With training camp beginning in a few weeks, it won’t be long before the next captain of the Edmonton Oilers is introduced. Will it be the speedy, dynamic Taylor Hall? The skilled, soft-handed Jordan Eberle? The steady veteran Andrew Ference? Or someone completely unexpected?
To be honest, I don’t particularly care. And I don’t think fans should, either.
“SAY WHAT?” I hear you exclaim- well, before you fill the comment section with angry remarks, hear me out. I’m not saying that the choice of captain isn’t an important decision, or that the captain has no impact on the team.
What I am saying is that fans, bloggers, and even members of the media aren’t really equipped to judge the decision either way.
The choice of captain isn’t the same as the choice of MVP, or best defensive player, or any other category that can be measured on the ice. Despite what many fans seem to think, captains aren’t selected on the basis of point-scoring, even though many of them are high-scoring players. Instead, captains are chosen based on their personal character and leadership qualities.
To be a captain, a player needs to have the right presence in the locker room. They need to be able to speak with authority, to lead on and off the ice with a good work ethic, and to be able to communicate effectively with referees, coaches, and teammates. They need to set an example for younger players by their performance and their dedication to the sport- and this is why high-scoring forwards are often named captain- not because of their point totals, but because of the work ethic that leads to their point totals.
Most of these attributes are personal, and therefore impossible for fans to measure, since all we see is the on-ice product. Even reporters only catch glimpses of these elements through locker-room interviews, and it’s very hard for them to get to know every player on a roster personally.
Therefore, it’s tough for us to accurately judge the Oilers’ choice of captain as a “right” or “wrong” decision.
If Taylor Hall isn’t chosen, I imagine plenty of fans will complain, citing his excellent point totals and on-ice abilities. If the chosen captain is someone like, say, Ladislav Smid or Boyd Gordon (though neither are likely choices) then people will probably be calling for MacTavish’s head.
But let’s not forget that in 2006, the captain that led the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final was Jason Smith- a primarily defensive defenseman. He didn’t have flashy point totals, and he certainly wasn’t a top-pairing defenseman on that team- but his leadership made up for all of that.
The bottom line is this: whomever Dallas Eakins chooses, we should accept it for now. None of us personally know every player on the roster, so none of us can say who is a proper leader and who isn’t.
Agree? Disagree? Think we’re done for if Ebs isn’t given the C? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter @Oilonwhyte.