Season Two of the National Hockey League’s return to Seattle is underway, and while the team’s (very) early results are positive, plenty of questions still exist. What exactly is a Buoy? Will #1 goaltender Philipp Grubauer return to form? And most importantly for some, who is going to be named the team’s next captain?
There are no shortage of options as one looks down the lineup. Veterans like Yanni Gourde and Jordan Eberle. Players coming off great seasons in Kraken blue like Jared McCann. New additions with a history of winning such as Andre Burakovsky, and even blue chip prospects such as Matty Beniers. A rookie captain would be unique, and probably not ideal, but as the future face of the franchise, he could be in consideration.
What’s the big deal about a C?
It’s debatable whether having a captain makes much of a difference. The Buffalo Sabres have had captains as they’ve missed the playoffs for a decade, as did the Edmonton Oilers when they were picking 1st overall year after year. Most of the time, a single player barely plays a third of the game, so why does it matter if they’re the “leader” anyway?
I think it can matter, situationally. Truly inspirational players, the Mark Messiers and Scott Niedermayers of the world, lead by example on the ice, and help craft a culture in the dressing room. One that expects success, maybe even demands it. And while they don’t play the entire game, the behaviors they model filter through the lineup of their given team, and the wins and championships follow.
The Kraken might not have a Moose in the dressing room just yet. But last season they were a team that struggled to find an identity. Mark Giordano was passable, but his best years were behind him, and that was honestly why he was available at expansion. He couldn’t keep the team afloat singlehandedly, simply because the roster had too many holes in Year One.
Going down with the ship
As the headline above suggests, a captain has to wear the team’s results on his sweater. Giordano had to come out and face the media after every loss in 2021-22 regardless of his own personal on-ice contributions. Should the Kraken struggle once again in 2022-23, the captain, should they name one, will have to bear a similar burden. That’s a difficult situation for any player.
But there’s also no rush. The team has four competent alternate captains, and has a fairly high chance at improving versus its finish last season. It could be that someone will distinguish themselves over the winter and make the decision an obvious one, or it’s also possible that the position remains vacant for one more year. If I were forced to make a selection in 2022-23, it would be Yanni Gourde, but my true belief is that the team should float four A’s once again, and then, if Matty Beniers has the sort of season I’m expecting, hand him the reins in 2023-24.