 games!

    Reading hall’s quote about quiting after two periods sickeneed me.

    Everyone thought of it as a statement about players on the team.

    How does he know those teamates minds.He does not.

    The only mind that can come from is Taylor Hall.

    He has dificulty with failing (which is OK). But shuting down (mind or body) is not what a leader does Taylor!

    Right Jason!

    • Jason Gregor

      Where did he say he read their minds?

      He referred to them as “mailing it in”…I’d say that would refer to their body language and effort.

      Actions speak louder than words, so I would suggest he would have a great view of how much of an effort they were giving.

      Not sure what you are talking about regarding failing with Hall….He won two Memorial Cups and was MVP in both..He’s only been in the league two years, so I wouldn’t say that means he’s a failure.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Could we please dispell the MYTH that Horcoff had nothing to do with his contract. Contracts are an agreement between two or more parties, and when said contracts are in the millions of dollars, inevitably negotiations take place to determine a fair value, decided by BOTH PARTIES. If you think Horcoffs agent wasn’t actually trying to get him more money, and settled for what were the eventual terms, you have no idea how this world works.

    Horcoff signed because the team was desperate, and he and his agent took full advantage.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    It’s embarassing that people act like the contract just fell into his lap, and gee golly, you can’t expect someone to turn down an offer like that. Talk about naive.

    Oh look, it’s raining 30 million dollar contracts, everyone grab one!

  • The Soup Fascist

    Gregor,

    How much of a gap is there in the room between “new school” and “old school”?

    Not that I am asking about noticeable friction, just that the fact that the kids are obviously the straw that stirs the drink right now and Horcoff and Smyth are going to have to be support third / fourth liners. Is that a role they are willing or able to adjust to?

    A big part of this being a successful team versus a dysfunctional team is going to whether or not the veterans are able to accept and thrive in secondary roles. I would much rather they look at a Dave Andreychuk type who as captain of Tampa accepted that role and he and the team succeeded – winning the Cup in 2004 versus bitching and moaning (internally or demostratively) about lack of ice time or the limelight. Obviously you want these guys to have a fire in their belly but at some point the reality needs to set in. Not sure Smyth or Horcoff are willing to accept and excel in those roles

  • O.C.

    Horcoff isn’t the story here.

    I am concerned that there’s a jump to name a new Captain when there’s other potential captains coming on board. Leave room for Klefbom or Marincin or this years draft choice or…

    Basically, there is no rush to have a new Captain named

    • Jason Gregor

      What makes you think Marincin or Klefbom are candidates?

      Marincin is a long shot to even make the team in the next few years?

      Sorry, but the next captain of this team is currently on the roster…

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    No one should begrudge Horcoff for getting the best deal for himself and his family but the guy is on the steep decline. Anyone can see it on the ice. He’s lost a few steps. That deal by KLO and the Khabi deal by Tambo were pure bonehead deals worthy of termination in most legitimate hockey centres. Horcoff was a fricken minus23 this season. The Captain was the worst plus minus on the team. You can rationalize it and say he played tough minutes but there is no overlooking the fact he had the worst plus minus on the team. He’s given up his NHLPA team rep position to Dubnyk and he’s probably half his way to his summer home in Michigan but how can he possibly live being relegated to the third line next year and wear the C. He’ll probably beg KLO to trade him if he has to remain Captain but of course his contract obviates that.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    Bottom line as far as I’m concerned: this team will never turn the corner as far having a winning mentality, to having a an all-out hated of losing that removes the losing culture, until Horcoff is no longer the captain. It needs to become Hall’s team. Yzerman became a captain at 20 years old, I think Hall could handle it too. Don’t need to take the letter away from Horc, just explain that they want to take things in another direction. If he’s really all about the team, he should be on board with the change.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    I don’t begrudge Horcoff at all, good for him , he’s set for life and his family will be financially secure for a long time.Get it while the getting’s good.

    What makes me die a little inside is every time I hear some IGNORANT fan say something along the lines of ‘Horcoff had nothing to do with his contract, leave that out of the discussion’. That’s what drives me crazy, that some people are that, well, stupid.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    there is more to being captain than what you see on the ice,you can not say Horcoff does not give 100%,there is also proper training and nutrition,how to handle the media,and your team mates,and don’t forget about all the community support the players give.you do not take the C from someone without doing collateral damage in the dressing room,if you want to attract free agents your better run a classy organization