Why the Calgary Flames Won’t Name a Captain This Season
The answer, according to Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter, is very simple.
Questions about who will be named the next captain of the franchise continued this week with the team’s home opener around the corner. They can stop now.
“There’s no need to name one,” Sutter said on Tuesday. “There’s not a clear-cut one.”
But you have to dive much deeper than that to get the full picture.
The reason there is no clear-cut captain is because there are so many viable options, but none that make sense yet for longevity.
It’s the locker-room group that needs to ultimately make the choice, whether that’s verbally or through extended observation. And this core has changed significantly. If Matthew Tkachuk had chosen to sign in Calgary rather than Florida, he was the top candidate for the future.
And a refusal to lock that honour down may have played a role in his departure. Sutter suggests the 23-29 age group is where he’s looking for the next one.
Newcomers Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri are too new. If either of them is to wear the ‘C,’ it should probably come after they’ve played some games in the jersey.
Veterans Mikael Backlund and Chris Tanev are experienced leaders who are also outside that preferred age range.
As far as Sutter is concerned, the Calgary Flames’ current alternate captain positions could just as easily be co-captains.
“I think in our 30-and-older age group, there’s two guys that represent us very well who are, quite honestly, guys you could call co-captains in Mikael (Backlund) and Tanny (Tanev),” Sutter said. “But I also think in that group, there’s, what, about seven Stanley Cups? And those guys don’t have to have a ‘C’ on them.
“They get it, right?”
Those are guys like Blake Coleman, Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis and Tyler Toffoli. Kadri is in that group as well. All of them are outside that group of guys Sutter is seeking the next phase of leadership from.
“I think it’s got to come out of that 23 to 29 age group,” Sutter said. “Which you’re still looking for.”
Looking for the next Mark Giordano or Jarome Iginla, however, is no easy task.
Huberdeau is 29. Maybe he gets a serious look after this season.
But as long as Backlund is under contract (two more seasons), it might be tough to give anyone else the ‘C’. Not only is he the longest-serving Flames player on the roster, he’s arguably its most beloved in the room.
Elias Lindholm is a strong candidate as a 28-year-old. Andrew Mangiapane, 26, is hard work personified. Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin and now MacKenzie Weegar are all top defencemen, but none carry the cache of Giordano and Iginla.
And Sutter isn’t sure he wants to burden any one player with that title right now as the group is just starting to develop its identity for this season following a summer full of change. Many players, including Backlund, Tanev, Huberdeau, Kadri and Coleman, wore ‘A’s in the preseason.
“It’s really, really difficult to be a captain of a hockey team in Canada,” Sutter said, adding he may have three or four alternates. “It’s totally different if you’re in the sun or somewhere where it’s not a hockey market. This is totally different. There’s a lot of pressure on that player.
“You just don’t say, ‘Well, that’s our captain.’ It’s way different in the league now. That’s why not every team in the league has a captain, to be honest, because it’s a big burden. You want that player to be a really great player. You don’t want them carrying around that cross all the time.”
Eventually, someone will rise to that role with the Calgary Flames.
Just don’t expect it this season.