As many of you know, MacT recently unload Oiler captain Shawn Horcoff to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Phillip Larssen and a 7th round pick. Which I personally think was a great deal because the Oilers were not forced to keep any of Horcoff's salary and we added a young depth defenseman. I digress, the main issue of this blog is to discuss the problem created by moving Horcoff; who will be the next Oiler captain?
The recent trend around the NHL has been to name a young and sexy player to be the leader of his NHL franchise. This has lead to mixed results, mostly positive in nature, Crosby shouldered the extra responsibility quite well, as did Jonathan Toews. There have been cases such as Vincent Lecavalier, where the pressure of being "the guy" have affected on ice performance and confidence levels which can lead to stunted growth as a player. After laying out a small sampling of the pro's and con's of naming a young player captain I would like to look at the Oilers best choices available for captain, in no specific order.
Taylor Hall - This is the kind of player who wears his heart on his sleeve, he leaves it all out on the ice and nobody can question his passion. He makes damn sure that his tank is empty before he heads to the locker room. He is a bit of a hot head, as are most passionate players, and his temper gets him into trouble from time to time but he is definitely a leader by example.
Jordan Eberle - Eberle isn't a heart bursting from his chest passionate player like Hall, not to say he isn't passionate, but he is more quiet and reserved if only in his mannerisms. He is very well spoken when in front of the media and he appears to have the respect of his peers, which is a good indication of leadership. He is also known for being a clutch player and nothing gets guys fired up like one of your leaders putting the team on his back when it's needed most.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins- The Nuge isn't your typical leader, he seems shy and timid, but who wasn't at his age? At this point in his career there is almost a zero percent chance of him donning the C but the similarities between him and Joe Sakic make him a candidate a few years down the road.
Sam Gagner - Sammy has been a good little soldier for the Oilers for a few years now and it would be nice to see him rewarded for his hard work. Gags has endeared himself to fans and team-mates alike for his take no crap attitude and his willingness to do battle with much larger opponents for the good of his team-mates. He doesn't have that take-over-games-all-by-yourself skill like the three guys I mentioned before but that doesn't stop him from trying and that earns major respect among team-mates.
Ryan Smyth - Six years ago if I even thought about mentioning someone else I would've been torn to shreds, but that was then and this is now. Smytty is the ultimate pro in his superb work ethic and undying love of the fans. This is the kind of man everyone should strive to be. There is probably only one more year left in his ancient legs and because of that I feel there is no room for him to be the captain in Edmonton. We're gonna miss you.
Andrew Ference - Andrew is a local product who has finally come home, and he's bringing with him a wealth of experience and good character. Ference has been a leader a perennial Stanley Cup contender for several years now and on a young team like Edmonton he is a valuable asset. Ference and Smyth are similar in that they are both very involved in the community and bring a good work ethic. Andrew is also a very vocal leader, something sorely missing in the Oilers dressing room.
My personal choice would be Ference, he will only be in Edmonton a couple of years and this way none of the kids is loaded with extra responsibility right now. After he has retired than you can choose one of the other younger guys, one of whom has hopefully grown into a great leader and would serve Edmonton well.
Please feel free to let me know which player you would choose as captain, even if I've not listed them here. Maybe you will decide to not name any captain, either way I'm interested in your feedback.
Edit: Having trouble posting comments.
Ladislav Smid - I had considered Smid, but ever since the Dany Heatley fiasco I feel as if Smid has one foot out the door. Laddy is absolutely a warrior and he is very proud to bleed for the Oilers, he is willing to sacrifice his body to ensure his team win and that is a very admirable trait that endears him to fans and team-mates alike. Smid has worn an A in the past and I think he would make an interesting choice for captain.