Trick question. There won't be a captain to start the 2007-2008 season for the New Jersey Devils.
Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice has reported that the team will have three alternate captains to start the season.
The ones with the A's are Patrik Elias, Jay Pandolfo, and Dainius Zubrus. I understand the Elias and Pandolfo selections due to the former's experience in being a captain and the latter's experience of being a hardworking team player his entire career in New Jersey, but Zubrus? I don't understand that selection. I guess Brent Sutter doesn't rate John Madden as a captain. Or perhaps Colin White - who was an alternate captain in the past - being injured forced his hand. Still, weird.
But I have to say this is the first big flub by coach Sutter. As far as I know, teams generally need a captain to step up and be, well, the main leader among the players. Patrik Elias was the captain last year and while you can he say he struggled at times last season, you can't tell me he was a poor captain. Contrary to some people's belief, being a captain isn't about making fantasy hockey owners happy. It's about being a leader off the ice and in the locker room as well as being one on the ice. Given that the Devils were still a contending team and won the division despite injuries to many players, salary cap issues preventing call-ups at times, and a tumultuous coaching situation; I don't see any reason to say that Elias' season as captain hurt the team. Again, I'm going on only what I'm aware of - I don't know of the full situation about the locker room or the team's chemsitry - but there doesn't seem to be any reason for Elias to no longer wear the C.
Furthermore, because Elias was a captain for a season - he already has the experience of wearing the C. Gulitti's article has a quote that suggests the captaincy put extended pressure on Elias' shoulders which caused a dip in production. I don't think wearing a C results in miscommunicated passes, unfortunate robberies by opposing goaltenders, cold linemates, and a whole host of other play-related misfortunes for Elias last year. That said, it's entirely possible the pressure did result in poorer play - along with other reasons. In any case, if he indeed struggled because of it last year, he would perform much better because he has the knowledge and experience that he can be the main leader of a successful team. I would imagine the pressure would be lessened based on that alone. Moving it to someone else may just result in another player getting that pressure and perhaps playing poorer because he may have not had experienced the pressure that may come from the role.
What makes this even weirder is this quote from the article:
"There won't be a decision on the captaincy until Langenbrunner is healthy," Sutter said.
There's only one reason as to why Sutter would wait, in my opinion. He seriously considered Langenbrunner as the captain of the team. Let me rephrase that in a more appropriate format, namely as a question. Jamie Langenbrunner as captain? Really? I know Langenbrunner brings a lot to the table - he can play offense, defense, special teams, and is loaded with heart. Does all that make one a captain? I don't know. Maybe you, the reader, know something about Langenbrunner that would suggest him to be captain material? Was Langenbrunner an alternate captain in Dallas? I know he didn't take the C away from Mike Modano, but I am not sure what captain-related experience Langenbrunner has. For some reason, I just don't see it. Especially over Elias, who was the captain for all of last season and has that experience under his proverbial belt.
If it were me, Elias would have the C until someone else dramatically steps up or until Elias' captain-ship starts to actively hurt the team. Sutter knows the team more personally and much more than I could ever know; but I still think it's a mistake to just have three alternates now until Jamie Langenbrunner returns.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues