Oilers Set to Name a New Captain

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Credit: Chris Austin – USA Today Sports

Dating back to the Oilers inaugural season in 1972, and including Ryan Smyth’s one game as captain, the Oilers have had 18 captains in their franchise’s history. With training camp kicking off on September 22nd, the Oilers appear set to name the team’s 19th captain. 

Here we go

ToddMcLellan

“We’ll select a captain at some point throughout training camp,” McLellan told NHL.com yesterday. “We’ll pick a captain when we’re all around and together as a group.”

McLellan noted that with the World Cup of Hockey right around the corner, it is likely the team will announce a captain just before the season.

For the first time in the franchise’s history, the Oilers did not have a player wearing the “C” during the 2015-16 season. On October 7th, 2015, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan, alongside Andrew Ference, announced his demotion from the captaincy. 

Opting to go with four alternates, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, and Andrew Ference was a move that bought the new management and coaching staff time to evaluate the team and get to know the personnel.

With Taylor Hall no longer being in the picture, the list of candidates can be boiled down to roughly four or five players.

The options

As one of the longest serving Oilers, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has come into his own and is arguably a top two-way centre in the NHL. His leadership capabilities are known, as he has been tasked with the responsibility of being an assistant captain with the Oilers for three of the past four seasons. A player who isn’t known as being rambunctious, on or off the ice, Nugent-Hopkins does have experience as a captain as he occupied the role during the 2013 World Juniors, where he led the tournament in scoring.

As of this writing, Jordan Eberle is the longest serving Oilers and has worn an ‘A’ for the last five seasons, Like Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle has come into his own and is regarded as another leader and core member for the Edmonton Oilers. Scoring 331 points in his 425 games as an Oiler, Eberle has been one of the teams most consistent producers. While he doesn’t have experience as a captain in the past, it is clear he is a candidate to be the teams next captain.

After signing a seven year contract with the Oilers this offseason, Milan Lucic could be considered as an option to be the Oilers captain. The rugged winger has never worn a letter during his NHL tenure, but has been known as a leader during his time in Boston and his one year stint with the L.A. Kings. Lucic brings with him a veteran presence, as well as the ability to contribute.

Matt Hendricks has had his name thrown around as another option for the Oilers captaincy. Known as a true leader on and off the ice, Hendricks encapsulates everything you want in a captain. However, the true concern here is Hendricks’ age and his impending expiring contract. How much gas does he have left in the tank? He would likely only be a stop-gap captain at this point.

Despite these three players being options, the one that might make the most sense is Connor McDavid. What is there to say about him? Connor has come into his own as an NHLer despite only having 45 pro games under his belt. Dubbed the next great one by many, there is no denying that this kid is going to rip up the league for a number of years after putting up over a point per game in his rookie season to go alongside his Calder Trophy nomination.

Who will it be?

At this point in time, all fingers point to Connor McDavid being named the youngest captain in the NHL’s history. 

His Oiler teammates sure had good things to say about him this spring:

“I think, on the ice, he does everything the right way,” said Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot. “He doesn’t take shortcuts, he’s always the first one up the ice, first guy back on the backcheck. He leads by example on and off the ice, just the way he carries himself. There’s different ways that you can lead and it doesn’t always have to be vocal and Connor is just one of those guys who leads by example and that’s a guy you can follow.”

“I think on the ice he was everything and more,” said Taylor Hall, who hosted the rookie in his Edmonton home. “By the end of the year, he was our leader on the ice and I think with all the expectations that are on him, the way he conducts himself off the ice and the kind of kid he is I think it’s been a lot of fun to be around him.”

“He didn’t make any noise in terms of all the autographs he had to sign when we go on the road and all the people that wanted to see him,” said Oilers veteran Matt Hendricks. “He was very business-like, took care of it and moved on to the group and wanted to be a part of it. I think Connor has a lot of attributes, in terms of his playing ability, but I see him as a very good leader as well.”

“Absolutely. Absolutely, he could be,” said Hendricks, who doesn’t know when the 19-year-old should be expected to take on that role.

“That’s not a question for me, but you’ve seen players at his age wear the ‘C’ after their first year or so, but I have no doubt in my mind he’d excel at it.”

What say you, Nation? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Oil drop

    Earth shattering topic. I get that it is the middle of august but……

    Edit: why all the hate/trashes

    All I was getting at was this was discussed around these parts a month and a half ago when it FIRST became news

    2nd edit: my last edit was an untended first. I did not nor mean to imply fist

    • paul wodehouse

      …you dare ask “why all the hate /trashes”

      these haters are like kids who do vandalism … because they can get away with it …this site’s full of these morons!

      97 is the only Captain moving any which way!

  • WhoreableGuy

    Let’s just slap the “C” on the next one, the golden child…the franchise. The player that is going to bring the Oilers out of darkness!

    Adam Larsson!

  • Mitch92

    The hockey world expects McDavid to be named. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lucic gets the nod to take the pressure off Connor and allow him to focus on scoring.

    • Spydyr

      Lucic is signed for another six years. Do you strip him of the “C” in a couple years and give it to Connor?

      The only choice that makes sense if Connor does not get it is Wagon. He will be gone before two years are up. He could place hold it for Connor.

      I’m still pretty sure it will be given to the kid though.

  • I am Batman

    Eberle a leader??????

    A leader of what????? Giving up in the middle of the game???? Bet he is the first one at Boston Pizza, but other than that nothing says “leadership” with that lazy bastard.

    • Gravis82

      I dont get this. Hendricks is just not good enough. He started to fall off big time in the last half of last season, and it will probably continue this season. He was well liked, but also just barely above replacement level during his tenure here. Not what you want from your leader.

      There needs to be a balance between being good at hockey and knowing how to manage people (that in Connors case with be 10+ years his senior with wives and children when he is only 19 and barely out of his parents basement).

      He is an amazing player, and will probably work out as Captain because even if his production is affected because of extra responsibilities we wont notice cause he will still be awesome, but Connor is still too young. This is what the Oilers have been famous for, for a decade, and I don’t understand why everyone is on board with this. Sure, you can have veteran support to help him deal with the dirty work that captain have to deal with, but if he’s not dealing with that then hes not really the Captain anyway.

      So what do the Oilers do instead? I have no idea. No one else makes sense right now I agree. So its gotta be Connor, but I don’t think we all should be excited about this; its not ideal by any stretch.

  • Bubba Train

    Please no Connor captain this year.

    The fans want him to be Captain and the franchise wants him to be captain. Do what good for winning games for once. Choose a veteran leader and Just let the kid play hockey

  • Mooseroni

    I doubt making Connor captain will have much of an effect on his play…the guy occupies an awesome headspace (IMO of course) and it seems like he is able to handle any type of mental pressures the game throws at him. Hell, it may make him better for all we know.

    • GK1980

      Connor is no normal kid. The coaching staff will obviously have a long hard talk with him to make sure he would be comfortable in this role. Like I said, he isn’t typical 19 year old, he knows if he is ready. Non of us can assume anything.

      This talk about how lazy Eberle is is ridiculous. He is consistently the oilers best offensive player. May lack a little defensively but all teams need a player like that, so knock it off with the bashing of Ebs.

      • May lack a little defensively? That is definitely an understatement. He is very lazy and it is easy to see. No blue paint, consistently loses board battles if he even bothers to try, no backchecking whatsoever, leaves teamates outnumbered in scrums, he is only engaged in the offensive zone and even a lot of that he still wont battle for the puck, he waits for his teamates to do the heavy lifting. Not worthy of a letter or first line minutes, He has had years to work on these deficiencies, and has chosen not to.He disappears when the going gets tough during the regular season. If we ever get to the playoffs , he would be the leader in disappearing first. Wildly over rated.

  • Bubba Train

    The team should decide. After training camp but prior to regular season there needs to be a team vote. The players decide with final approval from TMac. They have input, they live with it. Captain represents team.

    Connor will represent the franchise regardless. Give him a chance to just play before we go loading him up like he has to drag a piano load of responsibility around the ice.

