Monday, July 23, 2012

Who dons the "C" in 2012-'13?

The sobering message that radiates from the attempted Shea Weber signing is this: Chris Pronger's hockey career is over. He joins the ranks of recent Philadelphia Flyer one-year captains such as Jason Smith, Derian Hatcher & Peter Forsberg and those with concussion problems like Keith Primeau and Eric Lindros. For the most part, having three players last year wear an "A" on their chest worked. But at the end of the day, this team needs a leader... So who will it be?

1.) Danny Briere (Flyer since 2007, 34 years old) - My choice for captain. In a mere five years with the club, Briere's accumulated 118 goals and an impressive 267 points... And that's not even including the playoffs where he's been an absolute offensive dynamo, averaging more than a point per game (75 in 68). Not only is Danny a leader in the locker room though, he's a leader at home as well. For years he's taken young Flyers under his wing and had them live in his house with him and his children, Claude Giroux notably but the most recent being 8th overall pick Sean Couturier.

2.) Kimmo Timonen (Flyer since 2007, 37 years old) - The popular choice. As a defenseman, Kimmo's never been a scorer - despite averaging 36 assists a year since joining the orange & black - but during his tenure he's only missed a paltry 13 games, which makes him one of the most consistently durable skaters in the league. The only problem that I can see with giving the captaincy to Timonen is that the contract extension he signed with Philadelphia is up after this year, and rumors are swirling that he may retire soon. If he wants to hang on for a few more years, I say go for it. But if Kimmo is set on hanging up the skates following 2013, keeping him as an assistant captain would be more suitable.

3.) Claude Giroux (Flyer since 2008, 24 years old) - The eventual choice. He's easily the best player on the team and the face of the franchise. Hell, come September he'll be the face of EA Sports' NHL13 , too. So one can understand when it comes to a player like G, it's just a matter of time until the "C" makes it's way to his sweater. But is it too soon, though? The team's most recent longest-tenured captain, Mike Richards, was handed the reins he was 23. While he started off handling the position well, one could argue that the pressure at such a young age lead to his abrasiveness towards the media, long nights in Old City and eventual departure three years later. Sure, 'Roo isn't Richie, but I question if an extra year of experience will make that much of a difference. 

4.) Max Talbot (Flyer since 2011, 28 years old) - The wild card. While Mad Max really doesn't have the offensive chops to lead in Philadelphia (despite having his best offensive output of his career in 2011-'12 with 19 goals and 34 pts), he's gained the respect of the team, town and media in the span of 13 months... And that's saying something seeing he came from the Flyers most hated rival. His calm, collected demeanor translates well in interviews and seeing as he's won the cup before, he knows what it takes to do it again and can shoulder the pressure from reporters when the team falls short. He makes sense, but it's a stretch.

5.) Shea Weber (Flyer pending RFA signing, 26 years old) - The long shot (for multiple reasons). He's giant of a man at 6'4", 234 pounds, has a deadly right-handed slap shot that at its fastest hits 109 mph and is arguably the best defensemen in the league... All probably good reasons he's already the captain for the Nashville Predators. But if he does indeed come to Philly for the next forever, assuming the exact same position as team leader right off the bat is unlikely for an extended period of time. However, down the line Weber would make sense. If Timonen gets the captaincy for one year, retires and then Weber takes over, it gives Giroux a few more years to mature, making him an interim captain of sorts. 

There's plenty of leadership to go around on this team, and possibly more come Wednesday. It's just a matter of who Paul Holmgren thinks can lead them to the ultimate prize. 

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