The Edmonton Oilers went with veteran experience versus the youthful face of the franchise when it came to naming the team’s 14th captain over the weekend. Andrew Ference will have the ‘C’ stitched to his jersey when he plays his first game as an Oiler on Tuesday and despite this being his first year in Edmonton, naming Ference as captain was the smart choice.
Not only does Ference have 13 NHL seasons under his belt, but his leadership resume is littered with qualities that make him the perfect candidate to lead this Oilers group that has largely been under performing for the past few years.
Ference has won a Stanley Cup and been to two other finals with the rival Calgary Flames and most recently the Boston Bruins. Invaluable experience when talking about a player knowing what it takes to win and what to expect when put in the game’s biggest moments. Not to mention the 120 games of playoff hockey that he’s played in.
He’s also been traded twice so welcoming new teammates and making them feel comfortable and apart of the team will be an easy thing for Ference to help foster into the Oilers dressing room.
The 34-year old has played in the battle of Alberta as a member of the Flames, an attribute that will bode well to help get his teammates up for a game that shouldn’t be difficult to get up for.
He has the experience, that’s obvious. But giving Ference the captaincy over a player like Taylor Hall (the player who many thought should get it) was the smart move by Eakins, experience aside.
Hall is currently under going the transition from wing to centre, a move that is designed to help his club. The last thing Hall needs is the pressure of leading this team as captain when his focus on the ice should be solely around playing the best possible game up the middle while contributing in both ends of the rink. Leave the leadership to Ference and Hall can help out in the room.
The same argument could be made for Sam Gagner, who’s name was rumored back in early September as the Oilers’ next captain. Currently sidelined with a broken jaw, it would be tough to have your captain miss the first two months of the regular season, have him come back with the ‘C’ on his jersey when he needs to worry about rekindling his offensive game.
There are priorities for these young Oilers and being a captain shouldn’t be one of them. This is exactly why Ference was brought into the mix in Edmonton, to help lead this group of young and talented players and help take them to the next level.
Despite Gagner and Hall having years of experience over Ference when it comes to being an Oiler doesn’t make them the smartest choice for captain. If there weren’t the other distractions and areas that both need to focus on then perhaps one or the other would make an ideal captain. During this time of adversity for the Oilers having a gritty player who won’t back down from anyone and further more brings a wealth of experience behind him is by far and away not only the right choice, but the smart choice.
It’s refreshing to see the Oilers new bench boss making the right decisions before the year even starts. Confidence and trust in a player is earned and there is no doubt that Ference has already earned that from his coaches and his teammates, making him the ideal captain for this Oilers’ squad.