You Don't Need a Letter on Your Shirt to Lead a Team
Since the day he was drafted, Mike Richards had the tag as being the future captain of the Philadelphia Flyers. From that point on, it was only a matter of waiting.
Paul Holmgren made what everyone had always said a reality this past week when he named the 23-year-old, fourth-year center the new captain of the orange-and-black. At the end of last season, many assumed he would take on the role after former captain Jason Smith departed to free agency, where he was signed by the Ottawa Senators.
When Richards was asked if he would accept the responsibility after the Flyers were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was humble. Since Jason Smith was still on the team, Mike did not want to disrespect his mentor whom he said he learned so much from and assume he was leaving. Now that the off-season is over and training camp has started, "Richie" is ready in his own eyes and just needs to do the things that he already does so well, and not try to do it all.
However, there are some people in the Philadelphia area that feel as if Mike is too young to run this team and that this could possibly slow down his growth. Certain people were campaining for Kimmo Timonen to get the nod since he was captain while with the Nashville Predators. As great a leader as Kimmo is, I believe Paul Holmgren and John Stevens made the perfect choice. (Timonen and Simon Gagne will be alternates)
If you take a look back at some of the great captains in NHL history, you will see that most of them were even younger than Richards when they were given the "C." Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Wayne Gretzky, and Trevor Linden were all 21 when they were named captain. I am pretty sure they went on to have OK careers.
Richards is a proven leader. He has captained every team he has been on. That includes his junior teams as well as Team Canada in the World Juniors, a team that had the likes of Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry. Last year, the NHL saw the emergence of a superstar for years to come. When Richards signed a 12-year extension during last season, everyone knew the final step was sewing a black "C" on his left shoulder.
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