There have always been specific qualities in NHL players that make a great leader.
It may not be the player with the best hands, or the ability to score goals at will. It may not be the player with the highest point totals, or the flashiest moves.
But that player surely is the most poised, calm and/or motivational person on the ice.
Take Steve Yzerman or Joe Sakic for example, both of whom had tremendous success in the NHL as captains for the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche, respectively. They have not only won Stanley Cups, but have also experienced individual success.
On the other hand, players like Shane Doan and Brendan Morrow represent a different style of leadership. While both players are unarguably great leaders, their offensive totals are not elite-level by any means. Also, they have yet to experience Stanley Cup glory as captains, which is easier said than done.
The time has come for the Colorado Avalanche to find someone who can fit a similar role.
While Milan Hejduk wore the C for much of the 2011-12 NHL season, he is in the final year of his contract. Furthermore, the obvious youth movement in the Mile High City suggests that the captaincy should change accordingly.
Matt Duchene is the best candidate for the job, and here's why:
Considering this MileHighHockey.com report, Duchene had a rough season. After showing incredible resilience and motivation to get back on the ice last year, Duchene has just another learning experience under his belt.
Now, the youngster can get back to where he left off, after playing 80 games in his sophomore season and accumulating 27 goals and 40 assists.
There's no argument that Duchene is offensively gifted.The real question is: Does he have the abilities to become the next full-time captain of the Colorado Avalanche?
There shouldn't be any doubt.
After checking out this behind-the-scenes video of the 2009 NHL Entry draft provided by TSN, it's almost surprising to see how far Duchene has come in only two full seasons, while also considering his experiences with injuries last year.
It should be stated that the Avs have several other young candidates in Erik Johnson, Paul Stastny, Ryan O'Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog. In addition, if they want to play the veteran card, they can always have Hejduk return as captain for one more year.
Johnson could be the best candidate after Matt Duchene. However, he's only played in 95 games for the Avs, and while 36 points is more than respectable, he hasn't been with the team long enough. There are not only veteran options who outrank him, but younger ones as well.
Stastny has much to prove after failing to surpass the 60-point mark in two straight seasons. Why is this a problem?
He's already surpassed 70, twice.
The downward-trending production of Stastny limits his candidacy as a captain.
Ryan O'Reilly is a restricted free agent who has yet to reach a deal with the Avs. Though it's almost certain he will be with the team, the prolonging of his contract negotiations should suggest that he is not exactly captain material.
While Landeskog had a great rookie season and earned himself the Calder Trophy, the gift of captaincy may be too early for the young Swede. This would not only give him too much confidence, but hinder the rest of the team's in the process. He has much to prove in this regard.
This offseason, Duchene signed a two-year contract worth $7 million. The most interesting part about this contract is Johnson, Stastny, Landeskog and even David Jones, make more money than he is.
The fact is, many teams would have paid him a lot more for his services, but Duchene wants to play in Colorado — notice the Avalanche gear as a youth in this video.
This was easily a "prove yourself" contract, and Duchene will undoubtedly answer the call.
Duchene loves playing for Colorado, has the offensive skills to be one of the best and has leadership qualities beyond his years.
What more could you possibly want in a captain, given the youthful roster in Colorado?
If the NHL season does take place in 2012-13, Matt Duchene should be given the chance to lead the Colorado Avalanche, as he will take the opportunity and thrive from it.
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