Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
I recently read an article that ranked a few of the NHL captains on a short list. I disagreed with a few of the choices, so I thought I would create my own list.
The team captain has to have heart, lead by example, get along with players in the locker room, and be respected in the organization as well as around the league. The captain may not always be the youngest, or best player on the team, but the player that the organization feels provides the best leadership and intangibles to motivate his teammates. This is partially why a player like Dion Phaneuf of the Leafs dons the "C", instead of current Toronto point-leader Clarke MacArthur, or even Phil Kessel.
Currently, 29 of the 30 NHL teams have a captain- the only team without one is the New Jersey Devils, who sport three alternates- they will not be present on this list.
Also, a lot of the captains in the middle numbers are interchangeable, as there is no correct, definitive way of arguing that Rick Nash is a better captain than Zdeno Chara. This is merely my perception and ranking.
Enjoy the article!
Rivet has been a healthy scratch numerous times this year, as well as in the middle of trade talks. Rivet has dressed for 23 of his team's 44 games, and has registered 3 points. All year. He does have experience on his side though, as the Sabres' captain has been to the playoffs 8 times dating back to 1997 with the Canadiens.
Drury used to be a solid hockey player good for at least 50 points a year, great on the draw, and staying out of the box for the most part. This year he's got four points in 16 games, and while he's still winning draws (52.9 percent) his ice-time has taken a considerable hit — down more than 5 minutes per game from last year.
If you ask any hockey fan to name all the captains in the league, this is usually the most forgotten one. He's never been a huge numbers guy, and I've never been inside the Blues locker room, so I'm guessing he's a vocal guy. But 11 points in 44 games? Really? What I do like about him though is that he isn't afraid to throw down once in a while.
Mikko Koivu is one of those "lead-by-example" guys. You won't see him dropping the gloves or trash talking the opponents' bench, but you will see him average almost a point-per-game and score/set-up clutch goals for his team.
When the Thrashers acquired Ladd this summer from Chicago, no one expected him to have the year he is having, let alone be named captain of one the NHL's youngest squads. Ladd has already matched his last year's total in points (in almost half as many games) and currently has the Thrashers in a playoff spot (as of January 17th, 2011).
Gionta had an awful start to the year, but as he got better, the team got better. He's been on a championship team so he knows what it's like to be on top, and he was also a solid performer for the Habs in last year's magical playoff run. He plays with a lot of heart, making up for his lack of size.
A lot of people are going to be shocked to see Hank this low on the list. After all, he is last season's Art Ross and Hart trophy winner. But I don't believe Hank was the right choice for the "C". That would almost insinuate that Henrik is better than Daniel, and, in my opinion, they are on the same level. If I were the Canucks, I would've given the captaincy to Ryan Kesler. There are other ways to reward Hank for his memorable year that are probably stated in his contract.
Phaneuf is all about attitude. We've all heard about how he's a favorite in the locker room, how vocal he is, and we see that attitude on the ice. But after a promising 60-point year three years ago, you hear less about Phaneuf's trademark bone-crushing hits and booming slapshot, and more about his awful decline in stats and how loud he is. Hopefully he can step his play up to another level, because that will sky-rocket him up the list.
With experience coming out of his ears, Weight is one of the most respected players in the league. He has only played in 18 of his team's games this year, but he has been productive in most, average half a point per game as a 40-year old. He also serves as a great mentor to up and coming superstar John Tavares as Weight himself was once an 104-point scorer.
At age 32, Horcoff's minutes are down, but he's still averaging over half a point a game. Where his value is really shown is as a mentor to the young guys there in Edmonton like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Linus Omark etc. Horcoff knows when to be a joker (the post-game interviews after Jordan Eberle's wondrous first NHL goal) , and when to buckle down and play hockey. He isn't afraid to call out the young guys to make sure his team is focused, either.
Vinny is a great leader for the Lightning. He became captain at age 19 only, so he's been bestowed with responsibility from the beginning. His numbers have been down all across the board since his 52-goal season, but there's no doubt that he is still one of the league more talented players at age 30. When healthy, he's a huge threat to opposing teams.
It starts getting a little tougher to rank from here on out. Chara has been a force for Boston, and although a few seasons removed from his Norris Trophy campaign, he is arguably one of the best defenders in the league. He plays tough on every shift, and is a reason (if not the reason) why Boston has given up a league best 101 goals so far this year.
In a state where hockey comes after NFL football, college football, baseball, basketball, and maybe even high school football, McCabe is a bright spot on an otherwise dismal Panthers team. He's got a lot of experience, and you can see it in the way he plays. He's been on bad team, after bad team, after bad team, but he's stayed strong. hopefully Florida will make the playoffs with him on the roster before he turns 80.
Dustin Brown is a good NHL captain. He's not going to "wow" you with the numbers, but he is incredibly consistent, physical, and gets in the "dirty areas". He's a guy that all coaches would love to have on their team, as he exemplifies hard work and gritty hockey. The American forward is on pace for a career-high 67 points this season.
