The Captaincy: There’s No Rush

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:

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    But seriously, and I’m not being sarcastic, I’m trying to understand your argument Gord.

    From listening to what you had to say on 1260 and your posts here, and please correct me if I’m wrong or missing the point….you’re asserting that Wanye is blowing smoke…and you are concerned that his starting this rumour about the captaincy will lead to a ground swell of support for the idea…to the point where Oilers management will cave to the pressure of public sentiment and as a result, name Gagner as the next Captain of the Oil?

    • The Last Big Bear

      That’s pretty much it. As I posted on Wanye’s original thread, I think gagner would be a disaster for several reasons with the impact on hall being the most significant.

      By possibly portraying gagner’s captaincy as fact Wanye could be doing serious damage to the team.

      If it is indeed fact, then MacT et al are bigger screw ups than even I thought they were. I truly do think that oil fans need to be vocal about what a bad idea this is – if Wanye is relaying the facts then maybe an uproar can reverse it.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    The reason I think this topic is so devisive is because there is an element of the Oilers fan base that like or love Gagner and would like to see him rewarded …..and there’s the other, albeit smaller, element that would like to see Gagner traded for “the big center”……and if they give Gags the C……he won’t be part of that trade.

      • Reg Dunlop

        Which franchise player are you referring to?

        I am sure you mean Hall but my point is why wouldn’t RNH or Ebs potentially feel slighted by being bypassed? Maybe by inferring that Hall is THE franchise player you could be unleashing a train of events that results in Huge demanding a trade to a team that appreciates him.

        When does training camp start?

  • Where's Your Towel

    It only makes sense that Gagne would be the next captain because our captains always get traded. Someone has told me the Oilers thought of having a playing coach just like Bobby Hull and JC Tremblay . Also Yak for captain.

  • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

    The last couple of days of August are a wash with “man the summer is over.” but on the other hand the fun is just about to begin. “mega stoked” With the young talent and Eakins passion for commitment this should be fun. As for a Captain I will pick the hardest worker and a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, Married to a local girl and has always given 100%

    Vlad Smid

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Instead of players handing out a cap/hat of some sort, or a silly jacket for an unsung hero of the game award. Why not give the chosen player of the game the C for the next game? Put some punch behind that award for the first couple months of the season/till a full time one is appointed by Dallas Eakins. Maybe now’s the time to focus on effort/winning rather than irrelevant humour.

      • The Last Big Bear

        The only problem with this approach, or any rotating captain approach, is that the captains duties are just not on the ice. I don’t know how much, but there are duties to the league, player’s association, etc. and it doesn’t make sense to have people constantly rotating.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          In this day and age, where there’s 3 support types for every one player on staff, I think these duties have been distributed to support staff whenever possible. Some things may still hinge on player input, but many of these mundane duties can be delegated to the support staffs.

          I’m not speaking from experience of course, but teams go to great lengths to allow players to focus solely on on ice issues/duties.

  • Spydyr

    This is a team that hired its last two head coaches and it’s current GM without conducting a proper search. Why should we expect anything different in selecting a captain?