Edmonton Oilers Run Risk Making McDavid Captain

Mar 10, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) waits for the faceoff in first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) waits for the faceoff in first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Edmonton Oilers have an important choice to make this Fall: Who to name Team Captain.

The consensus choice, I would assume, is Connor McDavid. But as sexy as that sounds, it comes with substantial risk, for both the team and for the player.

To be clear: I see what you see. Connor McDavid has many of the attributes that would make a very good captain. This article is not making the argument that he is not a good candidate. Rather, the question is whether he is ready now…and is the “gamble” worth the inherent risks, if he turns out not to be.

What are those?

Well, not to put too fine of a point on it: What if it goes badly? “It won’t, he’s Connor McDavid“, you say? Well, of course we don’t PROJECT it to go wrong. But to set up a 19 year old kid as infallible when it comes to something as complicated and tricky as Captaincy is to skate upon thin ice. Besides, that’s not even the correct way to approach this. There are lots of obvious reasons why this COULD go well. I’m arguing that it is incumbent upon the organization to ask itself “What COULD go wrong”? You and I will agree 100% that Connor McDavid is a precious asset worth managing properly. And the Edmonton Oilers will be leaning on his production, on the ice, ever heavier than they would have before the Adam Larsson deal. He’s a franchise-maker.

So what if it DOESN’T go well? In a scenario all too possible (and familiar), say the season starts badly…again, and Todd McLellan and All The Kings Men can’t put the team together again? Then you are stuck in a situation with a teenager as Captain with Captain’s duties, and they’re damn hard ones to deal with. Instead of being fresh, unencumbered and ready to face a fresh day, no matter the outcome the night before, you are duty-bound to stop and deal with the press and the pressure that is being a Captain in Edmonton when your team is losing. We’ve seen this be difficult on the most robust Edmonton Oilers, with 15+ years experience.

And the most worrisome thing about the above scenario is that it’s almost impossible to un-do. That is: He’s now scarred by the experience. Yes, scars are sometimes wounds which help us develop into solid, steady human beings. But sometimes, they are just wounds.

So many fans complain about the positions we have put all of our young prospects in, before they were really ready. And yet those same people say it’s an easy decision for the Edmonton Oilers appoint #97 Team Captain. I guess that’s an example of how one can suck and blow at the same time. My question is: Are you really, REALLY sure this can help the club and McDavid more than it can HURT them?

More from Oil On Whyte

There ARE other options, after all:

Jordan Eberle. He is now considered an NHL veteran, so he’s been through some wars and has learned from those experiences. And some of those lessons you can ONLY learn that way. It is not an insignificant attribute. He gets lots of minutes, which is important for a Captain. The best captains set an example, and it is difficult to do that if you are not playing enough…or, sometimes, at all. By all accounts Jordan Eberle is a solid citizen, and liked by his teammates. From what I understand, he also has respect within the coaching staff. Finally, he is young enough to not risk losing him in a year or so, and having to start again from scratch.

More from Oilers News

-Matt Hendricks. Hendricks would be an easy choice on many fronts: He sets a marvelous example. He is a consummate professional. He has been through the wars, has earned his stripes, and is not the least bit afraid or shy to stand up for a teammate. I’m a huge Hendricks fan. Having said that, he is a 4th line winger on the back-half of his career, and on an expiring contract. There’s a real concern of continuity, and about whether his ice-time will stay consistent over the course of a Captaincy (see Andrew Ference). He would get well-deserved votes, no doubt, but there IS risk associated with this choice.

Milan Lucic. A bit tough as a newcomer, but there is little question as to his qualities. Milan Lucic is a Stanley Cup Champion. He has lost AND he has won. He’ll stand up for himself and a teammate. He’ll be on the ice lots, in a feature role, has set a tremendous example his entire career, is still young enough to grow with the job, and on a long enough contract that continuity should not be an issue.

-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Every bit as good of a candidate, in many ways, as Jordan Eberle. Perhaps even better, considering that he is so good in his own zone, and plays a 2-way game. Perhaps not as good, in that he is younger, doesn’t have quite the experience, or the benefit Eberle gas gleaned from his international play. Still, though, a fine young man with Captain-like attributes.

-sadly, it does not appear as if Andrew Ference will get to continue his NHL career. I felt he was a very good Captain, in extremely trying circumstances for the Edmonton Oilers. The grace with which he handed over the “C” last season being Exhibit “A.”

Next: Edmonton Oilers Will Name New Captain During Camp

In the end, I will not be upset if Connor McDavid is named Captain. Like many, I see the attributes and the upside. But I DO think the organization owes it to itself and it’s fans to do their due diligence first, and make good-and-bloody sure this is the right move for now AND tomorrow.