Case for Edmonton Oilers Darnell Nurse to Became Captain

Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

One thing that we learned from the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 hard-to-swallow loss from the chippy LA Kings is that 20-year-old rookie Darnell Nurse is showing true leadership qualities that cannot be taught. We have to take into consideration that this kid could in fact lead the Oilers as the top dog. It appears to me that Connor McDavid is no longer the clear-cut choice to wear the honorable C. He could have some friendly competition within that department.

Nurse has proven to be a capable leader in the past as he was once captain of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He had a successful tenure as the main squeeze of the Soo, leading the team deep into the OHL playoffs last season. In 2014, he was named captain of Team OHL for the Subway Super Series.

It is easy to notice in Nurses’ interviews that he clearly has a terrific, likable personality. There is also a calm, respectful presence about him when he stands in front of a camera to give the low down. That smile of his brightens the room. He is a straight shooter and will tell you exactly how it is no matter how good or bad the team plays. He always says the right things about his teammates and organization and holds himself accountable for any mistakes. No doubt Nurse is already beginning to morph into a true professional on and off the ice. He is maturing beyond his years.

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Even before the regular season began, you could see the impact Nurse was already making, particularly at the Oilers rookie camp. He was clearly light years ahead of the other prospects not named Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid. I have to say he looked awesome donning the C in the games at the tournament in Penticton. You could see he was destined for the NHL this season because of his dominating strength, imposing mentality and puck moving mobility. A full AHL season was simply not in the cards for the young standout.

In that tourney, Nurse laid down some thundering hits that sparked his team’s bench and also engaged in a few fights. The Oilers rookies responded well after Nurses’ heroic acts. He sure likes to make his presence felt when he is on the ice. It looks to me like players follow Nurses’ lead.

This brings me to the game on Dec. 29 versus the Kings. Nurse has fully convinced me that he is a serious contender to be the next Oiler captain. His ferocious bout with the infamous, hard hitting Milan Lucic spoke tremendous volumes about the youngsters character and what he’s all about. He showed guts and true grit against arguably the toughest player in the league and his teammates obviously respected that and tried to follow his lead after the fight.  Nurse appeared to take exception after Lucic decked Lauri Korpikoski. That’s exactly what a captain does, he goes to war for his team and fights for his brothers every night. This element is lacking on the Oilers roster as evident from Erik Gudbranson’s big hit on Taylor Hall versus the Florida Panthers the other night.

Unfortunately the response from the team wasn’t ideal. When Matt Hendricks ran Aaron Ekblad into the boards, Panther players stormed after him, seeking blood and retribution. Oiler players need to learn from Nurses’ fight with Lucic.

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Nurse has great character and he’s not afraid to take the lead and show that he is in charge. I see so much Chris Pronger in him it’s not even funny. He has made the Oilers hurting blueline much better as a result of his presence and steady performance. There is no question, Nurse must be heavily considered as one of the top choices to be the Oil’s next leader.