Picking the Next Captain for Every NHL Franchise
Nicklas Lidstrom wears a "C" on his chest in Detroit, having taking the reins from a man known in "Hockeytown" as "The Captain."
When Steve Yzerman retired in 2006, it was the end of a 20-year stint as captain of the Red Wings.
Lidstrom's potential retirement is a question every offseason. When he leaves, someone will have to take the role from two living legends.
Other teams do not have as imminent of a captaincy switch, but have men waiting to take over.
Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry
Ryan Getzlaf is just 26 years old, but his contract runs out at the end of the 2012-13 season. If he, for whatever reason, does not come back to the Ducks, former MVP Corey Perry could take over the role.
Perry is also 26, but won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player last season. He has put the Ducks on his back before.
He has the skills and personality to lead a team.
Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron
Bergeron is playing in his eighth season, all with the Bruins.
The 26-year-old is a quality two-way forward who currently serves as an assistant captain for Boston.
His persevering personality and dedication to the franchise make him an option when 34-year-old Zdeno Chara either retires or plays elsewhere.
Buffalo Sabres: Drew Stafford
Current captain Jason Pominville is signed through the 2013-14 season. He is still relatively young at the age of 29.
If Buffalo chooses not to re-sign him then current alternate captain Drew Stafford is an option.
He will be Pominville's current age then and will still be under contract.
Stafford has played his entire NHL career with Buffalo.
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano
Jarome Iginla, barring a Ray Bourque to Colorado-type of trade, will likely retire as a member of the Calgary Flames.
The face of that franchise is not an easy one to replace, but Mark Giordano could be the one.
Giordano is 28 years old, signed with Calgary through the 2015-16 season, has played with the Flames his entire career and already wears an "A" on his chest.
Carolina Hurricanes: Brandon Sutter
Eric Staal may be the Hurricanes captain for quite a while longer, but if he ends up on another team at some point, or management feels he is no longer suited for the role, current alternate Brandon Sutter could be an option.
Sutter is an alternate at the young age of 23.
Chicago Blackhawks: Mark McNeill
This might be a better question to ask in another 15 years or so, because Jonathan Toews should be wearing the "C" in Chicago for a long time.
There is no reason to change that by any means.
The 23-year-old has a long tenure in front of him, but if anyone could be looked at for after then, the Blackhawks' top prospect is a 19-year-old power forward named Mark McNeill.
McNeill is the type of player who usually develops into a quality locker-room presence. He is a co-captain of the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders. He was drafted by Chicago in the first round of the 2011 NHL entry draft.
Colorado Avalanche: Paul Stastny
Earlier this season, Milan Hejduk was named just the third captain in Colorado Avalanche history (Joe Sakic, Adam Foote).
Hejduk likely has a few more years to play at age 36. When he is gone, a player like Paul Stastny could take over, just as his father Peter served as captain of the Quebec Nordiques from 1985 to 1990.
A young player like Gabriel Landeskog or Ryan O'Reilly may also develop into captain material at some point, but they are too young to consider at this point.
Columbus Blue Jackets: R.J. Umberger
The Blue Jackets may be able to trade Rick Nash this offseason, a task they were unable to complete at the trade deadline.
R.J. Umberger could be that man. One of the team's top forwards, Umberger is in his fourth season with the team and is signed through the end of the 2017-18 season.
He could be the guy to lead Columbus if Nash does end up moving.
Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn
The 22-year-old Jamie Benn is already showing impressive leadership abilities in addition to a productive skill set.
Current captain Brendan Morrow is 33 years old. When his time in Dallas is done, Benn could be ready for that role.
Benn gained a lot of attention last season when he showed fire in a great fight against a power forward that is already a captain, Jarome Iginla.
Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk
From Steve Yzerman to Nicklas Lidstrom to (potentially) Pavel Datsyuk...has there ever been a more skilled chain of captains for any team in NHL history?
Datsyuk is one of the NHL's most respected players, an opinion likely shared by the Detroit locker room.
Edmonton Oilers: Ales Hemsky
Current captain Shawn Horcoff is not close to being traded, a free agent or retired—the 33-year-old captain is signed longer than any other player on their roster.
However, if a different player were to take over, the most capable current player would be Ales Hemsky.
Hemsky is the team's longest-tenured player wearing an "A" on his chest. His time with the team and apparent leadership abilities make him deserving of that type of role.
Florida Panthers: Stephen Weiss
Florida does not currently have a captain.
The team chose not to name one after Bryan McCabe left.
If anyone deserves to wear the "C," it's Stephen Weiss.
Weiss has been there the longest—he's played his entire NHL career (starting in 2001-02) with Florida.
Los Angeles Kings: Mike Richards
Sure, Mike Richards is in his first season with the Kings. However, he's shown leadership abilities before, which is what earned him captaincy in Philadelphia.
If the Kings trade their current captain Dustin Brown, which was a speculated trade at the trade deadline this season, Richards could captain his second NHL team.
