The transition we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons on the ice with the Edmonton Oilers was manifested in the dressing room today as Edmonton Oilers coach Ralph Krueger named his captains and assistants.
Shawn Horcoff will retain the captain’s C, which is absolutely no surprise to me, even if others would like to see the letter taken off his jersey (and then the jersey taken off his back). Stripping Horcoff made no sense, none. You don’t yank a letter off a player’s jersey because he’s overpaid.
Jordan Eberle, as Jason Gregor told us well in advance of today’s moves, will be one assistant captain and wear the letter full-time, while Taylor Hall and Nick Schultz will rotate the other A.
Ryan Whitney and Ales Hemsky, who were both assistant captains last season, won’t have a letter in this abbreviated 2012-13 campaign. While that’s a sidebar to Eberle, Hall and Schultz getting letters, the moves definitely make a statement that times are changing. This is good.
LEADERS WILL LEAD
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again where the captaincy of any team is concerned: leaders will lead regardless of whether they have a letter on their jersey or not, so who wears one is not as big a deal as some people make it.
That said, while having that extra letter stitched on your jersey is largely symbolic, it is a statement and a confirmation, in the case if the Oilers, of what those who’ve been paying attention already know – moving forward, Eberle and Hall, along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, will shape this team. They’re the marquee guys. They’re the best players. They’re the leaders.
Again, this we already knew. There’s still plenty of room for Hemsky, who doesn’t need a letter to remain one of the four most talented forwards on this team, not to mention the most proven. Whitney, a healthy Whitney, that is, could play a very significant role with this team. There’s Ryan Smyth, and the unheralded "other" Schultz, overlooked in the buzz over Justin Schultz.
I won’t be the least bit surprised to see Horcoff’s C on jersey No. 4 or jersey No. 14 in the next couple of years, but we won’t see it now, and that’s just fine. Everything in its time.
THE RIGHT MOVE
There’s been plenty of takes on the acquisition of defenseman Mark Fistric here already, so I’ll keep mine relatively brief.
Aside from being the son of the meanest SOB I’ve ever seen play in the WHL, New Westminster Bruins defenseman Boris Fistric, who terrorized opponents and visitors to Queen’s Park Arena in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Fistric is the perfect fit for this defensive group.
We know he’s a stay-at-home type. We know he bangs, and while he’s not nearly as haywire as the old man in terms of doffing the leather and getting after it bare-knuckles style – Boris Fistric once had 49 minutes in penalties in one IHL playoff game – young Fistric isn’t afraid to back things up.
What I like most about acquiring Fistric is he gives Krueger the opportunity to have a puck-mover and a stay-at-home type in his top-three defensive pairings – the importance of having a guy who can dish the rubber on the back end at all times can’t be overstated, given the talent and speed up front. The ability to transition on a first-pass will be significant.
Krueger can pair Ladislav Smid with Jeff Petry, Schultz with Schultz and Whitney with Fistric, who brings some of the same elements as Andy Sutton but is younger and more experience than injured Theo Peckham.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.