Thanks to our own Wanye Gretz, everybody’s talking about who the Edmonton Oilers’ next captain should be. Should it be one of the team’s young stars? Should it be Sam Gagner? Should it be a veteran like Andrew Ference?
I can’t help thinking there’s no rush to make a decision.
No Rush: Part One
It’s been made clear over the summer that rookie head coach Dallas Eakins will be the guy deciding who will captain the Oilers now after the departure of Shawn Horcoff. He’s new to the group, and it only makes sense that he wait until he’s seen them together in training camp, talked to the various candidates (and heard from other players about the various candidates) and just generally observed the team.
No Rush: Part Two
The other issue is that it might make sense to consider something other than a full-time, permanent captain at this point (something Jason Strudwick has suggested here previously). So far, there has been no indication that the Oilers are considering a rotating captaincy or a group of alternates without a designated captain, but it’s an idea that in my view has some merit.
First, the caveat. I was asked the other day by a very smart guy what I thought of the potential of Sam Gagner as captain. I told this person that I really didn’t know because I think it’s extremely difficult for an outsider to answer that question. To what degree the captaincy matters it matters inside the dressing room, and without a really good feel for the mix of personalities it’s difficult to be certain which player is the best fit for the role.
With that said, the sense that I get is there is a lack of certainty about who the best choice is. Taylor Hall’s exceptional 2013 campaign has established him as the best young player on the team right now. A year ago, Jordan Eberle would have been the consensus pick as the best of the bunch and as the team’s only full-time alternate was seemingly the favourite to be the captain in the future. Andrew Ference seems to be highly regarded and is joining the team from an extremely successful Bruins’ club, but he’s also 34 years old. Sam Gagner has been praised by general manager Craig MacTavish for his character but seems a step below the team’s upper tier skill-wise. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins seems universally praised as a mature young man and though he hasn’t been mentioned often in this context a year from now that might be a very different story.
To me, it’s a group that seems well-suited to the old Jacques Lemaire strategy of having a rotating captain. If there is a reluctance to name one of the younger stars captain now, it saves the team from the installation and subsequent tricky removal of a short-term veteran captain while at the same time offering those young players a sort of trial run. It also stresses group leadership and allows the coach to reward especially compelling performances. With the five players named above, plus Nick Schultz and Ladislav Smid there seems to be no shortage of potential candidates for such a system, and unlike in Minnesota it would be a run with a definite end date – after one season, doubtless the choice for the permanent captaincy would be clearer.
I don’t expect the Oilers to go this route, but it wouldn’t bother me in the least if they did.
Recently around the Nation Network
At Canucks Army, the very funny Graphic Comments asks what the problem is with Tony Gallagher calling Roberto Luongo a diva:
I mean, really, doesn’t every team want their starting goalie to be a highly distinguished performer that plays a leading role for them? Yes, but the Canucks are the only ones that can ice a goalie of Italian heritage, thereby making the "diva" label highly appropriate.
Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff: