With the unfortunate news that Philadelphia Flyers defenseman and captain Chris Pronger has been lost for the season due to post-concussion syndrome, the Flyers find themselves with a gaping leadership void.
Pronger was officially named team captain during the fall of 2011, though he has pretty much been the de facto captain since joining the team in the summer of 2009.
Now that Pronger is out of the lineup for the rest of the season and playoffs, the Flyers need a captain.
Until the 2002 season the Flyers' alternate captain would assume the captain's role any time he was scratched. Brad Marsh would wear the "C" when Dave Poulin missed games. Rod Brind'Amour routinely wore the "C" when Kevin Dineen and later Eric Lindros missed games.
When Keith Primeau was similarly felled with a concussion early in the 2005-06 campaign the Flyers were left captainless for months.
Ken Hitchcock had immediately approached Simon Gagne about replacing Primeau on an interim basis, but Gagne balked, citing it would be disrespectful to the injured captain.
However, missing a captain turned out to be a big deal for that team, and by the time Derian Hatcher was named as Primeau's replacement, the ill effects had begun to show.
Now that we know for a fact Pronger will not play for the Flyers until October 2012 at the earliest, the Flyers should name a team captain for the remainder of the season.
While there is no way to replace a Chris Pronger, the player or the captain, here are five players who could assume the captaincy role in his absence.
Max Talbot is a character guy.
His leadership is visible to anyone who has watched the Flyers this season. A great penalty killer and defensive forward, Talbot is also on pace to score 25 goals. He is the consummate team player and hard worker and leads by example.
He is also a Stanley Cup hero for the Pittsburgh Penguins and knows how to do those intangible things that can turn the tide of a game—and a series for that matter—in the playoffs. Just ask Dan Carcillo.
He has all the characteristics that would make a fine captain, especially in Philadelphia.
The media and the Flyers' announcers loved to call Mike Richards "The Future Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers," which they seemed to start doing sometime around 1991.
Thankfully, they have not fallen into the trap of prefabricating the next Flyers captain in Claude Giroux the way they did with Richards.
In just his third NHL season last year, Giroux was the Flyers' best player. He also is quickly maturing into a team leader as well as an NHL superstar.
Mike Richards was given the "C" way before he was ready for it, which in the long run played a part in dooming his career as a Flyer.
Giroux already seems more mature than Richards did when he was named captain, so sewing the "C" on his sweater, especially just on an interim basis, probably would have no detrimental effects on the center's game.
He'll more than likely succeed Pronger as team captain in the long term eventually; giving him a trial run until Pronger returns next year may not be a bad thing at all.
When Jagr was signed by the Flyers in the 2011 offseason after not playing in the NHL for three seasons, many Flyers fans scoffed.
However, Jagr has proven that he is still an elite player in the NHL and at times had looked like he's been the Flyers best player this season.
There's also something unexpected about him: leadership.
The guy works hard on the ice constantly. He's back-checking a lot more than I remember seeing him back-check during his days with the Penguins, Capitals and Rangers.
He puts forth a great effort on the ice and his off-ice workout regimen is the stuff of legend.
He served as captain for the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers so he has the experience.
Since coming to the Flyers, Briere has been consistently one of the best Flyers to lace up the skates.
His playoff heroics in the 2008 and 2010 postseasons and in the first round against Buffalo in 2011 demonstrates how he produces and leads by example at the most important times.
While in Buffalo he alternated the captaincy with Chris Drury and was one of the Sabres' best players.
He should not have a problem serving as a full-time captain for the Flyers.
Kimmo Timonen has the respect of every Flyer in the locker room. He is now the iron man on the team, able to log enormous chunks of ice time.
He served as Nashville's captain before being traded to the Flyers in the 2007 offseason.
He is a vocal leader of the team, one of the few who readily spoke his mind during the meltdown of the 2011 postseason and went on record talking about the locker-room discontent on the team.
He plays hard, leads by example, is not afraid to speak his mind and has a good and also blunt relationship with the media. In other words he's a smaller, Finnish version of Chris Pronger.
In other words, he's the obvious choice.