The Boston Bruins are still deciding who their new second alternate captain will be, and there's only one week remaining until they open up the 2011-12 NHL season at home against the Philadelphia Flyers on October 6.
When veteran forward Mark Recchi retired this summer, one of the "A" letters became available.
Star defenseman Zdeno Chara is the captain of the team, and forward Patrice Bergeron is one of the alternate captains.
There are several possible candidates for the "A," including defensemen Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg, as well as forwards Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton.
Let's look at the five players with the best shot of being named an alternate captain, and why each candidate would fit the role well.
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference was a real leader during the 2011 NHL Playoffs and gave the Bruins timely scoring and veteran composure.
Ference's defeat in the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals as a member of the Calgary Flames helped him lead the Bruins through the difficult times of the 2011 Finals.
Ference reminded the Bruins of how important Game 6 was, and why the loser of that game would have their confidence shaken. In 2004, Ference and the Flames had a chance to win the Cup in Game 6 but lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning. They couldn't recover, losing the series in seven games.
The Bruins beat the Canucks in Game 6, and Vancouver couldn't recover in Game 7.
Ference's leadership and two-way ability makes him a very strong choice for the open alternate captain role.
Dennis Seidenberg was one of the most important players for the Bruins last season, and he truly became an elite defenseman in the playoffs.
His partnership with captain Zdeno Chara made them the best shutdown defensive pairing in the NHL, and together they stopped several of the NHL's best offenses in the playoffs last season.
Seidenberg is a leader that leads by his superb play on the ice, as well as with his voice.
He plays the game hard and sets the physical tone the Bruins thrive off of.
Shawn Thornton is the definition of a veteran with leadership. His physical play was key in turning the Stanley Cup Finals in the Bruins' favor last season against the Canucks, and he is a very vocal presence on and off the ice.
Thornton's Cup-winning experience with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 was vital in helping the inexperienced Bruins realize how hard you had to work to become a champion.
Thornton might not be in Boston for many more seasons, but his leadership and importance to the team right now cannot be questioned.
Milan Lucic represents what the Bruins are all about: he's "big and bad," and physical. Lucic led the team in goals last season with 30 and is a force on the powerplay.
Lucic is the power forward the Bruins typically like to build their best teams around, and he has become more of a leader since entering the NHL.
Lucic will be a fixture of the Bruins for a long time, and he has been a fan favorite for years. He is ready for the added responsibility that comes with being an alternate captain for the Bruins.
What's not to like about Nathan Horton? He scores big goals (OT game-winner in Games 5 and 7 of first-round series vs. Montreal, and the winner in Game 7 of Eastern Conference Finals vs. Tampa Bay), the fans love him and his teammates love him.
All of this was done in just one year with the Bruins.
Horton is a power forward who scores, is physical and is good defensively. He's not afraid to play hurt, and he even fights.
Nathan Horton is a great candidate for the alternate captain role, but his one year of service to the Bruins could hurt his chances. Obviously, there's nothing he could do about that.
While the Bruins are still deciding who their second alternate captain will be, there is no shortage of worthy candidates.
'I really feel we’ve got some strong leaders in that dressing room that are common-sense guys,' said coach Claude Julien. 'We’ve got guys that coaches like [myself] really appreciate. That’s guys who don’t get too high or too overconfident, remain humble, and understand that the start of this season is a whole new season.'
I've listed five candidates who could be a good fit in the alternate captain role. Do you disagree with any? Have another player who could serve as an alternate? Let me know in the comments section.
Nicholas Goss is a Boston Bruins featured columnist for Bleacher Report and was the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals in Boston. Follow him on Twitter for NHL/Bruins news and analysis. Follow @NicholasGoss35