The framework to end the lockout is in place and while we wait for the ratification process for the new CBA to be completed, it is now time to start focusing on a little Devils hockey.
I will address a rumor first because I need to address it in order to move on with the point of this article. We woke up this morning to rumors that Ilya Kovalchuk might be staying put in the KHL and not returning to the Devils this season. Sorry, I’m not buying it. The guy has more than a decade left with NJ and lots a lot of money to leave on the table. He’s going to become the main focus of the Devils offense now that Parise is gone and I just can’t believe he’d leave that. When the Devils open their 2013 season, you better believe that #17 will be there.
With the departure of our Captain last July 4th, that leaves a vacancy on our team for a new captain. Who should wear the “C” from this point on? Here are a few thoughts:
Ilya Kovalchuk – Seems to make the most season. He’s locked up long term and I for one want to give the “C” to a guy who is going to be around for a while. No one likes watching their Captain walk away from the team. We’ve watched it happen twice now and I don’t want to see it happen again. He’s changed his game and bought into the Devils philosophy since joining the team, so I ask you to come up with a reason not to give it to him.
Kovalchuk is my choice but let’s look at some other guys that might hear their names in this conversation.
Patrik Elias – No doubt that Elias has been a leader for us on the ice. He’s even worn the “C” for the Devils before but I always got the feeling that he wasn’t exactly comfortable with that on his uniform. I don’t really think he’d jump at the chance to wear it again and I believe the DeBoer probably can see that.
Bryce Salvador – I prefer to have my captain be a defenseman but when you look at the Devils defense, no one really stands out above the rest. It’s a very good group of guys that get the job done but there isn’t a Stevens or Niedermayer among them. If you had to pick a defenseman, Salvador is the veteran but I don’t see him or any other defenseman wearing the C.
Travis Zajac – You could make an argument for this guy. The team seems to be lost when he is out of the lineup. He missed most of last season and the Devils were noticeably improved when he returned to the lineup and was very helpful in their run to the Cup Finals, BUT and it’s a but that would get the likes of Sir Mix-a-lot all riled up, Zajac is a UFA in 7 months and do the Devils really want to go through this again?
So that’s my short list and it really is a VERY short list because I think Kovalchuk is really the only guy that should get the “C” on his jersey. Who do you think should be the next captain of the Devils? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section!
Henrique is an option I thought he was starting to blossom towards the end of the season and I think he could be a tough player and leader - a long term player maybe ( not sure of contract situation though)
Sykora would be a good short term solution to go into retirement - he has been a long time a player and a leader and the team seems to totally respect him. He is older now but a leader and role model and has been loyal. I remember when he got hurt in the playoffs a some years back , the team truly rallied back like I have not seen before , and won the Cup that year. It seemed as if it was something to do with Sykora . I think the team and organization honors and respects him in a unique way .
Kovy may get too much weight on him, he is great player but he is in spurts and he has a certain role- i do not see him like a Messier kind of leader but I get that potential with Henrique and Sykora is definitely a proven player who has a track record of that exemplifies some experience in the battles of the past. In the trenches on strange neutral playoff games that is very important time to have the that kind of leader.
@JohnThreeSeven Henrique is an option I suppose but I would like to see how the kid responds to year 2 before giving him that type of responsibility. Plenty of guys have great rookie years (although his rookie year was a little better than great) but can't repeat what they did their rookie year. Sykora isn't coming back... at least right now. We are going with youth rather than a 36 year old.