Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

No sport has a role like the NHL captain. Other sports have captains, sure, but in soccer the captain’s armband is passed around as frequently as the proverbial hot potato. There are of course leaders on, say, an NBA team, but they aren’t captains in the same way. In the NHL, one player gets to wear the “C” on their jersey, and they have a specific role on the ice, and also as the team leader. Of course, not all 32 teams currently have captains, but most do. Here is the current captain situation for every NHL squad.


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We’re starting with a team that doesn’t have a captain. Ryan Getzlaf was the captain for Anaheim, but retired at the end of the 2021-22 season. Since then, the Ducks have gone without a captain. The team does have three players wearing the “A” of an alternate captain, though they are not actually alternates in practice. Cam Fowler, a career-long Duck, is 31 and the youngest of the three. Maybe he will become the captain, or maybe youngster Trevor Zegras will get the role.


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So, um, we start with two teams without a captain. That’s the alphabet for you. The Coyotes don’t have their own arena, and they haven’t had a captain since they dealt Oliver Ekman-Larsson before the 2021-22 campaign. Of course, like the Ducks, the Coyotes have a couple guys donning the “A,” and we wonder why Clayton Keller isn’t just given the “C” at this point. It makes sense.


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The Bruins have a captain, and it’s because they didn’t wait around to name one. Patrice Bergeron, a franchise legend and future Hall of Famer, retired after the 2022-23 season, leaving the spot open. Boston quickly went ahead and named Marchand the captain. While Marchand is a great player, a few years ago when he was licking guys and generally acting like an idiot on the ice, him being named the captain of an Original Six franchise would have seemed odd. However, he has chilled out a bit, and probably earned the “C” as a result.


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Many captains have been franchise legends, the best player on the team, or a young player hoped to be the future of the franchise. On occasion, though, the captain thought process seems to go, “Umm…what about this random veteran on the roster?” That was the case with the Sabres after Jack Eichel (a “future of the franchise” pick) was traded. Buffalo decided to give Okposo the role. An NHL veteran, he’s had some fine seasons with the Islanders and Sabres, but he’s never posted more than 45 points in a season for the Sabres. Also, now in his mid-thirties, he’s probably just keeping the “C” warm for somebody.


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Another new captain, which means, through five teams, the senior name here is Okposo, who took over the role for the 2022-23 season. After Mark Giordano was left unprotected in the Expansion Draft and selected by the Seattle Kraken, the Flames went without a captain for a couple of years. For the 2023-24 season, Backlund is in the role. While he’s never been the best player on the Flames, the Swedish center has spent his decade-plus NHL career with the franchise, so this is a “steady veteran” pick.


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If your last name is Staal, you get to be captain of the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s just the rule. Jordan was originally a second-overall pick for the Penguins, where he was a Calder finalist, a Selke finalist, and a Cup winner. He was then dealt to the Hurricanes, where his brother Eric was already a franchise legend, and also the captain. When Eric moved on, Jordan was co-captain with Justin Faulk for a season. Then, Justin Williams was captain for a season. However, the next year Jordan became sole captain and has been in the role since 2019.


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Jonathan Toews was the longtime captain for Chicago, and one of the stars of a team that won multiple Cups. That time has come and gone, as the Blackhawks have begun a heavy rebuild and Toews (and Patrick Kane) are not part of it. For the first time in a while, Chicago has no captain, but let’s be honest here. We’re all just waiting for Connor Bedard to be named to the role at some point.


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A young, rebuilding Avalanche team made history when Landeskog was named captain prior to the 2012-13 season. At the time, he was the youngest-ever captain, though he has since been surpassed. However, the Avalanche have gotten used to being without their captain unfortunately. He missed the entire 2022-23 season with a knee issue, which will also cause him to miss the entire 2023-24 season as well. Sure, they won’t take the “C” off him just for his injuries, but it has not been ideal for Colorado.


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The Jackets have more stability at captain than head coach, though only just. Jenner has been in the role since the 2021-22 season. Not a star player, Jenner did have a 30-goal season early in his career, and interestingly had arguably had his two best seasons since being named captain. Perhaps he’s taken to the role with gusto?


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After going the “solid veteran” route with Brendan Morrow, the Stars followed him up with a then-young Benn. It made sense, as he had three 20-goal seasons early in his career, but he wore the “C” right before he hit his prime. He had at least 34 goals in four of his first five seasons as captain and won an Art Ross (with a woeful 87 points in a down year for scoring, but still). After a few lackluster years, Benn had a rebound campaign in the 2022-23 season where he notched 33 goals and 45 assists.


