Worthy of an ‘A’?

Much talked about in the past week is the news that Coach Bruce Boudreau wants Alex Ovechkin to improve his role as team captain, adding a more serious tone on and off the ice, especially in the dressing room.

Hockey being a team sport, Ovie will not be alone when trying to bring a more serious approach to the team. While it must be an entire team effort, it is arguable that some of Ovie’s greatest help will come from those wearing the ‘A’ on the front of their sweaters, but who will they be?

When viewing the official team roster on the Caps’ website, Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Chimera, Mike Knuble, and Tom Poti are still are listed as last season’s official alternate/assistant captains. However, a new season brings new beginnings. Will one of these new beginnings be new alternate/assistant captains?

Nicklas Backstrom, 23, was a full time alternate/assistant captain last season for the first time. Responding to his new responsibility with great pride and a high level of seriousness, Backstrom bought all the team members an iPad soon after being named to his new position. Speaking of seriousness, just how serious can Backstrom get? So serious that he won’t even dance in front of the HBO cameras. On and off the ice, Backstrom’s strong leadership skills and dedication to the team can be seen, making him a strong candidate to retain his role as alternate/assistant captain for the 2011-2012 season. Though, with his numbers much lower last season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ‘A’ was taken off his sweater to help him focus more on himself.

With eight full seasons in the NHL playing for three different teams, Jason Chimera, 32, definitely brings age and leadership to the Caps. His ability to step up in critical moments, double overtime in Game 4 against the Rangers this past postseason, is further proof why he is deserving of keeping the ‘A’. Though, with the addition of new players this offseason, are there now more deserving candidates than Chimera?

Mike Knuble, 39, has spent thirteen full seasons in the NHL, has played for some of the league’s top franchises (the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and Detroit Redwings), and has gotten his name etched on the Cup. Only 32 games shy of hitting the 1000 NHL games played mark and 4 games over the 50 NHL playoff games played mark, Knuble is what you call a veteran of the NHL. Knuble is a guy who knows what it takes to get the job done, even if that means doing the dirty work; just look at his style of play. Further, Knuble is willing to put it all on the line for the team. Hell, the guy broke his thumb in the playoffs and still played, scoring two goals all with pins in his hand. If thats not dedication, I dont know what is. Most important of all, Knuble is not afraid to have his voice heard in the dressing room when needed, as can be seen in this clip (language NSFW) from HBO’s 24/7 Penguins Capitals Road to the NHL Winter Classic. If Knuble isn’t a perfect fit to wear the ‘A’ on his jersey, I don’t know who is.

A twelve year vet of the NHL, Tom Poti, 34, would be an obvious choice to remain an alternate/assistant captain. However, there is one small problem. Out with injury, Poti only managed to play 21 games last season and his return this season is still in doubt. With this said, it is probably safe to assume he won’t be wearing the ‘A’ on the front of his jersey this season; but thats assuming he’s even wearing a jersey this season.

Backstrom, Chimera, Knuble, and Poti are all great fits to be alternate/assistant captains, thats why they were chosen in the first place. However, when evaluating the team as a whole now with the new additions made, are there players, new and old, that are more deserving to wear the ‘A’ now with Bruce’s new vision of a more serious team?

When toying with the idea of a new alternate/assistant captain, the first person that comes to mind is Jeff Halpern. An NHL vet of eleven seasons, Halpern, 35, was the Caps’ captain for the 2005-2006 season, Alex Ovechkin’s first year in the league and the first season after the lockout. After leaving the Caps, Halpern wore the ‘A’ on his sweater when playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning and also wore the ‘C’ on his sweater when playing for Team USA in the 2008 World Championship in Canada. This quality résumé makes Halpern a strong candidate to wear the ‘A’ this upcoming season.

Playing in only three seasons with over 60 games played, Troy Brouwer, 25, doesn’t exactly have the lengthy career experience that many other players on the Caps have. However, he does have something that most on the team don’t; his name on the Stanley Cup. Acquired at this year’s draft in exchange for a first round draft pick, Brouwer is a known leader, and is expected to be one in Washington. With this said, it would not be surprising to see him wearing the ‘A’ come October.

A known leader in the Caps dressing room, Brooks Laich, 28, has worn the ‘A’ in the past and would be a great fit to wear it in the future, especially because his future lasts for the next six years. Laich is well known for being a serious competitor and leader, excelling at whatever challenge is given to him. A member of the Caps since the beginning of the “Ovechkin Era,” as well as signed to be a Cap for many years to come, Laich has gone from the bottom to the top and epitomizes what it means to be a Cap, making him a great fit to wear the ‘A’ and help bring a more serious tone to the dressing room, one that will hopefully help win the Cup.

Despite only spending three seasons in the it, Joel Ward, 30, knows how much it takes to have success in the NHL. Ward went undrafted, forcing him to work his way through college hockey and the AHL to achieve his dreams of playing in the NHL. Once he finally reached that dream, Ward made a name for himself after scoring seven goals and notching six assists in only twelve games played last season in the playoffs. This production in the postseason shows that Ward knows how to step up to a challenge and lead the team when needed, a reason why Ward would be a good fit to wear the ‘A’ this season.

Alex Semin, 27, has long be criticized for inconsistency, only performing his best when wants to. However, as much as some people might try to deny it, Semin is a very important part of the Caps’ core. Semin is also known as a quiet type, rarely doing interviews with the press, avoiding the spotlight, and not always showing a lot of emotion. With this said, could the reason for this be that he is more serious and focused than most would credit him to be? While thats probably not the case at all, if it were, it’d make him a great candidate to be a new alternate/assistant captain this season. Crazier things have happened, right?

Going into his sixth season as a full time Cap, Mike Green, 25, like Semin, is an important part of Washington’s core. In his interview with the Washington Post’s Tarik El-Bashir, Boudreau commented on the fact that the team is not made up of young guys anymore and suggests that they need to mature. This being said, what better person to help lead the team in becoming more mature and serious than Mike Green, an important part of the Caps reconstruction/core?

With eight-teen years spent in the NHL, Roman Hamrlik, 37, definitely has experience. By now, Hamrlik knows exactly what to do and what not to do to have success in the NHL. He means business. Further, Hamrlik also has a total of 97 playoff games under his belt so it’s safe to assume he knows what he’s doing come playoffs time. If Boudreau really wants to take a more serious, business only approach this season, I would honestly be surprised if he did not select Hamrlik to be an alternate/assistant captain.

With well over ten players qualified to be named an alternate/assistant captains out of the entire twenty-three man roster, it will definitely be a hard time choosing which four will make the cut. One things for sure though, all four will be excellent fits for the job and will definitely help achieve Bruce’s vision of bring a more serious and mature tone on and off the ice.

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If naming the next alternate/assistant captain were up to you, which player would you choose?

Posted on August 14, 2011, in Caps Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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