It was only two years ago that the Avalanche finished in last place in the Western Conference. A few solid drafts later, they are a perennial playoff team. Give the front office some credit, but heap some praise onto captain Adam Foote as well. At 39, he's got a ton of experience (although his stats are abysmal) and he's a solid motivational guy.
I was shocked when I saw Shea Weber this low on my own list. But then I looked at the next 13, and it all made sense. Nashville's leading point scorer is defenseman Shea Weber. He was given the captaincy after an incredible showing at the Olympics in Vancouver, and with good reason. Weber is the future of Nashville hockey, and he's a great NHL captain at that.
Everyone in San Jose is having a down year, but you can count of captain Thornton to try and steer the ship in the right direction. Joe Thornton is known for making Jonathan Cheechoo look like Pavel Bure, and making Devin Setoguchi relevant. A good leader who leads by example and play, "Jumbo Joe" checks in at number 13.
One of the NHL's most electric players, Rick Nash, is the face of the Blue Jackets' franchise. He may not be scoring at an incredible pace anymore, but he is a threat to score every time he touches the puck. The best player on his team and a Canadian Olympian, Nash leads by example, as well as turning his game up another notch when his team needs him.
Getzlaf is arguably one of the top-10 players in the NHL when healthy. When he's not scoring points, he's winning draws, picking off passes, and creating opportunities for his teammates. A solid two-way power forward, Getzlaf is on the outside looking in of the top 10, but could easily be top 5 if he could stay healthy and get his team back into the playoffs.
Surprised? Don't be- this isn't a list of the league most talented captains (in which Ovi would be top 3), but the best all-around captains. Ovechkin is a respected player in the locker room and lets his play do the talking, but he hasn't been able to motivate his team to turn on their best games when it matters most (see last year's playoff implosion). Ovechkin is still a great player and a good captain, but he has to be able to motivate his team to play better hockey.
A down year for the Swedish captain, but take away his leadership and 27 points and Ottawa would be a whole lot worse than they are now. A lifelong Senator, Alfie knows the ins-and-outs of the system and is still a threat on the powerplay. His points are still first on the team, and his mentoring of young players such as Erik Karlsson and Nick Foligno show through their play on the ice.
Eric Staal is the leader of the Hurricanes, hands down. Since receiving the captaincy from Rod Brind'Amour, Staal has been doing all he can with an inexperienced Hurricane's squad. He averages over a point per game and has young guys like Jeff Skinner performing at such high levels. A great captain.
One of the most underrated hockey players today, in my honest opinion. Morrow fights for every puck, scores, dishes, gets in good positions, and is extremely physical. Morrow has everything you want in a hockey player- another guy who won't "wow" you with his stats, but you want him on your team.
Don't worry Philly fans, this will all make sense once you see the top five. Mike Richards is just a great hockey player. Combine the vocal ability of Dion Phaneuf with some actual production and you have Richards. Great on the PK, great on the PP, and isn't afraid to take shots at the other team and get physical.
Shane Doan is pretty much synonymous with "respected" these days, as the 34-year old captain brought Phoenix out of an eight-year playoff drought with a relatively young supporting cast. You never hear Doan vying for a trade out of Phoenix; he just lets his play do the talking and continues to be one of the league's top captains, regardless of where the Coyotes are in the standings.
Iginla is another one of those "do-all" captains. He scores, he assists, he gets in the dirty areas, and he isn't afraid to throw down when his team needs a momentum shift. Unfortunately, his play is mired in the mediocrity of the Calgary Flames, but we could see him in a different jersey by the end of his career. Nevertheless, you want a captain like Iginla. In fact, you can't go wrong with any of the players in the top five.
World Junior Championship? Check. Olympic gold medal as well as being recognized as the Forward of the tournament? Check. Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe? Check. Toews has pretty much done it all and is the NHL's youngest captain at age 22. He helped bring the Blackhawks back to relevance, and is a great two-way player. The only thing keeping him from being higher on this list is how darn good the top two candidates are.
This is sure to stir up some debate, but we'll leave that for the comments. Crosby is the league's best player, and at 23, he has a long career ahead of him. He's only been in the league for six years, but his awards include the Art Ross award, the Rocket Richard, and of course, the Stanley Cup. Maybe next year he will be the NHL's top captain, but for now the honor belongs to...
Even if you absolutely despise the Detroit Red Wings, there is still no arguing how good Nick Lidstrom is. Let me give you an example: last year Lidstrom finished with 49 points and a plus-minus of +22 with only 24 PIM's. It was considered a down year for him. This year he is scoring at a torrid pace, with 42 points in 45 games, and a huge reason why, even with Jimmy Howard's sub-par play, Detroit is still second in the west. Lidstrom also brings a ton of experience, which includes four Stanley Cup rings (the fifth was oh-so-close) in 19 stellar years of playing. Did I mention that he's a six-time winner of the James Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman? He is a huge reason why Detroit is always so good.