Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby?
As the NHL Playoffs draw near teams are gearing up for a shot at the Stanley Cup. No sport relies as heavily on the designation of "Captain" as hockey and especially when it is time for the playoffs.
This years top playoff contenders are not new to the pressure cooker that is the NHL playoffs, but which Captain would you rather skate into battle with?
If the playoffs were to start today these teams are in the top 10 spots for both conferences. So here we go....
Sorry Sharks fans, but for a team that took the "C" from Patrick Marleau for not demonstrating the leadership qualities of a captain in the playoffs, you really should have looked further then Joe Thornton as a replacement.
I mean seriously? You gave the "C" to a guy who was chased out of Boston for his famous playoff disappearing acts.
This is a case where Joe Thornton is still paying for the performances that he gave last time he was a playoff captain. Until we see otherwise he makes his home at the bottom of the list.
Youth is served for Brown
I have a feeling in a few years Dustin Brown may climb this list dramatically, but for now he is a victim of his age and short playoff resume.
Don't kid yourself though, Dustin Brown is as tough and talented a young captain as there is in the league. With a player like Anze Kopitar on the roster, the fact that Dustin Brown wears the "C" for this team speaks volumes.
Dustin Brown is the true embodiment of the style and mentality of the Los Angeles Kings.
Pillar of Strength?
If we were ranking the most physically imposing captains heading into the Playoffs then Zdeno Chara would be a no-brainer for 1st place. Sadly, we are looking for leadership and the ability to completely change a game and there is only so much a 6'9' defenseman can do.
There is no doubt that Chara makes this defense very stingy and under his direction the Bruins have consistently played great hockey night in and night out.
Still, the trophy room doesn't have a lot of hardware for Chara and somehow I don't picture him flying through the air after a huge playoff goal.
Ready for the pressure?
Is Henrik Sedin a electrifying talent that can score almost on command? Yes. Is that a quality you like to see in a captain? Absolutely. Has he ever worn the "C" in the playoffs? No.
Henrik has a tough task because the former captain is still on the roster and chose to give up his "C". Roberto Luongo has been the key to Vancouver's rise to the top of the Western Conference since his arrival. He made a choice to do what was best for his team and let him mind solely exist to stop pucks.
As captain, Luongo did everything he could to keep his team in games, and now it is up to Henrik to be the kind of captain who can win them. We shall see...
When you have been around long enough to be a Winnipeg Jet and a Phoenix Coyote you don't ask for respect from new teammates, you demand it. Shane Doan holds court over the Phoenix dressing in a way that no other player on the roster could, not even Ed Jovanoski.
Doan has never been a flashy player and his best days are probably behind him, but his bag of tricks is full and I am willing to bet he will be in the right places at the right times. You don't last as long as he has without having a lot to offer.
Doan may be nearing the end, but I can think of another captain who he'd like to be compared to. Rod Brind'Amour took a Carolina team to the cup that is not too dissimilar from Doan's Coyotes.
Hockey purists will remember that Lecavalier was not the captain when the Lightning won the cup, it was Dave Andreychuk. Still, Lecavalier worked to get the "C" back and now takes an exciting team into familiar territory for him.
Forgive me for thinking that Vinny wants to be the person that Gary Bettman hands the cup to this year and he will do everything in his power to make that dream come true.
I will follow a guy that has been all the way down the road before and Lecavalier is that kind of guy.
One More Time?
There is simply not another player that you would want patrolling the blue line then Nicklas Lidstrom. He has the cups, he has the gold medals and he has the individual accomplishments all of which are well deserved.
The only reason that Lidstrom doesn't top this list is because this list is not simply celebrating the accomplishments of the past. Lidstrom is still a stout presence and a threat to score or create almost anytime.
However, Lidstrom may not have the legs or the motor to protect Jimmy Howard like he needs to and because he cannot guarantee a victory with his presence alone. Captain Nick falls to fourth.
Can Ovie Conquer?
Alex Ovechkin is the type of player that you happily pay to watch play and is well worth the price of admission. However, his ascension to the greatest heights of the NHL has been slowed by one thing, no cup.
Ovechkin has been on the wrong end of some puzzling and crushing playoff defeats, and while he cannot be solely to blame, he also cannot be individually praised for taking the team on his shoulders.
There is no doubt that Ovechkin is the most dazzling offensive talent in the league and has the ability to take over a game. We are just still waiting for it to happen in June. Even without the cup, though, he is still a guy that most players want wearing the "C" for their team come playoff time.
Yeah...Mike Richards gets a video. And he also gets second place on the list and the only reason I cannot logically put him 1st is because he still hasn't hoisted the cup.
This shift is the reason that the letter "C" is sewn onto jerseys. Mike Richards can have an effect on every phase of the game and refuses to quit on anything. In a perfect world you can feel comfortable throwing your captain out into any situation and Philadelphia is pretty close to perfection here.
Not only can you put Richards on the ice anytime, you can expect him to deliver as well, no matter what the circumstances are.
I'll take the risk
So you are telling me that Sidney Crosby is going to get a half a season to prepare for the playoffs without the brutal day to day grind of the regular season? I think I'll take that bet.
True it may be a huge risk to expect a guy to jump back in right at playoff time and perform at the level that he left it at (he is still 19th in the league in scoring and hasn't played since early January.) Yet who in their right mind is going to be against Crosby?
Since coming into the league, Sid the Kid has done nothing but deliver with scoring trophies, gold medals and most importantly, a Stanley Cup. Until somebody steps up and literally takes it from him, Sidney Crosby is the kind of captain everybody wants in the playoffs.