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Steve Yzerman was captain of the Red Wings for 19 seasons, a record. He was followed by Nicklas Lidstrom, perhaps the best defenseman ever, and Henrik Zetterberg, a possible future Hall of Famer and beloved figure in Detroit. So, you know, no pressure Larkin. A native of the Metro Detroit area, Larkin got the role fairly young before the 2020-21 season. Since then he’s had two 30-goal campaigns and signed an eight-year extension with the Red Wings, so he could potentially spend more than a decade in the role.


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McDavid was hyped as any prospect prior to being drafted, and the Oilers wasted no time making him the face of the franchise. He was named captain prior to his sophomore season, making him the youngest captain ever. Since then all he’s done is win the Art Ross five times and the Hart three times. Yeah. This one panned out. The best player in the NHL, and a guy who could retire today and be in the Hall, all that is missing for McDavid is lifting the Cup as captain for the Oilers.


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Barkov is kind of perfect for the role of “captain” of an NHL team. He’s a productive first-line center, yes, but he’s also won the Selke for best defensive forward and the Lady Byng for sportsmanship. Basically, he’s a chill dude who scores points, stays out of the penalty box, and is engaged defensively. That seems like a team leader, and Barkov has been Florida’s captain since the 2018-19 season.


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Sorry, Barkov, but you’ve been one-upped. Kopitar has two Selkes and two Lady Byngs to his name. He also has two Cups with the Kings, the only NHL team he has ever played for, but not as captain. Kopitar took over that role for the 2016-17 season, but those Cup winners were captained by Dustin Brown.


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The Wild used rotating captains for almost a decade after joining the NHL before deciding, “Actually, let’s just make Mikko Koivu the captain.” Koivu served in that role from 2009 until he retired in 2020. The Wild then turned to the defenseman Spurgeon, who had been with the franchise for a decade by that point. It probably helped that he was early in a seven-year contract extension at that point, making it seem like Spurgeon might spend his entire NHL career, possibly even 20 seasons, with Minnesota.


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Mikko’s older brother Saku was captain of the Canadiens for a decade, but since he retired, the role has been held by good players for brief runs. The hope is Suzuki changes that. Given that he’s only 24, the theory is he is going to be one of the best players for the franchise for a long time. He was named captain of a rebuilding squad prior to the 2022-23 season and responded with 26 goals and 40 points, which is a strong start. Suzuki seems like a legitimately good NHL player already, with plenty of room to grow.


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The only thing that is disappointing is that Josi didn’t take over directly for Shea Weber. Instead, Mike Fisher got a season in there before the Swiss defenseman got the role before the 2017-18 campaign began. Josi is a high-scoring defenseman who still does his work on the defensive end of the ice as well. He has one Norris as a defenseman, and also a 96-point season, incredible for a blue liner. Josi seems primed to see through a refurbishing of the Predators’ roster (it doesn’t feel like a full rebuild), which could make him a career-long Predator, and a guy whose jersey number will be retired in time. He’s already a franchise legend.


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Hischier was drafted first overall just before Jack Hughes, a more vaunted prospect, so seniority won in terms of who got to be captain. Another Swiss captain, he has been in the role since the 2020-21 season. Also, Hischier does have that “captain” profile to him. The center scores plenty – he has three 20-goal seasons already – but has also been a Selke finalist and seems primed to win at least one with Bergeron now retired.


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John Tavares was drafted by the Islanders to be the face of the franchise, the star, the captain, and he was…for a handful of seasons until he decided to leave for Toronto. After that happened, the Islanders turned to Lee, who was coming off a 40-goal campaign. Since then he has three 28-goal seasons. Oh, and he signed a seven-year extension the next summer, so unlike Tavares he’s probably sticking around.


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A solid veteran defenseman took over for another solid veteran defenseman. Ryan McDonagh was captain of the Rangers for a few years, and after he left, the team actually went without a captain for a couple of seasons. Then, New York decided somebody should wear the “C” and went with Trouba before the 2022-23 season. Not exactly a future Hall of Famer, it will be a couple more seasons before Trouba has spent more years with the Rangers than the Winnipeg Jets. That being said, he’s only turning 30 during the 2023-24 campaign, so he could be around the Big Apple for a while.


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Ottawa probably hopes that Tkachuk will be similar to Daniel Alfredsson and stick in the role for quite some time. The son of Keith and younger brother of Matthew, Brady has done well by his family name so far. Named captain for the 2021-22 season, Brady responded with 30 goals in each of his first two years wearing the “C.” A guy born in Scottsdale, Arizona named captain of the team in the capital of Ottawa? What a world.


