The Path to Captaincy and Letter Candidates

The Oilers might not be as busy today as some other teams as it isn't expected that the Oilers make much of a pitch for major free agents. Instead they'll wait to see what the marketplace bears.

As tradition usually goes, the first day of free agency brings out the big players. We see which teams have chosen to overspend and which teams will focus on one or two guys at most to make a drastic difference for their franchises.

Will a team like the Canucks give Dan Hamhuis far too much money? Will the Kings go for Ilya Kovalchuk and blow their remaining cap space? Will the Rangers somehow find money from some pit in some bowel and give a drastic amount of cash to an undeserving free agent? The answer could be yes to all of the above.

The result is teams that hide in the shadows waiting to offer value deals to those valued free agents left on the outside looking in. 3rd and 4th defencemen, bottom six forwards, older veterans with something left to offer; all get pushed aside until teams who know exactly what needs filling come calling.

Phoenix did it last year and it worked wonders. The Oilers intend to do the same.

Edmonton has key spots open for rookies and prospects out of camp and the franchise needs are to fill veteran leadership roles, bottom end forward spots and 4 through 6 defencemen. The Oilers may not do any of that on the first day.

Instead, they'll wait and see what is available to them at a good price. They'll see who fits the needs of an overhaul in the dressing room and overall Oiler attitude as much as they'll look for skill. They'll look for toughness to protect the "kids" and sign the many RFA players still with the franchise but without new contracts.

All the while, they'll look to name a new team captain.

Ethan Moreau was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday. It leaves the Oilers without a leader and prior to the season one will have to be named from a list of probably few candidates. This lack of players to select from is a reason the Oilers are overhauling their franchise.

Players like Sheldon Souray, who at one time had fans begging the Oilers take the "C" from Moreau, have shown fans anyone is more deserving (if he stays an Oiler). Players like Shawn Horcoff might seem a leading candidate, but the team might also want Horcoff to focus on rebounding in terms of on-ice production. Ryan Whitney quickly endeared himself to Edmonton and took no prisoners with his opinions, but he's still less than a one year Oiler. Ales Hemsky is the most talented player on the Oilers, but it might not always be best to automatically give the captaincy to the best player.

So the question becomes, who deserves the letter? IYou'll be surprised at my answer and I'm going out in left field on this one. It's also the reason I spouted a few paragraphs about value free agents, because this guy is one. My next captain would be Mike Comrie.

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Some of you will have stopped reading after I dare say such a thing. No problem. For the rest of you, here is my argument.

While Mike Comrie doesn't even have a contract with the Oilers yet, I think Comrie will get one. If they didn't see it last year, the Oilers should now view Comrie's veteran presence, his willingness to be the voice (not the face, which is now Taylor Hall) of the franchise, and his skill level as critical moving forward.

The Oilers have spent the last couple of days collecting "hockey players". Guys who play because they love the game and have a passion to be professionals. This is Mike Comrie and his characteristics as a player and a person make sense in this role. Think about it. Who else personifies the new attitude better than Mike Comrie? He's lived both sides.

Comrie went from the most popular Oiler at one time (no disrespect to Doug Weight), to the most hated Oiler (no disrespect to Chris Pronger), to one of the more loved Oilers. He did so all by publicly admitting he had some growing up to do and understood now what it meant to be an Edmonton Oiler. This is what Edmonton is trying to again be known for.

The Oilers want players who work hard, who play with passion (Comrie showed lots of that last season with limited playing time), who bring their game up to the next level when the next level is required and who send the message above all else that being an Oiler is important. Comrie learned that lesson the hard way.

The rookies (many of whom are forwards) will look to a guy like Comrie for guidance both as professionals and as skilled players. Because Comrie is a well liked and respected guy in the dressing room, he'll have those players ears. He's older, but he's still cool enough to be looked at as a young guy. (dating a hot celeb will do that for you).

He's not your best player, but he'll get you 25 goals if he's healthy and he's not your biggest or toughest guy, but he plays like he's bigger than he is.

Mike Comrie has some clout around the NHL as a veteran of many years, he's at a point in his career where he's learning to make a career out of more than just being a goal scorer and he's already in the public eye quite frequently.

He's seen a variety of coaches in his time, he's played a variety of systems and he's produced year in a year out no matter what team (good or bad) he's played on.

The only downside? Comrie's time as an Oiler (if he's offered a new contract) is limited and likely shorter term. This isn't all that terrible though as I'm sure the Oilers are hoping someone from this team either re-signs long term (Penner or Hemsky) and has by then stepped out as a true leader or, one of the young guys have blossomed into a leader (a la Jonathan Toews). If not and Comrie is on the backend of his time in the NHL, why not make him the leader going out?

If Comrie isn't given a new deal, Horcoff is the logical choice. If Comrie is back, Comrie would be my Captain with Horcoff, Hemsky, Gilbert and Whitney my Assistant Captains.

6 comments:

I would have said the exact same thing. I agree totally. Good logic.

Anonymous
July 1, 2010 at 6:54 AM comment-delete

This team needs to realize their new identity before they concern themselves with who wears the "C." I think they should go without a captain until they see who the real leaders are. After losing the negative influences and an old school coach in the locker room their entire chemistry has changed and you never know who might step it up. There is no need to hurry when looking for a captain.

July 1, 2010 at 8:35 AM comment-delete

I can't stand teams that don't have captains. It's almost as bad as when the goalie is your "c".

Anonymous
July 1, 2010 at 8:36 AM comment-delete

When a team is rebuilding, it's a fresh start for everyone. Captaincy should be designated by who fits the role best. If you bring in an experienced leader like Modano, then maybe he gets it. Otherwise, you let everyone show their true colours and the real leaders will stand out. These guys haven't had the chance to show anything yet. I wouldn't expect to see a captain before Christmas.

July 1, 2010 at 9:51 AM comment-delete

@ shawn

I would suggest that the Oilers will have a captain to start the season. I think a big part of the promotion for the season will be the change in attitude with the "new" Edmonton Oilers.

I see Comrie as a great example of that if he gets a new contract.

July 1, 2010 at 10:17 AM comment-delete

yes Mike Comrie for Captain!! learned from everything and will help kids along and he'll be good with media. turning 30 this year and can still score and plays big!!!

Anonymous
July 7, 2010 at 1:08 AM comment-delete

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