Zach Parise Signs with Minnesota Wild, Devils Have Easy Choice for Next Captain

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IJuly 4, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - MAY 30:  Adam Henrique #14 of the New Jersey Devils in action against Los Angeles Kings during Game One of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Prudential Center on May 30, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

News struck this July 4th Independence Day that both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the top two free agents on the market, had signed with the Minnesota Wild.

Parise and Suter, the top forward and defenseman available in the 2012 NHL free-agent market were plucked by Parise's hometown Wild to mega deals which will pay the two men both $98 million a piece.

In making this move, the Nashville Predators have lost one half of their elite defensive tandem and alternate captain. The New Jersey Devils might feel less of a sting on the talent end while they still retain superstar Ilya Kovalchuk, but the Devils had lost their captain of one year, just as they had with Scott Niedermayer, who was given the captaincy in hopes that he would stick with the Devils instead of joining his brother Rob Niedermayer with the Anaheim Ducks.

Ever since Scott Stevens retired after a Hall of Fame career and three Stanley Cups with the Devils, there has been a revolving door policy concerning leadership in New Jersey.

Longtime Devils Scott Niedermayer, Zach Parise, and Patrik Elias only lasted a year while Jamie Langenbrunner served as captain through a 2007-2011 before being traded away to the Dallas Stars.

When discussing who the next captain will be, it is imperative to have three things: unquestioned leadership abilities, a knack for clutch scoring, and having a positive impact on locker room presence.

With the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Finals concluded, the Devils have found just that player in Rookie of the Year candidate Adam Henrique.

Following the mold of such recently successful teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Los Angeles Kings with Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Dustin Brown, respectively, New Jersey has an easy choice for their next captain in Henrique.

The 22-year-old from Ontario, Canada, proved in his first year in the NHL that he could be productive on any line. While Henrique was originally projected to be a third line grinder, coach Peter DeBoer placed his confidence in the youngster and put him between Ilya Kovalchuk, and then Devils' captain Zach Parise. The three found instant chemistry and molded into one of the best scoring lines the NHL had to offer.

Henrique's prowess at anchoring a line didn't stop at the end of the regular season. While he was moved down to the third line for the playoffs, Adam struck two of the most important goals in the entire postseason—a Game 7 double-OT winner against the Florida Panthers, and a Game 6 OT winner against the Devils' most hated rival, the New York Rangers.

The team's two alternate captains for last year, Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk, seem to be fine where they're at with their leadership responsibilities in the Devils' locker room. When you look at the rest of the roster, Henrique is the obvious choice to be the next captain of the New Jersey Devils, and hopefully for many years to come.