Twelve games into the regular season and the Colorado Avalanche are still without a captain. They are one of two teams that have yet to name a captain for their team (the other team being the Florida Panthers).
As Avalanche blogger Ryan Boulding put it in his first article for Mile High Sports:
"The Avs are currently an aimless ship adrift in the ocean of the NHL. They have a destination and they have a crew, but there is nobody responsible for the team out on the ice."
Earlier in the summer, it seemed that many people were jumping on the bandwagon to make Erik Johnson captain after the retirement of Adam Foote.
I was definitely one of those people. I thought that because of the investment the Avalanche made in EJ, and the way he seemed to be preparing himself in the offseason, how he spoke with the media and his performances in training camp made him an easy choice for the captaincy.
Coach Joe Sacco didn't seem convinced as he said before the season began that the Avalanche would not name a captain, rather just go with the three alternates.
Thus far in the season, Johnson has definitely not stepped up and shown that he is the clear leader of this team.
His play has been sporadic at best, he isn't producing the way the Avalanche want him to be producing and he doesn't seem to project that image of team leader that he was showing through camp.
One player that really has stepped up to the plate of leadership and has helped himself to a serving or two is Ryan O'Reilly.
There has been a very vocal faction on Twitter that have been calling for O'Reilly to be named captain ever since the latter portion of last season. O'Reilly had to take on more responsibility due to all the injuries that were happening.
O'Reilly responded, really stepped up his game and began producing.
He has taken that momentum that he ended last season with and carried it into this season, currently leading the Avalanche in points (10) and assists (eight).
Production is always great, but he isn't just leading the team in that respect. O'Reilly has developed a reputation on his team for sticking on the ice well after practice and crafting some very creative drills that he leads his teammates through.
After games where O'Reilly is unhappy with his play, he takes to running the steps of the Pepsi Center in order to remind himself of the importance of working hard to gain success in the game.
He is doing all of the things that you would want out of a captain. He is leading by example, he is producing when he is on the ice, when he's not happy with himself he goes back to basics, and he is leading his teammates in practice and in the game.
Who should be the next Avalanche Captain?
Something that was brought up during the last podcast of Two Guys, One Puck, which I participate in through The Avalanche Guild, is that while we see the rink rat nature of O'Reilly, the one thing that he has yet to show is the vocal leadership on the bench and in the locker room.
As far as we know, O'Reilly isn't the guy that goes into the locker room and gets the attention of all the lads to call people out, rally the troops and remind everybody what they have to play for out there. That's something that a lot of people want out of their captain.
Is it something that is entirely necessary? I don't think so. Joe Sakic served as Avalanche captain for close to 20 years and was famous for his reserved nature and how he led by example.
Do I think that vocal quality would be something that would help out this young team? Absolutely.
This is a team that doesn't really have somebody to rally around, and they desperately need it. They need a general out there on the ice who commands the respect of everybody in the locker room.
They need somebody on the team that when they speak up, everybody automatically pays attention to what they have to say.
They need somebody who expects just as much, if not more, out of himself as he would expect of everybody in that locker room.
The Colorado Avalanche need somebody with a work ethic that reminds all of the players, grinders and superstars alike that the way to success in the NHL is through hard work and perseverance.
Plain and simple, the Colorado Avalanche need to name O'Reilly the next captain of the team.