A burning question here in South Florida since Bryan McCabe left town in February of 2011, with the roster purge by Dale Tallon. McCabe was the Panther last player to wear the C, and both coach Peter Deboer in the final days of his bench tenure, as well as new boss Kevin Dineen in the first season of his, used a trio of alternates. I can’t blame DeBoer for not choosing a replacement at the time. The roster was in flux, and no one knew who would be around the following season anyway with all the potential changes hanging in the balance. I don’t necessarily find fault in Dineen’s decision last season to not name one either. His first year as an NHL head coach, with a team of 13 new faces throughout the season was enough for him to sift through. Leadership took it’s own path both on the ice, and in the dressing room.
This year however, I beg to have a decision. I have never been a fan of the rotating A system, and personally feel that a clear cut captain needs to be named. This is wear things get sticky for some, however not for me. Who should be, and who deserves to be captain are two very different questions, with two completely different answers.
If you look at loyalty, tenure, stability, and faith, the obvious choice is Stephen Weiss. He’s played his entire NHL career with the Florida Panthers. He’s been through
15 six head coaches, five general managers, umpteen different rebuilds, roster changes, and still thought it all, has stayed true, and loyal to the organization. He’s played as the number one center, mostly by default, and because of the amount of ice time he gets, he’s been the leader, or at the top of the Panthers leaders in points year after year.
However, we aren’t talking about handing out a gold watch. We aren’t discussing a plaque for good service, and company loyalty. It’s because of all those reasons that many feel he “deserves” the letter. No offence to Weiss in any way shape or for, but the first question I have is, does he even want it? I would believe that if he did, he would have had it last season at some point. The other statement is that does his personality, exemplify that of a Captain. Tenure or not, that’s not a good enough reason for me, and I feel that the leader of the team comes from someone else.
The two most obvious choices are Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski. For the most part all three of the players I’ve mentioned were part of the rotating A system that Dineen used last season. Tomas Kopecky also received some time as well. I feel that in naming the Captain, it needs to be someone who not only has a voice, but has a loud voice when needed, and has displayed the leadership capabilites both on the ice, and off. Look at Mark Messier, and Joe Sakic as two different, but excellent examples of captains who played and guided their teams to championships. In a more modern time frame you can look no further than to Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks (who in my mind is the ultimate captain) and Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings who have led their teams to Stanley Cup championships. For that grizzled veteran you can point to Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames. These players are leaders, and you can tell they are.
As we look at the current roster makeup as it stands right now, my vote goes to Ed Jovanovski. A voice who is respected, looked up to, and has the perfect balance of personality to be this teams leader. Yes, he is at the final stages of his career, but he still maintains the character and leadership qualities necessary to be the front man for this team. His knowledge of the game is excellent, and he also brings along just the right amount of toughness to a club that is doing it’s best to stop getting run over. While Campbell is also a good choice, the question again becomes, does a player even want that role? I believe that Jovo does, and will not only accept the role, but be the perfect captain for this unit of players. His guidance with the young defenders last season was instrumental in the way the Panthers defence performed. His tutelage of Erik Gudbranson payed dividends to the rookie, which showed during the first round playoff series against the New Jersey Devils.
Plus, we all know that this choice of naming Jovo the captain is not only a smart one, but also provides the perfect example for the ultimate captain of this team, Erik Gudbranson.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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