Minnesota Wild: Mikael Granlund
Minnesota had rotated captains before naming Koivu the franchise's first permanent captain in the 2009-10 season.
Minnesota obviously has Koivu in high regards to do that. Additionally, the 29-year-old is signed through the 2017-18 season. If Koivu stays with the team through the length of his contract, the team's next captain is likely a very young player in their organization.
That player could be 20-year-old prospect Mikael Granlund, who will be eligible to join the Wild next season.
Granlund has captained Finland's World Junior team.
Montreal Canadiens: Josh Gorges
Gorges is a hard-working team player. He is committed to the Canadiens in the long-term and is suitable for captaincy when 33-year-old Brian Gionta is done there.
Nashville Predators: Mike Fisher
This really depends on who the Predators decide to keep in the offseason.
Their captain Shea Weber is young, but a restricted free agent. If they keep him, he's not going to be replaced for a very long time.
A possible replacement would be Ryan Suter, but it seems unlikely that Nashville would keep Suter and not Weber. Weber is a much better player and Suter is an unrestricted free agent.
If neither are around next year, veteran Mike Fisher is an option.
New Jersey Devils: Patrick Elias
This is another decision that might depend on what happens with NHL free agency this summer.
If the Devils' financial woes are true, they may be unable to re-sign Zach Parise. If that happens, longtime Devils forward Patrick Elias is deserving.
New York Islanders: John Tavares
It's almost inevitable that the budding superstar and face of Islanders hockey will one day be their captain—he's already an alternate at age 21.
New York Rangers: Brad Richards
If the Rangers can't hold on to captain Ryan Callahan when he becomes a free agent in 2014, veteran Brad Richards could be next.
Ottawa Senators: Jason Spezza
This is one of the sooner and likely possibilities.
Daniel Alfredsson is 39 years old, with an obviously short amount of years left in his career.
Spezza has been a Senator his entire career and would likely be next in line.
Philadelphia Flyers: TBD by Chris Pronger's Health
Current captain Chris Pronger is out for the rest of this season. If his career is over, the Flyers have an interesting situation to work out.
Does he retire and count against their cap, or stay on the long-term injured reserve so the team can use the relief space? If he does that, do they name a new captain before he officially retires?
If Pronger does not return next year and the Flyers decide to name a new captain for 2012-13, alternate Kimmo Timonen could be an option.
The team's true "captain of the future" is likely superstar Claude Giroux. He has the mentality of a leader, and with experience, can grow into the role of captain.
He should not be given the role too soon, but has already done enough to warrant status as an alternate.
Phoenix Coyotes: Keith Yandle
Shane Doan is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Though he's likely to be re-signed, he is also on the back end of his career.
Yandle has the competitive nature necessary to lead a hockey team.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Beau Bennett
Like Chicago, Pittsburgh's captaincy is going to be occupied for a very long time by their current youngster, Sidney Crosby.
Unlike Chicago, the Penguins don't have a notable young prospect in terms of leadership qualities. Bennett is Pittsburgh's top prospect according to Hockey's Future.
Nobody can make a very accurate guess on who will be the Penguin's captain in another 15-20 years when Crosby retires, but Bennett probably has the best shot of making it in the NHL, so he's listed here by default.
St. Louis Blues: Andy McDonald
David Backes is suitable for his role as Blues' captain. He plays with the intensity required of a captain.
He is also signed longer than any other current St. Louis player. The only way any current player is likely to take over is if Backes was traded.
The player who is best-suited is likely 34-year-old alternate captain McDonald, who has been with St. Louis since the 2007-08 season.
San Jose Sharks: Ryane Clowe
Clowe is the closest thing today's NHL has to Rick Tocchet.
The large power forward plays hard and plays tough. In addition to his scoring abilities, he can handle himself in a fight against nearly anyone in the league and possesses good leadership abilities.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
The 22-year-old superstar is already an alternate. By the time 31-year-old Vincent Lecavalier is no longer captain, Stamkos' leadership will have grown.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Mikhail Grabovski
Former Toronto coach Ron Wilson said of Grabovski, "He shows up, gives everything he's got every night and he works as hard, if not harder than anybody during practice."
Grabovski is the best leader who is under contract longer than current captain Dion Phaneuf.
Vancouver Canucks: Zack Kassian
Henrik Sedin still has plenty of time left in his career.
If there is a young Canuck with captain potential, it is the aggressive, fiery young Zach Kassian. He has the ability to turn into a premier power forward.
That type of player usually gains respect around the locker room.
Washington Capitals: John Carlson
Ovechkin is signed for another nine seasons. If Washington wants to keep any of its youngest players that long, it would be skilled offensive defenseman John Carlson.
Carlson was an assistant captain for the Gold-winning United States team at the 2010 World Juniors.
Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane
The 20-year-old Kane has the attitude of a leader.
A power forward who is sure to have a successful career in the NHL, look for him to lead the Jets if he's around when Andrew Ladd is no longer Winnipeg's captain.
B/R Featured Columnist Jason Sapunka covers the NHL and Philadelphia Flyers.