New Jersey Devils: 5 Candidates for Captaincy to Start the 2012-2013 NHL Season

Alex BaconCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2012

New Jersey Devils: 5 Candidates for Captaincy to Start the 2012-2013 NHL Season

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    In the midst of the third NHL lockout in less than 20 years, the New Jersey Devils still are without a captain.

    Last season's captain, Zach Parise, was the prized signing of the Minnesota Wild this summer, so the Devils have a hole to fill.

    Parise led the Devils to within two games of the Stanley Cup, only to fall short to the Los Angeles Kings.

    Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk served as assistant captains under Parise, both of whom still remain with the Devils.

    The captain position has been unstable on the Devils since hard-hitting defenseman Scott Stevens retired following the 2004-2005 lockout. Stevens was handed the Stanley Cup three times in his reign as captain, which lasted 12 years.           

    His number now resides up in the rafters of Newark as one of the greatest Devils to ever play.

    Since Stevens, the Devils have seen four players take captaincy duties.

    With four different captains in the past eight years the Devils will look to find a leader that will last longer. Here are five possible candidates:

David Clarkson

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    It may be premature to consider David Clarkson captain material, but if he continues to do what he did last year, he may be a great choice.

    In his sixth NHL season, Clarkson demolished his previous season goal total of 17. He scored 30 goals and also set a career high in points with 46.

    He put up these numbers even while sitting in the penalty box for over 100 minutes. This means that Clarkson did not sacrifice his enforcer role in order to put up points.

    Clarkson’s goals were timely; seven of them were game winners.

    Clarkson has a little bit of Stevens in him too, he loves to bang bodies and get into fights, but can remain calm when he needs to. He does a good job sticking up for his teammates and leads by example. 

Travis Zajac

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    The Devils were without their top center for almost the entire season last year.

    Travis Zajac, who tore his Achilles tendon in the offseason, only played in 15 games for the Devils in the 2011-2012 season.

    He returned at the end of the regular season, however, and was a contributor in the playoffs.

    At the conclusion of the playoffs, Zajac finished with 14 points which ranked him tied for third on the Devils in scoring.

    He also kept the Devils alive in the first round with his overtime goal in Game 6 against the Florida Panthers.

    Zajac has been a member of the Devils organization for six years now, he was drafted in the first round back in 2004.

    His leadership on and off the ice could be what the Devils need to make another Stanley Cup run.

    Zajac only has one year remaining on his contract, though. The Devils are hoping to lock him up long term so he doesn’t follow in Parise’s footsteps.

Bryce Salvador

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    Bryce Salvador came alive for the Devils in the playoffs last season.

    Salvador (4 G, 10 AST, 14 PTS) had more points in the playoffs than he did in all 82 games during the regular season.

    Tied for third on the team in playoff points, Salvador also was a plus-nine in 24 games.

    Due to his clutch play, the veteran could make a good argument for captaincy.

    Salvador is an under-the-radar defenseman that does not necessarily score a lot of points, but he gets the job done when called upon.

    He kills penalties, and clears the net for Martin Brodeur to see. Also, he is not afraid to drop the gloves, which is an attribute that most NHL captains have nowadays.

    Salvador signed a three-year contract extension with the Devils this summer, so if he is named captain, it will provide some stability in the Devils' locker room. 

Patrik Elias

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    Other than Brodeur, Patrik Elias has been on the Devils longer than any current player.

    Now a Devil for a total of 16 seasons, Elias is the all-time leading scorer for the organization.

    Although 894 points with the Devils sounds great on a resume, Elias was already captain from 2006 to 2007.

    The pressure of being captain, along with being diagnosed with hepatitis A to begin the 2005-2006 season, lost Elias his captaincy.

    Elias did not take being stripped of the C to heart though. Since recovering from hepatitis, he has been the most consistent scorer on the Devils.

    Maybe it is time to give Elias another crack at captaincy duties; he has worn the A on his sweater for many games since.

    The organization and the rest of the players treat him with great respect and, even without a C on his jersey, Elias leads the team vocally and by example.

Ilya Kovalchuk

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    Ilya Kovalchuk is another player that has had experience as a captain before.

    He captained the Atlanta Thrashers before being traded to the Devils at the 2010 trade deadline.

    He has been an assistant captain for the Devils for the past two years and maybe it is time for him to make the jump to the C.

    Kovalchuk is a changed player since he’s been on the Devils. He is no longer a shoot-first player. Last year, he actually provided more assists than goals.

    He also kills penalties now, and even fights at times to stick up for his teammates.

    Kovalchuk quarterbacks the power play from the point and is the heart and soul of the Devils offense.

    He has 13 years left on his monstrous contract, so, if named captain, the Devils will have the C stitched on No. 17’s jersey for many years to come.

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