Chris Pronger is still technically the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers. His time as an NHL player, however, may be over. He missed most of last season with post-concussion syndrome, and according to GM Paul Holmgren, Pronger is still feeling the effects of his injuries.
The defenseman is now 37 years old and has played 18 terrific NHL seasons. He is a feared enforcer, effective playmaker, respected leader and he makes for the ultimate captain. But if he is unable to continue his career, as I believe is the case, the Flyers will need to move on.
With Pronger out of the picture, the debate arises over who should be named the new captain.
While those would all be fine selections, the new Flyers captain should really be Max Talbot.
He has the capability of taking a lot of pressure away from Giroux, which is a good thing. Giving Giroux the captaincy now would only add pressure, which is just unnecessary at this point.
It seems that the recent trend in the NHL is to give the captaincy to young stars who score a lot and attract a lot of attention. Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Richards are all examples of this.
While Crosby won a Stanley Cup for Pittsburgh in 2009, the Penguins haven't won since, and had a first-round exit in the 2012 playoffs at the hands of the Flyers. The whole team, but Crosby in particular, took a public thrashing after that series loss, and things may continue unraveling in Pittsburgh.
In Washington, Ovechkin has led a Capitals team that under-performs in the playoffs year after year, and has yet to win even a conference championship.
With Philadelphia, Richards made it to the Stanley Cup but couldn't win the series. After Richards got the "C" off his chest in LA, however, he seemed to be more relaxed, and was certainly more effective en route to winning this past season's Stanley Cup with the Kings.
I fear that if Claude Giroux is made captain now, he will get too overwhelmed and his play will be negatively affected. The media pressure in Philadelphia is immense, and everything changes once the "C" is put on a jersey.
Giroux is a great leader and even better player, but why take the risk of messing up something that is great the way it is? He is, after all, only 24 years old. To give such a young kid that much responsibility is asking a lot.
As for Talbot, he is a gritty player who is loved by fans and media alike. Teammates respect the heck out of him, and he is one of the vocal leaders in the locker room.
Talbot was an assistant captain during some of his time in Pittsburgh, and wore the "A" at times for Philadelphia this past season as well. He leads with his energy and tenacity on the ice, backing up his teammates and working hard on every shift.
Talbot is humble, interviews well, gets along with the media and is an entertaining character without going over the top. He brings an infinite amount of positive qualities on and off the ice, and has the makings of what someone should look for in a captain.
Pronger may very well come back and play again, but if he doesn't, hopefully his captaincy duties will be taken over by Talbot. You can be sure that if things work out that way, the Flyers will be in good hands.
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