TVA’s Nic St-Pierre created quite the stir this afternoon by tweeting the following:
Un membre des Sénateurs me confit qu'il croit que Philips sera le prochain capitaine des Sens.— Nicolas St-Pierre (@nic_st_pierre) August 28, 2013
For whatever reason, people are fascinated by captaincies. It has become an engrained part of hockey culture to spend a disproportionate amount of time debating the merits of who the next captain should be.
Fan #1: “I don’t know guys, who should be the next captain of the Sens?”
Fan #2: “Phillips for sure. He’s the longest tenured guy on the team.”
Fan #3: “You’ve had one too many beers at Big Rig! It has to be Spezza, I hear he organizes team parties and get-togethers.”
Fan #4: “Spez? For reals? What about Chris Neil? He gives his 110% each time he steps on the ice. He fights, grinds, hits. He’s exactly what this team needs more of – grit. The man shits sandpaper.”
Fan #3: “110% technically isn’t even possible…”
Fan #4: “Yeah, laugh it up like your man Giggles. I’d rather Neil than that turnover machine Spezza. That guy can’t even make Team Canada.
Fan #1: “What about Karlsson?”
Fans #2, #3, and #4: *Groan*
And so it goes.
Without knowing the inner workings, relationships and dynamics of the dressing room, I won’t even pretend to have some informed opinion of who deserves to be captain. Nevertheless, if news that Phillips is next in line is true, it certainly presents some questions.
When I reflected on the situation via Twitter, Nic St-Pierre directed a tweet towards me asking a simple question:
@6thSens why not Phillips? Gotta explain that one...— Nicolas St-Pierre (@nic_st_pierre) August 28, 2013
Rather than be limited to 140 characters, I figured the best response would be one that I could detail here on the blog; so here we go…
Over the past few weeks, media exposure chronicling Spezza’s interest in wearing the ‘C’ has created some buzz and fanfare around his candidacy. In consideration of his comments and impending UFA status in 2015, the question of why the organization would risk slighting this player by giving the ‘C’ to someone else is sensible.
To be fair, in saying that, this isn’t meant to discredit Philly or even suggest that Spezza would be bothered by getting passed over. Thus far, both have said the right things and like them, I probably put more stock into the team being led by a group of players, as opposed to just one guy doing it all himself.
Furthermore, Paul MacLean has acknowledged that his door is always open to a number of the team’s veteran players, so I just don’t put much stock into the belief that the Senators would be a better team on the ice by having Phillips as a captain versus having Spezza or vice versa.
But thanks to Alfie’s departure, there’s already going to be an immense amount of pressure on management and ownership to retain its marquee players (ie. Spezza and Ryan) and instill some confidence back in its fan base. Sure, management and ownership have reiterated that the opportunity to allocate more money into the team’s payroll may exist down the road, but they’re also in the business of selling tickets, and hope.
And in speaking of hope, perhaps bestowing Spezza the captaincy would give him more reason to re-up with the club. We've heard the narrative that this is "Spezza's team" pushed since at least 2010/11, why not make it offical and let him own it. Sure it may be for all naught, like what happened in New Jersey with Parise getting the "C" and walking a year later. But as an organization don't you have to at least give yourself every chance to retain an asset this valuable?
(Mind you, I’m not necessarily convinced it’s in the organization’s best interests to pony up and give their number one center the kind of term and cash that he’d likely be able to fetch on the open market. His recurring back problems (two surgeries) and the likelihood of a diminished return are problematic; especially for a team that has established such a strict internal budget.)
And speaking of uncertain futures, Phillips is also entering the last year of his deal, so the possibility exists that he may not be back with the Sens in 2014/15.
Assuming both players ability to leadership is comparable; I see no downside to naming Spezza captain, while giving the title to Phillips carries some risk.
I promise not to pout if Spezza isn't the choice. But the organization shouldn't take anything for granted here. If the summer has taught us anything, it's that.
Karlsson wouldn't be bad either, but he's still young with a lot to learn, and Karlsson is not going to be on the ice during a penalty kill, whereas Spezza will be used in all situations. It took years for him to develop into the player he is now. With time, Karlsson would be the logical next choice, after Spezza leaves.
Spezza seems like the ideal candidate for all the reasons you've enumerated. With all the drama going around the team right now, it would be a good story for the kid that grew into a relatively decent two-way player and carries the load offensively to be the next captain. One issue would be that this city hasn't always welcomed offensive players with open arms; if he goes through a slump then pressure will mount and do we really want him "re-booed"?
That said, Phillips isn't exactly a home run either. He may have that garrulous laugh and be the warm and fuzzy choice, but he's not going to be here forever, and maybe not in five years.
They could go with Karlsson...he is the team's linchpin and he's got the flow and the cockiness that's going to endear him to fans and infuriate opposing fanbases. Whoever it is is going to have large shoes to fill and far too much ink will be spilled on the topic in mainstream circles...
Your Captain needs to be the go to guy in a game, plain and simple. Someone who's on the ice often, can change momentum in a game single handedly, carry the team from time to time as well as have a voice in the room. I like Big Rig, but he's not that player, Spezza is and for that reason, he needs to have the C.