Well, losing center Paul Stastny was a smelly piece of fish, no? First of all, there’s the fact of losing his two-way centerman services. There’s also the fact that said services are now in place for the division rival St. Louis Blues. Then there’s his forgetting to thank the Colorado Avalanche organization and fan base for a full two days…
In any case, Paul Stastny’s departure leaves open more than the vacancy of a top-six center. Stastny was one of Gabriel Landeskog‘s alternate captains, along with Cody McLeod. So, either Ryan O’Reilly or, more likely, Nathan MacKinnon will take over the second top-six centerman position. Who, however, will take over wearing the ‘A’ on his jersey?
It wouldn’t be the first time a veteran like Iginla steps into a new club and wears the ‘A.’ In fact, Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild stepped right into the alternate captain position once he joined the team in free agency. On the flip side, you could make a case that the Avalanche should avoid doing anything the Wild do…
Nonetheless, no one can question Iginla’s leadership qualities. Not only did he serve as the captain for the Calgary Flames, his experience and leadership are exactly the reasons the Avalanche front offices brought him in.
Nonetheless, Iginla is new. He’s already an odd duck by being the oldest member of a “crazy young” team (as Max Talbot likes to put it). His leadership will come through in the locker room and on the ice. He doesn’t need the ‘A’ on his sweater to be a leader.
Johnson served as an alternate captain for the St. Louis Blues and, very briefly, for the Avalanche.
Pundits sometimes want to point out how big a disappointment Johnson’s been as a “first overall” draft pick. Yet that’s exactly what makes Johnson leadership material. He’s had to answer the hard questions — in the spotlight no less. And he has done so admirably well. He may occasionally show a lack of control when it comes to tweeting, but that is, literally, the worst thing anyone can say about his public persona.
Johnson has had to speak publicly about the first-overall disappointment, his weird knee injury in a golf cart, his sudden trade from St. Louis to Colorado, the lockout, his Olympic snub, his suspension and the disappointing first-round exit by the Avalanche from the playoffs. Every single time he has answered with poise. He was one of only two players who tweeted right after the early playoff exit.
Amongst the Avalanche’s young core, Johnson is the most veteran. Front offices are building their defensive corps around him, and he is finally coming into his own as a cornerstone NHL defenseman. Johnson is a strong candidate for alternate captain for the Colorado Avalanche.Joe Sakic‘s replacement as soul of the team. Other players may be happy to be Avalanche players. Duchene was the only key player who vied for that distinction. Avalanche fans will forever remember him as the youngster who was happy he didn’t get chosen second in the draft because that left him open to Colorado’s third pick. And Duchene has backed that loyalty up with his contracts.
There is also little doubt about the dynamism of Duchene’s play. Yes, as Patrick Roy says, the Avalanche can win without him. But it is so obvious when he is not on the ice.
It’s also true that, while all players know hockey inside-out, Duchene is the most analytical of current players. Listen to his game analysis, and you come away thinking only Patrick Roy knows the game better — and that worthy has been at it twice as long.
Duchene had some growing up to do — he’s not the old soul that Landeskog is. Yet, that growing up is what makes him the most likely candidate for alternate captain. Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy may have never come out and said that “We have our structure” amounted to “No one can make more than Matt Duchene.” Yet that’s exactly what they were alluding to because Duchene is the Avalanche’s franchise player.
So, the Colorado Avalanche are in the enviable position of having several leaders in the locker room. As to who will actually wear the ‘A’ come opening night against the (hated) Minnesota Wild — well, my money’s on Duchene. Yet it’s a relief to note more than one player can do the position justice.