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We’ve had a nice run of teams with captains, but now we arrive at another franchise where the role is vacant. Claude Giroux was in the role for quite some time, but he was then dealt at the end of the 2021-22 season. The Flyers do have two guys wearing an “A,” and since Sean Couturier is back after missing the entire 2022-23 season with a back injury, perhaps he could be in line for the promotion.


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Crosby is sandwiched between Landeskog and McDavid in the history of the youngest-ever captain. He is also currently the longest-tenured captain, having gotten the role before the 2007-08 season. Crosby has done everything you could want from a captain, as only Mario Lemieux holds higher esteem in franchise history. The 2023-24 season is Crosby’s 17th as captain, so the only question now is if he ties, or beats, Yzerman’s record for most seasons as a team’s captain.


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It turns out, you don’t need to be named Joe to be named captain of the Sharks. Sure, Joe Thornton yielded the role to Joe Pavelski, but when Pavelski moved on, Couture stepped into the role (and didn’t change his name to Joe Couture in the process). Captain since the 2019-20 season, and a career Shark, Couture has stuck it out through some rebuilding recently. However, now that both Timo Meier and Erik Karlsson have been dealt, and the rebuild has gotten more aggressive, will Couture want to stay?


25 of 32

Seattle Kraken: None

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Now, you might be thinking, “Sure, the Kraken have only been around for a few seasons. They haven’t gotten around to naming a captain yet.” In actuality, the Kraken named a captain for their inaugural season, Mark Giordano. Then, they dealt Giordano at the deadline that year. Since then Seattle has gone without a captain, but Matty Beniers was the franchise’s first pick and won the Calder. It seems like he will be the captain someday, though he is not one of the four players wearing an “A” for the 2023-24 season.


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Another new captain for the 2023-24 season. The Blues have not been able to keep captains around recently. Alex Pietrangelo left for Vegas, and then Ryan O’Reilly was dealt at the end of the 2022-23 season with the thought he would end up signing elsewhere. Indeed, he inked a deal with Nashville the following offseason. Schenn has consistently been a 20-goals, 50-points guy for the Blues, he’s in his early thirties, and he signed an eight-year extension right before the 2019-20 season. All of that probably made him an easy choice for the role.


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By dint of playing in the same era as a couple legends, and also some injury issues, Stamkos is perhaps overlooked as an NHL player. However, he’s a future Hall of Famer who already has over 500 goals and 1,000 points. He’s twice led the NHL in goals and won two Cups as captain of Tampa Bay. Stamkos has been captain since the 2013-14 season, is the best player in Lightning history, and will surely end up with his number retired.


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Hey, we remember that guy! The Maple Leafs, an iconic franchise, had been without a captain for a few years after parting ways with Dion Phaneuf. They could have gone with Auston Matthews, who they drafted first overall and who had already proven himself a star. Instead, the former Islanders captain Tavares got the role. Could it be that the Leafs wanted to name the guy who grew up in a Toronto suburb captain over the American? We don’t know, but Tavares has been quite good since signing with the Leafs, and since being named captain prior to the 2019-20 season.


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Henrik Sedin got to be captain over Daniel Sedin. Did Daniel feel weird about that? That’s a story for another day, since both are retired now. Bo Horvat took over and was then traded during the 2022-23 season. So, for the 2023-24 season, the Canucks needed a new captain. Vancouver decided to go with Hughes, the high-scoring defenseman, over Elias Pettersson. That made Hughes, who turned 24 a couple of days after the start of the season, the current youngest captain in the NHL.


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Unlike the Kraken, the Golden Knights went without a captain for a couple of years. Then, they decided somebody should wear the “C.” The first, and to date only, captain Vegas has ever known is Stone. While he’s had trouble staying healthy, he’s been a force offensively and defensively when healthy. Plus, he was the captain when Vegas won the Cup, which has secured his place in franchise history.


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Ovechkin took over as captain one season after Crosby, the 2009-10 campaign, so he has to settle for having the second-longest tenure among captains. Of course, while Crosby has to settle for being second fiddle (or 1A at best) to Lemieux, Ovechkin is clearly the greatest legend in Capitals history. He’s also second in career NHL goals, and seems primed to play until he beats Wayne Gretzky’s record, no matter what it takes. That will add to his years as captain.


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The last team on the list, and also one more team with a new captain for the 2023-24 season. Lowry is an odd choice, but current Jets head coach Rick Bowness is an odd guy, so that tracks. Infamously, Bowness took the captaincy away from Blake Wheeler prior to the 2022-23 season, and not coincidentally, Wheeler now plays for the Rangers. In his place, Bowness has named Lowry, a gritty center in his early thirties who has never had more than 15 goals or 36 points. If (by which we mean when) Bowness is fired, we could see somebody else being named captain. That’s for a future list, though.

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