  • O.C.

    If McDavid isn’t the Captain this year, I can live with a proxy Captain for a year or 2. The only reason not to make him Captain is to let him focus on further development.

    If he is named the Captain, I’ll be equally supportive as will his mates.

    It’s really not a life and death decision either way.

    • Serious Gord

      That is THE argument against naming McD.

      It is definitely a risk.

      I would like it offered to Lucic first. If he declines then offer it to McD.

      Sadly the oil Mgmt and most of the fanbase is on the McD hype train and there isn’t a snowballs chance in Calcutta that someone other than McD gets the “C”.

      • M22

        Can’t see the logic or reason in this post. You say giving Connor the C is risky, so you offer it to Lucic, and if he declines, then you give it to Connor? What happened to the risk? Did it just vanish?

        Second, if Lucic doesn’t decline the offer, do you take it back after a year or two? Yeah, that wouldn’t be awkward at all for McDavid. “Hey Looch, thanks for being my captain for the last year – now, you’re my assistant.”

        Listen people, and think about this for a few minutes: what do you think is harder to adjust to – becoming Captain in your second year in the NHL, or STEPPING INTO THE NHL OUT OF JUNIOR IN YEAR 1? AND being a dominant force at age 18. Seems Connor handled that like a champ. Fact is, he already is their leader. And he wants it. Pressure doesn’t make the greatest ones buckle – it feeds their fire!

        Looch gets an A, in a supporting roll, and McDavid gets what all true leaders get – the C. End of discussion.

      • socaldave

        Name three risks. Hell, name just one, other than the indignity of taking the C off Lucic and giving it to McDavid in a couple of years.

        And by the way, your revelling in the denigrating all things Oilers will never allow you to be taken seriously on topics I honestly believe you may be able to positively contribute to. It’s your bit, I get it, but mate, you need to change that record. You’re tired.

  • OilCan2

    I believe Connor would be THE youngest NHL captain in history. It’s a good place to begin because he’ll be making history as soon as the season starts and for years after.

  • madjam

    Chia bought in Milan to help lead this team out of the basement and facilitate culture change , so being named Captain appears to be part of that message and direction .

    • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

      It seems kind of silly to give it to someone else and then have it taken away in a year or so. Connor is one young exceptional talent and person . He gets the C

  • LuckyMan

    I have been a fan of the oilers since Ron Chipperfield was the first captain in 1979. What has always designated a captain to me over the years, was a player that when the game was close, he could win it for you. The last captain the Oilers had that could do that was Doug Weight, and before that Mark Messier.
    The team has basically sucked since 91 when Pocklington sold off the team “granted they had a lucky season in 06 but it was not because of Jason Smith”. I am a Oilers fan, and I don’t care about dressing room leadership or whatever other lingo that is put out there. I care that the Oilers win, the end. McDavid is first winner I have seen in a long time, make him captain sink or swim.

  • Chainsawz

    While I full on expect McDavid to rightfully claim the captaincy, there’s a strong case for Eberle:

    1. He’s not deaf to the baseless criticism some throw his way and he handles it like a champ by not paying any mind to that drivel. This shows the intense focus a captain requires.

    2. His play on the ice is only topped by McDavid himself. He’s tough out there, willing to put his undersized yet muscular body on the line. He creates offence in close to the net where many fear to go. This shows the on-ice ability a captain requires.

    3. He has appeared in many commercials. This shows the media savvy a captain requires.

    4. He was not traded out of town like a certain hoser that had it coming. This shows the tenacity a captain requires.

    All four of these points are solid and bullet proof.

  • Dobbler

    Whatever way they go in choosing the captian won’t make a big difference. Guys who are vocal leaders in the dressing room like Handricks and Lucic will continue. Guys who listen to them will still listen to them, and guys who don’t still won’t. Guys who lead on the ice will also continue to do so. The “C” is symbolic.

    The best choice to award the symbolic leadership of the team to is clearly McDavid. We’re expecting him to lead the team to glory in the coming decade, more so than any other single player, so let’s make it official.