Dallas Eakins broke the news that Andrew Ference will be the new captain of the Edmonton Oilers when he tweeted the picture above on Sunday morning.
There had been indications that the Oilers might be leaning toward a veteran captain rather than one of the team’s young stars, and while Ference is to some degree a surprising choice this is not entirely unexpected news.
Ference brings a wealth of experience to the role. He is 34 years old and has played nearly 1,000 games at the NHL level, split between Pittsburgh and Calgary and Boston. He spent the last two seasons as an alternate captain with a very good Bruins team. Over his career he’s been on five reasonably deep playoff runs – with Mario Lemieux in 2000-01, with Jarome Iginla in 2003-04 and multiple times with the Bruins, earning a Stanley Cup ring in 2011.
He’s a newcomer, but he’s one that should be respected based on what he’s done over his career.
Passed over were other obvious candidates. Taylor Hall is the team’s best player in the here-and-now. Jordan Eberle was the Oilers’ only full-time alternate last season. Sam Gagner’s NHL resume doesn’t put him in the same class as those two, but Craig MacTavish identified him as a character guy and a team leader over the summer and Gagner has a lot of experience for a player his age (it’s worth wondering too whether Gagner’s injury impacted his chances).
How much does it matter? Perhaps not a lot; the line of thinking that leaders lead regardless of position is one I have a lot of time for; I also tend to think that in the grand scheme of things naming the right or wrong guy captain doesn’t have much impact on goal differential.
Was it the right choice? Time will tell, but my inclination is to say ‘yes.’ The off-ice – and especially media – responsibilities that come with the captaincy are probably best given to a veteran in most cases. Choosing an outsider could well be a positive, as the Oilers continue to emphasize the break between the present and the failures of recent years. Picking a guy from a winning organization makes sense for many of the same reasons.
From this (imperfect) vantage point, Ference seems a logical choice.
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