With A New Coach Should Come A New Captain
Soon, Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello will begin a search for the 11th Devils coach in the past 13 years. With a new coach comes new changes. One of those changes should be the naming of a new team captain.
It’s never a comfortable feeling to call out the team’s captain. But what has Jamie Langenbrunner shown this year to convince anybody he deserves the “C” he wears on his jersey? Near the end of the season, he refused to speak to the media after a disagreement with then-coach Jacques Lemaire. It seemed to be the boiling point for Langenbrunner, who never seemed to mesh well with Lemaire. This frustration carried over to the playoffs, where he finished with one point in the five game series loss.
I don’t think Langenbrunner gave up on the Devils. But, when the team needed his leadership the most, he seemed to disappear, worrying more about personal milestones than the state of the team. For this, I believe there needs to be a change of the guard. But who can take over the Devils’ captaincy? Below are some of my suggestions:
1. Martin Brodeur
It seems odd that a goalie would be named captain, but it’s already happened in the league. In 2008, the Vancouver Canucks decided to name Roberto Luongo captain. While the move would be unconventional, Brodeur is one of the unquestioned leaders of this team. He wouldn’t be able to discuss penalties, etc. on the ice, and he can’t wear the “C” on his chest. But his leadership, both on and off the ice, would be what counts the most.
Who is more qualified for that leadership but Brodeur? He’s backstopped the Devils to three Stanley Cups, and he’s won four Vezina trophies. He’s a constant competitor, and while it would be an unconventional choice, Brodeur deserves some consideration if a change is made. Brodeur has been so influential, the NHL even created the “Brodeur Rule” after his run-ins with Sean Avery. Brodeur constantly brings his best effort night in and night out. And, while skill doesn’t usually determine the captain, he’s arguably the best player on the ice. Brodeur would also represent the organization well in dealing with any decisions, etc. from the NHL. As I said above, the move would be unconventional. But Brodeur has been the backbone of this team for several years. I believe he deserves consideration if the captain position becomes an open competition.
2. Zach Parise
Parise, who has quickly become one of the best Devils, should be seriously considered for the captaincy if a change is made. Parise, who was drafted in 2003, constantly ranks among the top scorers in the NHL. This past season, he averaged a point-per-game and led the team in assists. It’s not only his offensive output that qualifies him for the captain position. It’s the overall play while on the ice.
Parise never stops hustling and working on the ice. Even during the playoff loss to the Flyers, Parise tried to work through constant double teams and Chris Pronger. He’s taken on more responsibility this season, playing on the power play. And he’s been the assistant captain for two seasons. With young captains like Sidney Crosby emerging throughout the league, it might be Parise’s time to step up and take the reins.
3. Patrik Elias
Elias is another player on this team that has a lot of experience, especially in the playoffs. He also has the advantage over Brodeur and Parise, having experience as the captain of this team. During the 2006 – 2007 season (his only year as captain), the Devils had a 49-24-9 record (107 points), their most wins in the past five years. They also clinched first in the Atlantic Division. But the team couldn’t escape the second round, losing 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators. In 75 games played that season, Elias tallied 69 points (21 goals, 48 assists) during the regular season and 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in the playoffs.
Elias has never seemed like a “ra-ra” type of leader. But the Devils’ all-time scoring leader brings a veteran presence and experience to the locker room. Like Brodeur, Elias is a champion, winning two Stanley Cups with the organization. He’s also been around long enough to know the Devils’ style of play. While he’s never been the same after contracting Hepatitis A, he’s still an above-average player. He’s also got the experience of being a captain. As the leader, Elias helped the Devils advance past the first round, which is more than Langenbrunner has done in his three years wearing the “C”. Elias wouldn’t be a bad pick to captain this team.
I believe that Langenbrunner needs to be replaced as the captain. His listless, uninspiring play contributed to the Devils’ downfall against the Flyers. He began to disappear as the season progressed, and he even created controversy. I’ve always liked Langenbrunner as a player, but I just don’t think he has what it takes to be the captain. Picking either of the three players above would provide better leadership and, hopefully, help to bring the team out of the first round.