First of all, let’s make one point perfectly clear. The captaincy of a hockey club really shouldn’t be that big of a deal anymore.
C-wearing lost much of its non-ceremonial significance when National Hockey League teams started forcing the honour on the team’s superstar (regardless of whether said player had leadership abilities) or pinning the letter on budding franchise players in the hopes they would grow into the role.
C-wearing lost a lot of its oomph when the Minnesota Wild put a strip of Velcro on the “C” and started treating the entire affair like a Book of the Month Club. The practice of naming letter-wearers became the butt of jokes when a certain Northwest Division club dubbed its goaltender the captain even though the netminder isn’t allowed to have a “C” or an “A” on his sweater.
Mark Messier has been grandiosely proclaimed one of the great captains and leaders in the history of the sport and perhaps that’s true, but the fact remains that the Moose’s teams failed to make the post-season over the final seven seasons of his career.
All that said, there’s already been a lot of chatter about who will have a “C” stitched on his red maple leaf sweater at the 2010 Olympics and the volume on the discussion will likely go up as the summer camp gets under way this week at the Saddledome. It’s certainly been a hot topic in Calgary in particular where many Flames fans believe and/or hope Jarome Iginla is the right man for the job. The Captain Iggy Movement gained a lot of steam when Joe Sakic, a long-time NHL captain and Burnaby native who would have been playing in his own backyard in Vancouver, announced his retirement.
Still, Iginla is hardly a shoo-in for the captaincy, not when there are eight other NHL captains on the list of Canadian hopefuls for the 2010 roster and a number of others who have worn a “C” either in the pros or international competition.
The case for Iginla
- He already has a reputation as a great captain who leads by example, even if some of the folks responsible for that reputation have little firsthand knowledge of how things work in the Calgary dressing room. Back in February, a CBC panel dubbed Iginla as the best choice for the “C.”
- By all accounts, he’s popular among his fellow NHLers.
- No matter how contrived the award might be, he won Messier’s leadership thingy this past season.
- He’s one of only four skaters with a chance to play for Canada at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympics (Chris Pronger, Ryan Smyth and Simon Gagne, none of whom are currently their NHL teams’ captains, are the others, while Scott Niedermayer would have also been on the list had an injury not kept him out of the Torino Games).
The case against Iginla
- There’s the aforementioned eight other team captains on the prospective Canadian roster, although it’s probably safe to rule out Roberto Luongo for the honour. Scott Niedermayer, Sidney Crosby, Shane Doan, Brenden Morrow, Rick Nash, Mike Richards and Vincent Lecavalier are also in the mix. Patrick Marleau was San Jose’s captain but was stripped of the letter by Sharks skipper Todd McLellan this summer.
- The Flames haven’t won a Cup under Iginla haven’t been past the first round of the playoffs since the lockout. Conversely, Niedermayer and Crosby have both accepted the Cup from Gary Bettman while Pronger, Lecavalier, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Dan Boyle, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin and Dan Cleary all own Stanley Cup rings.
- Although he has plenty of Team Canada experience, Iginla has turned down all recent invitations to represent his country at the world championships. Two of those world championship invitations came from Steve Yzerman, the executive director of the 2010 Olympic team.
- Perhaps the biggest impediment of all is the presence of Niedermayer. The Anaheim defenceman has seniority – he’s the oldest skater on the team – and experience (he’s captained two NHL teams). If the choice comes down to the 36-year-old Niedermayer and the 32-year-old Iginla, might not the brass opt for the player who is less likely to ever play for Canada again?