With the departure of Shawn Horcoff via summer trade to Dallas, the Edmonton Oilers were in need of a new captain this season and newbie Andrew Ference was given the title over the weekend.
This is a shrewd move by the Oilers, who have plenty of young talent, but very little to show for it in recent years – other than more young talent secured with really high draft picks.
But this season feels different. Ference, a Stanley Cup winner with Boston who also helped the Bruins to another final last season, brings grit and veteran savvy to an Oilers team lacking both, particularly on defense. Fellow new faces David Perron and Boyd Gordon will also help stabilize the ship up front and bring post-season experience.
Because that’s what this team lacks. Go over the roster in Edmonton and check the career stats for all the key components: Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz and Devan Dubnyk – not a single NHL playoff game between the six of them. Not even Sam Gagner has been to the post-season and he’s been in the league for six years. Some believed Hall or Eberle would get the captaincy and perhaps some day one of them will. But new coach Dallas Eakins now has a warrior at the helm and the kids can worry about just going out and playing (and in the case of Gagner and The Nuge, getting healthy so they can play).
While it may seem strange to name a player captain before he’s even suited up for a regular season game with the squad, it’s not without precedent. The Boston Bruins were so pleased with the way Zdeno Chara comported himself back when he arrived for camp in 2006-07, they gave the ‘C’ to the former Ottawa Sens free agent right away. On the other hand, the Buffalo Sabres were allowed to vote for their captain in 2008-09 and chose Craig Rivet, who came over from San Jose.
That one got a bit awkward over time as Rivet battled injuries and became a healthy scratch before being claimed off waivers by Columbus and finishing his career with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL.
So uh, no pressure, Andrew.
Ryan Kennedy, the co-author of Young Guns II, is THN’s associate senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His column appears Wednesdays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy.
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