There are even suggestions that this may not even be the last deal for the Sens Captain. However, when he does decide to hang ‘em up, the Sens will be missing the most important player in franchise history. The longevity, stability and leadership that Alfie brought has given this franchise respectability after so many years of embarrassment as one of the league’s doormats.
Candidate #1 – Jason Spezza
Some may think that Spezza isn’t Captain material. Spezza has been a target for Sens fans and media since the days of Jacques Martin. Criticized for his defensive play and untimely turnovers, there are some in the City that fail to see the growth Spezza has had as a player, and as a leader on this franchise. As an example last year, Spezza was leading the league in face-offs at certain points and had a great face-off percentage (53.5%). In fact, Spezza won the second most face-offs in the league with 909 face-off wins. Now, face-off percentage is not really a criterion of being a great leader, but the fact that Spezza has taken concentrated efforts to improve his game are. It shows a commitment to winning, and that’s the type of culture Alfie had brought to the Sens. We need to continue this.
With all due respect to Alfie, Spezza is a much more vocal leader on the ice. At times during last season, it was clear that Spezza’s role has grown from cocky Mississauga teenager to one of the clear de facto leaders of this team. There were times when the camera would clearly show that Spezza was the guy that was motivating his teammates and instructing them on how he wants to execute plays. With the Sens roster seemingly getting younger, Spezza is a guy the prospects are looking up to going forward.
At 29, Spezza is the perfect age to be the next Captain. He has 9 years of NHL experience and he can lead our next generation of players as the prospect tree begins to fruit. He has been in front of the microphone since he was pubescent and his cliché hockey answers have been minimal in the last couple of years. He’s a media veteran that can shoulder the heat when things are bad for our team, but deserves our praise and respect when things go good. He has proven that he can handle the heat personally and has been able to turn that negativity into becoming a better player. There aren’t many that are as qualified as Spezza is for a hockey-crazed market like Ottawa.
Candidate #2 – Chris Phillips
Chris Phillips is a great person. A family man, an entrepreneur, and a reliable stay-at-home defenceman, he is an individual that has always had my respect. In some ways, leadership is all about respect. The media respects him, the fans respect him, and his teammates respect him. What more could you ask for?
Chris Phillips has played like a veteran for so many years that people have forgotten he still has some good years ahead of him. Under Paul Macleans new system, Phillips has had a bounce back season and can still contribute important minutes for the Sens. However, one of the more impressive qualities of the Big Rig is that he seems to perform in the clutch. Phillips seems to turn it up during the playoffs physically and has delivered some of the biggest goals in franchise history. In fact, during his 1000th game, he seemed to turn on that clutch performance mode and netted himself two goals. Chris Phillips knows what it takes to win and his leadership should be considered for the next Captaincy.
Candidate #3 – Sergei Gonchar
Ok. Three months ago, I would have never considered this to be an option. The reality is that Gonchar is a veteran that has helped many players in the past. His mentorship was glorified during Evgeni Malkin’s acceptance speech during the last NHL awards. Malkin, the league’s MVP, had high praise for Gonchar and this leadership should be noted. Due to his age, however, I don’t think he’s really in contention to lead this team going forward. I just wanted to give him props for what he deserves.
Candidate #4 – Erik Karlsson
Another Swedish Captain? Is he too young? I’m personally torn with this option for Captaincy. Despite being a Norris trophy winner, I still think Karlsson has room to grow as a player. He has been working out in Sweden with our Captain, and would represent our franchise admirably as our Captain because of his commitment to being so good. His evolution defensively gave him the chance to be considered a Norris trophy candidate. It was night and day comparing his last two seasons. He still has some awkward moments during interviews, but I see a young Alfie when I see Karlsson. I don’t think you’d miss with him as your next Captain.
Candidate #5 – Kyle Turris
I still think Turris has a lot to prove, but he’s such a good two-way player it’s hard not to consider him an option. I don’t know what the issues were in Phoenix, but all I’ve seen from Turris is a commitment to work hard and be the best he can be for this hockey club. He’s a longshot, but I’d consider giving him an Alternate Captain role down the road. His chances would have improved had he been drafted by the Sens.
I really don’t think anyone else has stood out just yet to be a future leader. I have high hopes for Cowen and Noesson in the leadership department, but I haven’t seen them enough to make a call. They are so young that they may be replacing the Captain after Alfie. All I know is that our group looks good going forward.
Go Sens Go,