Yesterday, Todd McLellan confirmed the Oilers will indeed have a captain for the upcoming season and Connor McDavid seems like the obvious choice. McDavid turned 19 years young on January 13th. He will be 19
years and 273 days old when the season begins on October 12th. If he is captain on opening night he’ll surpass Gabriel Landeskog as the youngest captain in NHL history.
Landeskog was 19 years and 286 days when he was named captain in Colorado. Sidney Crosby was 19 years and 297 days with Pittsburgh and Vinny Lecavalier was 19 years and 315
days when Tampa Bay handed him the captaincy.
Handing the captaincy to a teenager has had mixed results.
Crosby was named captain in May, but he didn’t wear the “C” in a game until October. He had played two NHL seasons before they gave him the “C”, and Crosby was clearly the Penguins best player and ready for the challenge. The Penguins had lost out in the first round in his second NHL season and they were poised to become a dominant team.
They lost to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals in Crosby’s first year as captain and won the Cup in his second.
Landeskog got the captaincy after only one NHL season. He won the Calder trophy in 2011/2012 and they named him captain the following year, which was the lockout-shortened season. Landeskog had a tough sophomore season tallying only 9-8-17 in 36 games after scoring 22-30-52 in 82 games as a rookie.
He bounced back in 2013/2014 with 26-39-65 in 81 games and he’s produced 59 and 53 points the past two seasons. He is a solid, but not yet elite NHL player. The Avalanche has made the playoffs once since he was named captain, but it is far from his fault.
Lecavalier’s first reign as captain was brief, and showcased how misguided the Lightning were in his early years. In his second NHL season he shared the captaincy with Bill Houlder and Chris Gratton and the Lightning struggled mightily, going 19-47-9-7 (W-L-T-OL). Lecavalier was named captain prior to his third season, but the Bolts were still bad, posting a record of 24-47-6-5.
They took the captaincy away from Lecavalier after one season and went without a captain for 2001/2002. Lecavalier really struggled that season, scoring 20-17-37 in 76 games. The previous two season he produced 51 and 67 points. I’d love to ask him if being stripped of the captaincy impacted his psyche.
They named Dave Andreychuk captain the next year, and without the “C” Lecavalier produced 78 and 66 points the next two years, culminating with a Stanley Cup victory in 2004. Lecavalier was then named Captain for a 2nd time at the start of the 2008/2009 season and wore it for five seasons before he was bought out of his contract.
WILL IT IMPACT MCDAVID?
Most successful players don’t change who they are when given the responsibility of wearing the C, and I believe McDavid will fall into this category. He is not a vocal guy. He won’t suddenly become Chatty Charlie because he has the C.
He will be the same player and person, and he’ll have the benefit of taking over the captaincy at a time where, on paper at least, the Oilers look like they should finally improve on the ice.
The addition of Milan Lucic will help McDavid off the ice. Lucic has a lot of experience. He’s won a Stanley Cup. He’s played 101 playoff games. The rest of the Oilers forwards have played a combined 142 playoff games (Pouliot 54, Hendricks 34, Maroon 29, Letestu 17 and Kassian 8).
Lucic will play a big role on the ice, and his experience will help McDavid in the dressing room. The Oilers haven’t had a 28-year-old forward in their top-six with his skill and experience in a long time.
It makes sense to name McDavid the captain. He’s clearly their best player and will be for the foreseeable future. But remember, he’s inheriting a team that has missed the playoffs ten years in a row, and they haven’t been close to the playoffs since 2009.
He will need a lot of help if this team is going to improve. He can’t do it alone.
- McLellan was very honest when asked about Yakupov yesterday. “He didn’t
look happy, and we weren’t either,” said McLellan, echoing a statement he had made late in the season.
But McLellan was quick to point out this year is a new season. “I believe in giving
people opportunities to recover and bring their game up,” he said. ” I know Yak is doing
some things this summer (new workouts) he hasn’t done in the past. I
want him to have success and so do his teammates. It’s a matter of doing that
as quickly as possible.”
I’m guessing Yakupov is working on maintaining his speed. He is very explosive with his first few steps, but he doesn’t pull away from players after three of four strides. A quick and more determined Yakupov could be a huge benefit to the Oilers, but ultimately it will be up to Yakupov to show his coach he is happy to be in Edmonton and happy to help the team win, regardless of where or who he plays with.
I’m curious to watch how the battle for the second and third line RW spots plays out in the preseason. Yakupov will have to out-play Jesse Puljujarvi and Zack Kassian. He won’t be handed a spot.
- “I’m coming into camp for the first time in a while taking my job very seriously. I want to be the best player I can be,” Zack Kassian said in an interview with Tom Gazzola. Kassian is in a much better head space than he’s been in many years. He has his life in order off the ice, which is great, and we’ll see where he fits. He’s most likely a bottom six forward, who they hope can kill penalties.
I used that quote to illustrate how too often I believe we overhype leadership. Kassian played in Vancouver with the Sedins, who are great leaders on and off the ice, but even with them around Kassian wasn’t as focused as he should have been. He had some personal things going on, and regardless of how good a leader is, ultimately it is up to each individual player to decide if they will follow the examples of their leaders. No leader can force a player to follow them. McDavid’s chance of having success as captain of the Oilers will increase if more players are ready to buy in. He can’t force them. He can encourage them, and lead by example but ultimately it comes down to each individual in the room.
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