Thursday, August 4, 2011

Captain Colorado

The million dollar question right now is who will be wearing the "C" on his jersey come opening night for the Avalanche.  Any hockey player will tell you that it's a tremendous honor to be selected to represent your team as its captain.  Let's take a look at the Avs' former captains.  Joe Sakic and Adam Foote.  Needless to say, whoever takes over the captaincy will have huge shoes to fill.  Even though Sakic and Foote were both great leaders, they were also very different.  Sakic was a phenomenal, Hall-of-Fame scorer and a quiet, lead-by-example guy, while Foote was a punishing, bruising, hard-hitting defenseman who held people accountable.  So...who will it be?  Let's examine the top candidates.

Matt Duchene
Matt Duchene
Pros:  In his brief NHL career, he has quickly established himself as probably the biggest fan favorite on the team, he earned a nomination for the Calder Trophy his rookie year, and he became the youngest player in franchise history to lead the team in scoring last year.  You could definitely make the argument for Duchene; at 20-years-old, he has established himself as top NHL center and will be the featured center of the Avs for many years to come.
Cons:  He's only 20 and could use more time to focus solely on his game rather than having the added responsibility of being the captain of the team.

Milan Hejduk

Pros:  He is by far, the most experienced and accomplished member of the Avalanche.  He is the last remaining member of the 2001 Stanley Cup team and the only current Avalanche player with a ring.  He's a former Rocket Richard winner and a 3x All-Star.
Cons:  Hejduk is very quiet and unimposing and may not want the responsibility of being the captain.  He's been an alternate captain for several years and might actually prefer that.  He would also be great to mentor a younger captain.

Erik Johnson

Pros:  He's hungry to prove that the St. Louis Blues gave up on him too early.  Sure, Johnson has his critics.  He was a former #1 overall pick on 2006 and hasn't won the Norris Trophies people expected.  However, due to a freak knee injury in 2008, he missed the entire 08-09 season, so he's only had 3 full seasons in the NHL.  Missing an entire season at 20 is sure to hamper a young defenseman's growth.
Cons:  He's only played 22 games for the Avs and as previously mentioned, he has yet to fully prove himself.  The potential is absolutely there, but do you give the "C" to potential?

Paul Stastny

Pros:  He's a 2nd generation Av (counting the Nordiques) and at 25, he's already established himself as a premiere player in the NHL.  Nearly a point-per-game player and a 2-time All-Star selection.  He may not dazzle you with flashy moves, but he's consistent and makes the wingers around him better, like any great center.
Cons:  When Stastny signed a big contract a few years ago, some people expected him to become the next Sakic or Forsberg.  While Stats' numbers certainly aren't bad, they're not Super Joe's or Foppa's.  Since he's on the tail end of his contract, the trade rumors have begun.

People have also mentioned Ryan O'Reilly, who is said to be a great leader and have a tremendous work ethic.  However, like Duchene, he's only 20, but doesn't have Duchene's point production to his resume.  People have also talked about giving the captaincy to Gabriel Landeskog.  Way too premature for that.  Landeskog has to make the team first (which he will).  Despite his many accomplishments and vast potential, the captaincy has to be earned at the NHL level, not in juniors or the draft.  Please vote for your pick to the right!

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