Kicking off their 2021-22 NHL season, the Calgary Flames decided not to name a captain. It’s a position you don’t force, and one that somewhat naturally and clearly takes shape over time.
That’s how it happened when Craig Conroy handed his C over to Jarome Iginla – in spite of the fact Conroy was still playing on the team. And when Iginla moved on, longtime stalwart Mark Giordano was the unanimous choice.
Those two players had the honour of wearing the letter for a combined 17 seasons. Eight for Giordano. Nine for Iginla – the two longest-tenured captains in Calgary Flames history.
Big skates to fill. And with character, contracts and chemistry all key factors in a decision as critical as the captaincy, don’t be surprised if the selection takes some time.
“That’s an earned position, it’s not a given position,” head coach Darryl Sutter said this week. “This organization was very fortunate to have had some great captains. Even if you just look at the last two. Is there anybody in that class?”
There are plenty of names to choose from, and a deep leadership group beyond just the four Flames named as alternates to start this season – Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan and Chris Tanev.
“You want a guy who’s a competitor and does all the right things on the ice but also brings a lot off the ice,” veteran Milan Lucic said in the days leading up to the opener. “Work ethic. Talk to the media on a day-to-day basis. Has to carry himself professionally almost 24/7, so there’s a lot that goes into it.”
Let’s break down the favourites and some of the ‘underdog’ contenders, and what might be working for or against them.