Elias Should Be Devils’ Captain
When the New Jersey Devils traded Jamie Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars on January 7, they traded away more than their right winger. Langenbrunner served as captain for two-plus seasons, and his departure signified the end of his leadership.
Since the trade, the Devils have left the captaincy open. Coach Jacques Lemaire hasn’t considered a replacement, and he’s considered leaving the captaincy vacant for the remainder of the season.
If he decides to name a captain, Patrik Elias deserves to wear the “C”. The left-winger, who became the Devils’ first European-born captain during the 2006, is the clear leader in the locker room. Giving him that responsibility will credit him for his leadership and bridge the gap to a new coach.
Throughout the first half of the season, Elias stepped up and became the de-facto captain of the Devils. He faced the press after every tough loss, answering all of their questions. He held nothing back, giving unfiltered answers to the Devils’ issues. It was a refreshing change from the lethargic Langenbrunner, who gave non-descript answers to the press.
Elias’ candor wasn’t merely a front for the media. On the ice, you could see Elias take control of play. Even with Zajac manning the point on the powerplay, Elias still controlled play from the side boards. He helped Mattias Tedenby adjust to the NHL and leads the team in points.
His play shows Elias’ leadership ability. Always a point-getter, Elias built this season’s 30 points on assists (21). He continually puts his nose to the grindstone and plays hard. It’s cliche to say, but it doesn’t seem like Elias takes a play off. His on-ice demeanor exemplifies how captains should conduct themselves during games.
Off the ice, Elias has earned the respect of his teammates. Jason Arnott believes he’s been the Devils’ best player this season.
It’s not a secret – Zach Parise will one day be the Devils’ captain. But with the left-winger rehabbing a knee injury, he can’t assume those responsibilities. The responsibility, therefore, should fall to Elias. He’s already proved he can captain the team. During the 2006-07 campaign, the Devils went 49-24-9 and reached the conference semi-finals. The Devils’ left-winger understands Devils hockey and what it takes to win a championship. Even in a lost season, reinforcing those principles will help the franchise in future seasons.
Lemaire may not name a captain this season. But if he does, then Elias should wear the “C.”