In the sport of hockey, or any sport for that matter, being the team captain is an incredible honor.
Earlier this week, we looked at some of the greatest NHL captains of all time
and one theme that came from that is the leadership qualities that these players display on a regular basis whether it is on the ice or off of it. Hall of Famers such as Denis Potvin (New York Islanders), Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman, Jean Beliveau and others did their talking both in the locker room and on the ice with their play.
With Zach Parise now a member of the Minnesota Wild, the New Jersey Devils will have to make a decision on who their next captain is going to be. Although Parise’s tenure as team captain was a short one at one year, he did manage to lead the Devils to their first Stanley Cup Final in nine years and helped his team come within two games of winning hockey’s Holy Grail.
With that said, we think there are several candidates who are more than worthy of wearing the ‘C for the Devils this upcoming season and into the future:
When Ilya Kovalchuk was the team captain for the Atlanta Thrashers from January to February 2010, it was clear that the sniper was not ready to be a team captain.
While Kovalchuk was playing well, his team was not and the team struggled to win hockey games and draw attendance among other things. Simply put, Kovalchuk was a captain for what was turning out to be a lost cause in the Southeast Division.
Two years later and several more playoff games played, now could be as good a time as ever to make Kovalchuk the next team captain of the Devils. For starters, we know he is not going anywhere considering the 15-year, $100 million deal he signed back in September of 2010.
Kovalchuk is finally starting to figure out what it takes to get to the next level and should be given the opportunity to take the Devils back to the promise land.
While picking the next team captain is a big deal, it is sometimes easier to simply go with someone that already has the experience and the mentality to be a team leader.
For the Devils, that guy might just be Patrik Elias. If you remember, Elias was the Devils’ team captain for the 2006-07 season before being stripped of it prior to the 2007-08 season when then head coach Brent Sutter gave it to Jamie Langenbrunner.
Elias is the franchise leader in almost every offensive category, has played in over 1,000 games, has won two Stanley Cups, has been an All-Star and has played with the Devils for his entire career. It could be argued that Elias bleeds red, white and black and should be given back the captaincy.
The Devils are lucky in the sense that they are a team with both a lot of young talent and some young veterans.
Devils’ forward Travis Zajac is both young and a veteran in that he has been with the team for six seasons already. In those six seasons, Zajac has consistently produced, played well on both sides of the puck and has learned a lot from the likes of Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Zach Parise and former Devil Jamie Langenbrunner.
At 27 years of age and a lot of hockey left in him, now could be the right team to give Zajac the ‘C. He can lead both on and off the ice and might be ready to lead this team into the future.
Not originally known for his scoring prowess, Devils’ forward David Clarkson was one of the better Devils’ forwards this season in cracking the 30-goal mark and putting up 46 points in 80 games.
Besides becoming more of an offensive player last season, Clarkson has showed the team and its fans that he is one of their most hard working players. He battles for pucks, he plays physical, he goes to the net and he sticks up for his teammates.
Clarkson has been with the organization for six years and at 28 years of age, could have the confidence, support and mentality to be the next captain of the Devils.
Besides making the Stanley Cup Final, one of the Devils’ other biggest surprises this season was the great play of defenceman Bryce Salvador.
Salvador, who signed a three-year, $9.5 million contract
back in early July, was a steady presence for the club this past season. After missing all of the 2010-11 season with concussion symptoms,
Salvador played in all 82 games for the team this season and was a +18.
Salvador was even better in the postseason for his hockey club. He posted 14 points (4 goals and 10 assists) in 24 games and was easily the team’s best defenceman.
Armed with a three-year contract and over 690 games played in the NHL, Salvador could use his experience and perspective to be the Devils’ next team captain.