Colorado Avalanche: Why Ryan O'Reilly Could Be the Dark Horse for Captain

Kevin GoffContributor IAugust 31, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Ryan O'Reilly #37 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on February 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Over the course of the past month, I've talked about several players that could potentially be named the next captain for the Colorado Avalanche.

Erik Johnson is a name a lot of people are talking about, but we have also discussed Milan Hejduk, Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene.

Each of those four players are not only the most likely to be named the next captain of the team, they are each completely deserving in their own ways for what they bring to the team.

However, what if something strange happens and none of them get the nod? What if Joe Sacco and the front office get crazy and decide to give the "C" to a different player that hasn't been as flashy, but who has shown the ability to step up his play and lead by example?

What if we went totally off the reservation and Ryan O'Reilly was named the next captain of the Colorado Avalanche?

It seems like O'Reilly would be a long-shot since he is the third line center and just finished his second season at the end of last year.

Think about it, though.

When Ryan O'Reilly was thrown into a top-six forward role, due to the mass amount of injuries to the team, not only did he manage to help his team, he responded with his best point-scoring stretch of the season and was easily the best player for the Avalanche.

VANCOUVER, CANADA - NOVEMBER 24: Ryan O'Reilly #37 of the Colorado Avalanche skates during the pre-game skate prior to NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks on November 24, 2010 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich La
Rich Lam/Getty Images

That is exactly the kind of thing that a team wants from a captain. They want a player who can elevate his game when the team is counting on him and that is exactly what O'Reilly did.

In addition to how well O'Reilly stepped things up, think about how consistent he has been in his first two seasons in the league from a defensive standpoint.

How often will you find a player as young as O'Reilly that is constantly put on the ice against the opposition's top line? The fact that the coaching staff trusts him that much in his own zone speaks volumes about, not only his ability, but his maturity as a player.

What a message it would send to the locker room to have O'Reilly be the guy that is named captain. Not only does it say we value consistent offense, it would say how much the team values being responsible in the defensive zone as well.

I will admit that O'Reilly is almost assuredly not going to see the captain's "C" on his jersey come opening night.

He's an incredibly likable player, but the Avalanche want their captain to be the face of the franchise. As personable and enjoyable as O'Reilly is, he's not the centerpiece of the franchise.

That doesn't mean that he hasn't emerged as a leader for the Avalanche, which I believe he has. It just means that he's not the pony that the franchise is hitching their wagon to, so to speak.

Don't be surprised if O'Reilly is named an alternate at some point this season, though. That much he has definitely earned.