Entering the 2017-18 NHL season, six teams do not have a player wearing a “C” on his jersey, Arizona, Buffalo, Carolina, Nashville, Toronto and (for obvious reasons) Las Vegas. Though captaincy in the NHL really is just a formality on paper, every team needs a player in that role to be a leader and hold teammates accountable.
Though potentially none of these could happen, each of the six teams has a player who is the favorite and should be named captain.
Arizona Coyotes- Oliver Ekman-Larsson (D)
The essential Arizona Coyote, Shane Doan, retired yesterday after spending his entire career with them. The last active player who was on the original Winnipeg team, Doan had been the captain of the Desert Dogs since 2003 and was also the longest tenured captain in the League. Losing its franchise cornerstone is a big blow to Arizona, but they have a stalwart more than ready to step up. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is one of the NHL’s top offensive defensemen and has been the Coyotes most potent threat in recent years, even if last season was underwhelming for him. No one else on the team is a viable candidate, but that doesn’t matter because Ekman-Larsson is the overwhelming favorite for the C. With Doan now retired, Arizona is his team.
Buffalo Sabres- Jack Eichel (C)
There’s been a lot of contention regarding Eichel’s candidacy to be Buffalo’s captain. He obviously has the talent and the poise, but some fear that he’s too young still, though Edmonton made Connor McDavid its captain this season and he scored 100 points. Buffalo effectively released former captain Brian Gionta this offseason and new Head Coach Phil Housley has not yet named a replacement. Eichel is the face and future of the Sabres and is ready for the responsibility after maturing a great deal during the Sabres’ frustrating past season. If not in Housley’s eyes, Ryan O’Reilly is also an easy choice.
Carolina Hurricanes- Justin Faulk (D)
The ‘Canes have not had a captain since longtime star Eric Staal was traded to the Rangers at the 2016 Deadline and instead went with four alternates last season, Jordan Staal, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk. Of the four, Faulk is easily the best choice. A rising star in the NHL and very capable two-way defender, Faulk has all the tools to lead Carolina out of the gutter. Still young at only 25, the Hurricanes aren’t going to let their golden goose go anywhere any time soon. Giving him the C is a no-brainer.
Nashville Predators- PK Subban (D)
Like Arizona, Nashville has a vacancy here because Mike Fisher retired after leading the franchise to its first Stanley Cup Final. Not a bad way to go out, especially when you get to go home to Carrie Underwood. Besides Fish’s excellence, the team’s head-turning run was propelled by the ever-dynamic PK Subban. Say what you want about him, but he’s easily one of the most electric players in the League and would make a great captain. His leadership helped fill a huge void after the team shocked the world with the trade of its former captain, Shea Weber. The Predators have the tools to dominate again, and Subban deserves the captaincy honor. Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi could also do the job.
Toronto Maple Leafs- Tyler Bozak (C)
“What stuff are you smokin’, idiot??” I’m sure you’re thinking. Yeah I know this one is a bit out of left field, but it makes sense when you think of it (plus I couldn’t be totally predictable with the list). Auston Matthews is fresh off a great rookie season and the Calder Trophy, yes. But there’s still no rush to put the C on the youngster. I know this may also seem hypocritical since I just said that Buffalo should give theirs to Eichel, but it’s just not the same case. Tyler Bozak has been on the Leafs since 2009 and is a seasoned veteran, fresh off a career year. Giving him the captaincy is a smarter move than Matthews because, unlike Eichel, Matthews hasn’t proven he can handle the pressure yet. Bozak as captain will allow the Leafs’ core of young stars that also includes Morgan Reilly, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander to continue to mature. The same could be said for new acquisition Patrick Marleau, but Bozak has been there the longest and deserves it most.
Vegas Golden Knights- Deryk Engelland
The Vegas Golden Knights have not yet named a captain for their inaugural season. Marc Methot seemed to be the easy choice but he was traded to Dallas. Now the Toronto Sun suggested this and it confused me at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense. While Deryk Engelland is relatively unknown in the NHL and an modest, stay-at-home defenseman, he would be a perfect fit for Golden Knights’ captain. Engelland played two years in the ECHL for the Las Vegas Wranglers and Vegas hockey fans know who he is. He’s the closest thing to a homemade player that the team has and fans would instantly recognize him as the team’s captain. There are other choices like Jason Garrison and James Neal, but Engelland is a familiar face to Las Vegas and fans would love him as the leader.
Agree/disagree? As always, be sure to take to Twitter to let me know how brilliant or stupid I am.