As training camp rapidly approaches (and thank the heavens for that fact), we thought it an appropriate time, on this Aloha Friday, to consider the possibility of a change in leadership. Perhaps, a lasting machine stitch of the "C" on a Washington Capitals sweater other than those worn by current captain, Chris Clark.
Notably, Patrick Marleau (historically a recent source of frustration for my fantasy teams) was stripped of his Sharks captaincy, and our Canes Country colleagues have pondered what may seem unthinkable to outsiders, relieving Rod-the-aging-Bod Brind'Amour of his position as team leader. If a captaincy change ought to be made, now seems the right time to implement it.
It was during 2005 training camp, following the lockout, that the team made a big to-do in announcing that the captaincy would be handed to Maryland native Jeff Halpern during a Fan Fest ceremony in Ballston. At the time, it seemed as if that captaincy would last for years to come. Unfortunately, Halpern's tenure was but one season, when Clark was named captain for the 2006 season, just a day before players were to report for September camp.
Back in late January, when Clark was shut down for the remainder of the season due to wrist surgery (the second straight season truncated by injury), all GM George McPhee would reveal about the effect of Clark's absence on the captain's position was that he and Coach Bruce Boudreau "would probably talk about it at a later point." Boudreau's view at the time, however, was clear: "Clark is our captain. There's no controversy there. When he gets healthy, he'll come back and be our captain." And so he did. Uncle Ted loves him. We see no indication that the team has since changed its course and will change its captain. But should they?
As I wrote in his Rink Wrap, Captain Cadaver certainly provides the younger players on this Caps team with an inspirational example of the rugged determination required to succeed in the NHL. But since his impressive 2006-07 campaign, he's been unable to consistently lead on the ice. And even Coach appeared to have called out El Capitan during a rough stretch of last season. More to the point, two of three Game 7 failures under his captain's watch resulted in defeat, the most recent of which was a stupendous collapse that still leaves much of Caps country scratching their heads. Ultimately, results matter.
But looking at the franchise's history of captains, we see quite clearly that the periods of greatest stability at the post, Rod Langway (1982-93) and Dale Hunter (1994-99), coincide with the greatest successes, both regular and post-season, of the franchise to date. Since the 1998-99, the team has seen six captaincy changes in nine seasons (including a "co-captaincy" of Steve Konowalchuk and Brendan Witt in 2001-02 and a switch to no captain under Glen Hanlon).
So with Clark still on the books for two more seasons and, we can only hope, healthy for the upcoming season, should McPhee and Boudreau stick with #17 at the helm, or is it time for the franchise to do what many believe must be its destiny: to officially designate Alex Ovechkin, the first repeat winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy in over a decade, as team captain? Or maybe even today's featured Cap, the pride of Wawota, SK?