New Jersey Devils: Zach Parise and Other Possible Captains
The Devils’ captaincy has been vacant since the trade of Jamie Langenbrunner.
Langenbrunner, who was the Devils’ captain for a few seasons, was widely considered to be a clubhouse cancer near the end of his tenure with the Devils.
Since the time of his trade to Dallas, management has not named a new captain for the team, most likely due to the fact that young superstar Zach Parise was on the injured reserve for the remainder of the season and he was the obvious heir to don the ‘C’.
There have only been eight captains in the Devils’ history. GM Lou Lamoriello is looking for a Scott Stevens-type player to take the reins for a decade or longer, rather than have someone who will mimic Devils’ great Scott Niedermayer.
Despite being with the organization his entire career, Niedermayer only held the captaincy for one year before he left in free agency for Anaheim.
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Parise was an almost automatic choice to be the future captain of the New Jersey Devils.
That changed last week when he surprisingly avoided arbitration and signed on for only a single year, making him an unrestricted free agent at the end of this upcoming season.
The belief was that, should Parise return from injury last year, he would be given the captaincy upon return, but this didn't end up happening.
There was another thought that once Parise signed a very long, very cap-friendly contract with the Devils, Lamoriello would happily include the captaincy in the contract Parise was to sign, but this didn't happen either.
It goes without saying that Parise is the most marketable player on the team, and despite the Kovalchuk signing, Parise has still been handpicked and groomed as the face of the franchise once Martin Brodeur inevitably retires.
If a new contract extension is drawn up in the following weeks, this entire debate will be a non issue, however, this does not look likely. In such a case, here are some other candidates for the captaincy.
Other than Martin Brodeur, who would be anointed captain for life if the NHL allowed it, Patrik Elias is the longest-serving Devil on the team, having been acquired via the draft in 1994.
Former Devils coach Brent Sutter stripped Elias of the captaincy when he handed it to the now-vilified Jamie Langenbrunner.
It's debatable whether the stripping of rank was justified or not, and although the Devils’ offense succeeded under Sutter, once again the Devils were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round after a stunning loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Devils would never make it past the first round under the leadership of Langenbrunner.
It's a widely-held belief among Devils fans that Elias will retire a Devil and have his name next to Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko in the rafters after all is said and done, thus making him a popular choice from a fan’s perspective.
Kovalchuk OT Winner
The former captain of the Atlanta Thrashers is a hard sell to be the next captain.
Kovalchuk is a great player who leads by example; he scores, he hits and he fights.
The problem with giving Kovy the ‘C’ is simply this and this alone: He is signed for 14 more seasons.
When you give the captaincy to a player who is locked in for the next decade and then some, you cannot go back on your decision.
Kovalchuk is a safe bet to be wearing the ‘A’ throughout the season, but I wouldn’t put any money on naming him captain for life.
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Without doing any research of any sort, I would be confident in saying that Zubrus would be the first Lithuanian captain in the history of the NHL.
This is an interesting choice for many reasons.
First off, Zubrus is widely regarded as one of the few players who gave 100 percent during the 2009-10 playoffs, and has remained a hard worker throughout his career. Zubrus is a great teammate and a well-respected veteran of the league.
Known for his gritty play and superior efforts along the boards, Zubrus is a solid choice for captain. The main argument against naming Zubrus captain is his age and contract.
Although he has played four seasons with the Devils, he has two years left on a deal that pays him a more-than-generous salary for the services he provides.
Many have speculated that Zubrus might be traded or waived, not due to his play, but rather to his $3.4 million price tag.
Despite all this, Zubrus is a fine choice as captain for these New Jersey Devils.
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Volchenkov is the only defenseman on the Devils who could possibly be considered for the captaincy.
His time with the Devils is short, as he only has one year left on his current deal, but he has more postseason experience than most of the Devils, having made the Stanley Cup Finals with Ottawa in 2007.
The A-Train is as respected as he is feared, which makes him the top defensive candidate.
With the unexpected waiving of Colin White, Andy Greene is now the longest-tenured Devils defenseman, however, nothing has shown that Green would make a viable candidate for the captaincy.
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Another school of thought on this subject is that there simply will not be a captain for the 2011-12 season.
This entire theory revolves around the fact that Zach Parise was signed to a one-year deal, and the Devils’ GM does not do contract negotiations during the season.
After Langenbrunner was traded to Dallas, multiple Devils players wore the A on their chest. Now, San Jose Shark Colin White, Ilya Kovalchuk and previous captain Patrik Elias all spent a good amount of time being an alternate captain.
Minus White, I would expect those players listed above to wear the A.
Don’t be surprised if newly-signed Andy Greene gets a chance at being an alternate, and another dark horse could be former Buffalo Sabre Henrik Tallinder.