The captaincy for an NHL team usually falls into that category of decisions that outsiders really shouldn’t have a say in determining, much like number retirements or who to invite to an alumni game.
But occasionally you look at a situation and think "hey, the answer’s so clear to me, let’s see if the team’ll screw it up.” Like, for example, giving the ‘C’ to a goaltender, which would be the worst thing the Canucks ever did to Roberto Luongo were it not for the metric [expletive] ton of other worst things they’ve done to him.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a captaincy vacancy at the moment, after buying out Vincent Lecavalier last summer. Coach Jon Cooper’s the guy who will select his successor, and one of the few dramas playing out at Bolts camp this month is whether veteran Marty St. Louis or face-of-the-franchise Steven Stamkos will get it.
Stamkos said St. Louis, the last remaining member of Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup team, deserves the honor. "You have to think — from my point of view, anyway — it will go to Marty. We all know what kind of guy Marty is and the leader he is. He's a guy who's been here a long time. He deserves a chance to wear the C."
Coach Jon Cooper wouldn't disclose Wednesday whom he is considering but did say his staff is in "no rush" to decide and might not until a week before the Oct. 3 opener: "It would be unfair and unjust for the new members of our staff to not have a say in how our captain is picked. We have (assistants) George Gwozdecky and Rick Bowness, who haven't been around this team. They need to have input, and everybody needs to get to know each other a little bit."
Look, there’s no denying what kind of leader or inspiration Marty St. Louis has been and will be for this team, at least through 2015. It’s enough to give anyone pause … before stitching the ‘C’ on Stamkos.
It’s time. Maybe beyond time. He’s been hungry for an expanded leadership role since 2011, stepping up when St. Louis broke his face. He learned from Marty, learned from Vinny, and has become something so much more than just the player with he team’s highest goal-scoring totals.
Stamkos is 23. GM Steve Yzerman was 21 when Jacques Demers gave him the ‘C’ with the Red Wings in 1986, saying he "wanted a guy with the Red Wings crest tattooed on his chest.”
You hope Stamkos is building toward that level of commitment to the franchise, if he’s not there already. Giving the captaincy to St. Louis reaffirms a leader we already know has sweated, bled and worked his ass off for the franchise. Giving it to Stamkos establishes, formally, the next one.