Gabriel Landeskog And The Captaincy

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Gabriel Landeskog
Dec 7, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic fans waves to the crowd before the game against the Minnesota Wild at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

What Makes A Great Captain

Before we dive into the perspectives of whether Landeskog deserves to keep the captaincy let’s discuss what is expected out of a captain. Now I’m going to say everything included is important, however certain aspects are much more important then others. First we’ll start with off the ice items.

Locker Room Chemistry– The captain of the team is the unquestioned leader in the locker room. Different captains manifest this in different ways. Some are very active, extrovertly promoting chemistry and socialization. Others are introverted and focused on hockey. Either way the captain is responsible for making sure that everyone is being professional in the workplace.

Coach-Players Relationship– In the olden days the captain was the middleman between the head coach and the players. If the players collectively had a problem with something with the team it would be the captain who would bring it forward to the coach. However with the proliferation of assistant coaches and specialty defense/offense/powerplay/5v3 down by two goal coaches this aspect of the captaincy has diminished in my opinion.

Building Team Chemistry– This is different from the first bullet point in that it involves getting the guys together outside of the locker room, and building not just professional relationships, but teammate “Herb, we’re a family” relationships. Your retreats, team building paintball, standard HR stuff except with a bunch of guys varying from 20 year olds who just got rich to older guys who are married –harder than it sounds.

And then there’s the on ice responsibilities of the captain.

Referee-Team Communications– Technically speaking only the captain is allowed to speak to the officials, in the event of a captain being in the penalty box the alternate captains assume this responsibility (common misconception they’re “assistant” captains). Obviously this isn’t enforced. Coaches as well as every player on the ice frequently talk directly to referees, but I wanted to be thorough.

Setting The Pace– Here’s where I start to really get serious about the captaincy job. The captain is responsible for setting the bar in terms of effort on the ice, and calling out players who aren’t meeting the bar. For example, can you imagine Ovechkin calling out anyone for not backchecking before head coach Barrie Trotz was there? Of course not because Ovi rarely entered the D zone. The captain sets the bar in terms of effort.

Setting the ExampleEvery time the captain steps on the ice, the other team knows 100% effort is behind it. He never takes a shift off. He never blends it.

So I separated this from setting the compete level for a reason. A captain can go out and give full effort, but then get caught up in a stupid scrum and take a dumb penalty. Or he can get distracted by trying to deliver big hits instead of scoring and preventing goals. There’s no black and white rules here. The captain’s actions set the example for the team.

In the end the captain needs to be a true hockey player. Just as excited to block a shot as to score a goal. And I know that I write for an Avalanche site, I love the Avalanche. But if you want to ask me who the best true hockey player in the league I wouldn’t even think: it’s Zach Parise. Parise is nowhere as skilled as other superstars in the league, but his work ethic is phenomenal. That’s what I want out of my captain.

So we have the basics of what I expect from my captain. Let me add that I care more about the on ice elements than I do the off ice. Yes a great locker room is nice, but the ice is where games are won and lost, and thus the ice is where I care most about my captain’s impact. I’m not saying that the captain’s off ice roles aren’t important, but this is the NHL and the off ice only matters to the extent it affects on-ice performance.

Next: Why Gabriel Landeskog Should Keep The Captaincy