On Day 1 and 2 of Edmonton Oilers training camp Ralph Kreuger spoke of determining his leadership group. On Day 3 the head coach announced who is in, who is out and who stays the same.
We shouldn’t be surprised that Kreuger has elevated Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle to alternate captains. We always knew they were the future of the club but now they are also the future leaders. Every time they look down at the letter on their sweater it will be clear they represent themselves, the team and the players around them.
They are both in their third season, and while they are only 14 months apart in age they seem light years apart in how they might lead. Hall is a fiery, no nonsense, in your face, pick you up by the scruff of the neck and tell you what you need to hear leader. Eberle appears quieter and more reserved with his opinion, preferring to use a quiet word to make his point as opposed to ripping the paint off the walls with a speech. Now I think they can cross over and be something they aren’t every once in awhile, but for the most part what you see is what you get from Hall and Eberle.
Edmonton is also adding an ‘A’ to the sweater of Nick Schultz. He and Hall will rotate the letter while Eberle gets one all season long. As a veteran of 11 seasons and 763 games, Schultz is a perfect fit to go along with the youthful leaders. He’s a calming presence but isn’t expected to one day take over the ‘C’. That’s Shawn Horcoff’s letter … for now. Kreuger made it clear Horcoff is his captain this season. After that the Oilers centre has two seasons left on his deal. Once his contract comes to an end Hall and Eberle will be in prime position to move down the alphabet but up the leadership ladder.
What Hall and Eberle are doing right now is having a trial run at what it’s like to wear an ‘A’ with the idea that one of them will graduate to a ‘C’. They are so early in their careers but it’s become clear: the next captain will be Hall or Eberle.
The question is which one. Both appear to have the right stuff to be invited into that elite group of 30 NHL members. Edmonton’s list started with Ron Chipperfield and along the way Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe, Doug Weight and Jason Smith were some of the 13 men who were Oiler captains. If you believe in numerology then the 14th captain in team history could be No. 14 but it could also be No. 4. Who would you choose? To me you can’t make a wrong decision.