For the first time since the end of the 2007-08 season, the Chicago Blackhawks do not have a captain.
Jonathan Toews wore the “C” in Chicago for 14 seasons (15 years), longer than any player in the history of the Original Six franchise. And, someday, his jersey will be retired as one of the all-time greats to ever wear and represent the franchise.
But should the Blackhawks name a new captain for the coming season?
The Blackhawks have some veteran leaders in the room who could fill the role. Connor Murphy is the longest-tenured player in Chicago and, when things went badly last year, more times than not he was the guy standing in front of the reporters after the game. Tyler Johnson is an established veteran who has won in the league. And Nick Foligno has earned the respect of every teammate he’s had in the NHL as a captain in other cities.
Seth Jones has the biggest cap hit — and the longest financial commitment from the organization. Earlier this week at the NHL North American Player Media Tour in Vegas, Jones told NHL.com that he wants to be the next captain.
“I understand where the organization is at,” Jones told NHL.com. “I’m focused on going and just playing my game and leading whether I have a C, an A or nothing on my jersey. I don’t think that should change.
“‘Tazer’ always used to say that in the room the past couple of years: ‘Everyone has a voice in here, everyone is allowed to speak up and say what they want. It shouldn’t be just four or five guys who are able to talk.’ If you’re an 18-year-old, you should be able to speak your mind. So, I really took that to heart.”
But I think we’re all in agreement that the face of the franchise is now Connor Bedard. And we’ve already seen him display leadership qualities, albeit in off-ice activities, with the next generation of Blackhawks players during development camp this summer.
Everything about Bedard screams future captain, but giving it to him during his rookie season is a lot to put on a young player who is already grabbing the attention of the entire hockey world.
The Blackhawks went with a collection of assistant captains during Toews and Patrick Kane’s rookie season before announcing Toews as the new captain at the Blackhawks convention during the summer of 2008. Toews was 20 year, 79 days old when he was named the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, the third-youngest captain in the history of the league at the time.
If the Blackhawks follow a similar course of action — one year without a captain and give it to Bedard before his second NHL season — he would become the youngest captain in team history; he doesn’t turn 20 until the summer after his second season.
And that’s what I think the organization should do. They made the public decision to move on from Toews and Kane, in part, to allow young players to establish themselves in the league — and in the room. When you have future Hall of Famers like those two around, even the best prospects in the league willingly defer to their voices. Heck, even great veterans defer to the likes of Toews and Kane.