There's importance to designated leadership in hockey that is unsurpassed in any other sport. Players that wear that designation on their sweaters are looked upon by teammates to lead the way and provide the best example possible through thick and thin.
Much thought and analysis goes into the selection of a team captain and his alternates. A look at who captains each team and who might be in line for similar duty in the future is the theme of this week's rankings.
Power rankings are updated every Tuesday.
1. Detroit Red Wings (40-10-4, Previous: 1) – No lack of or misplaced leadership in this room – veteran defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has set the tone since 2006 just like Steve Yzerman did from 1986-2006. Dynamic scorers Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk could be next in line when and if Lidstrom departs in the next couple of years.
2. San Jose Sharks (29-16-7, Previous: 5) – Patrick Marleau has drawn criticism lately during his tenure that started in 2004. He's a quiet leader who prefers to lead on the ice. The problem is he's having arguably the worst year of his 10-year career. Craig Rivet and Mike Grier certainly hold captain-type credentials, and Joe Thornton was a team captain in Boston.
3. Philadelphia Flyers (29-17-5, Previous: 3) – Jason Smith was a captain in Edmonton, and his leadership skills in the same role in his first year with the Flyers has helped the team rebound from last year's disaster. It would seem pretty obvious the next time leadership changes it's going directly to Mike Richards, who recently signed a 12-year deal to stay in Philadelphia.
4. Ottawa Senators (32-17-4, Previous: 2) – Daniel Alfredsson has been the man since 1999, and no one questions his leadership. Interestingly, he's one of four European natives designated captain of the six Canadian-based teams. He doesn't wear even an alternate designation as of yet, but Jason Spezza could be this team's captain of the future.
5. Montreal Canadiens (28-16-9, Previous: 6) – The selection of Saku Koivu as captain in 1999 may have raised eyebrows from those in the vast majority of French-Canadian fans who were used to players such as Vincent Damphousse, Pierre Turgeon, Guy Carbonneau and the like leading them. But there can be no complaints of the native Finn's leadership both on and off the ice where he's battled serious illness to return as an effective player and inspiration. Interestingly, alternate captains are American (Christopher Higgins) and Russian (Alexei Kovalev). Maybe far down the road 20-year-old Guillaume Latendresse will develop into that next French-Canadian captain.
6. Dallas Stars (31-20-5, Previous: 11) – The lingering awkwardness stemming from the controversial choice to take the captaincy from Mike Modano and give it to Brenden Morrow in 2006 has subsided and the Stars are moving forward with their leadership. And since Morrow is signed long-term, there's no reason to believe it will change again for quite some time.
7. Minnesota Wild (30-19-3, Previous: 8) – One of two teams that rotate captains, and the team that started it, has durable defenseman Nick Schultz currently filling the role. He has succeeded Mark Parrish, Brian Rolston and Pavol Demitra this season. Moving forward, if the Wild decide to go the more traditional rout, the designation could stay with Schultz or get bestowed upon either Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Marian Gaborik or Brent Burns.
8. New Jersey Devils (30-20-3, Previous: 4) – Jamie Langenbrunner is the team's third captain since retired defenseman Scott Stevens held the title from 1992-2004. If the Devils are looking to award it to a young player who might be around awhile they could eventually go to Zach Parise, likely a perennial leading scorer who certainly has strong bloodlines.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (29-19-5, Previous: 7) – No surprise here that the Penguins named Sidney Crosby their captain – unless people want to argue he was handed the responsibility before his time. There's really no reason to speculate on another Penguin assuming the reins of top leadership. It's obvious as long as Crosby is in Pittsburgh he's going to be the man, and it's hard to believe he'd be leaving the Steel City any time in the next 10 years.
10. Boston Bruins (27-20-6, Previous: 13) – A team with great captains in its history, the Bruins turned to hulking defenseman Zdeno Chara in 2006 and haven't looked back since. While it's taken the B's time to recover from the lopsided Joe Thornton trade, Chara's influence and contributions have been underappreciated. Two blossoming young stars that might eventually ascend to the captaincy are Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic.
11. Calgary Flames (26-19-8, Previous: 9) – Jarome Iginla assumed the captain's role in 2003, and he's one of the most underrated leaders in the league. He does it by the way he plays on the ice, by the attitude he brings to the rink each day and by his words. Leadership is a quality that's both vitally important and easy for Flames GM Darryl Sutter to recognize, and he knows he has one of the very best in the business. Young defenseman Dion Phaneuf would be the logical choice as Iginla's successor, but not until way down the road.
12. Vancouver Canucks (26-21-6, Previous: 10) – Markus Naslund had a tough act to follow, assuming the captain's role in 2000 for the departed Mark Messier, but he's handled the responsibility very well. An unrestricted free agent with his days apparently numbered as a Canuck, it's not premature to speculate who might be next. Since it's doubtful the team would pick one Sedin twin over the other, the role might fall to a younger forward such as Ryan Kesler eventually.
13. Colorado Avalanche (28-21-5, Previous: 14) – Injured Joe Sakic has been the franchise's only captain since the team relocated from Quebec City to Denver in 1995. It's hard to imagine anyone else captaining the Avs, but that may be a bridge to cross next season since Sakic's future is unclear. Ryan Smyth or Milan Hejduk would appear to be the logical choices, but if the team wants to go young there's Paul Stastny.
14. Phoenix Coyotes (28-22-3, Previous: 15) – Shane Doan was appointed the team's third captain (since relocating from Winnipeg) in 2003 and since he's received a five-year contract extension it doesn't suggest there will be a need for change of leadership any time soon. The Coyotes are committed to a youth movement, so they also have time to access who might possess the best leadership skills for the future.
15. Nashville Predators (27-21-5, Previous: 16) – Jason Arnott was bestowed the captaincy this season, the fourth different player to wear the "C" in franchise history. The Predators have been in a bit of transition, employing three different captains since 2006. Arnott has three years left on his contract, so he could settle into the role for a bit. After that, don't be surprised if Ryan Suter develops into a perfect fit as captain.
16. Anaheim Ducks (27-22-7, Previous: 12) – Taking over as captain from Scott Niedermayer as the veteran defenseman pondered retirement after last season, Chris Pronger is not new to the role. He served as captain of the Blues for five seasons (1997-2002). Clearly, when the Ducks next have a need to change leadership, 22-year-old center Ryan Getzlaf could be their guy.
17. New York Rangers (27-22-6, Previous: 19) – Jaromir Jagr has matured since his moody days in Washington, but you have to wonder how much longer the Blueshirts go with this leadership, especially when players such as Chris Drury and Scott Gomez are now in the fold. And don't discount the merits of Marc Staal's potential about five to six years down the road, too.
18. St. Louis Blues (24-20-7, Previous: 20) – One of only two teams with a vacant captaincy, the Blues have been in no rush to designate anyone into the role that has seen either Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger or Wayne Gretzky hold the distinction since 1996. Hard-nosed defenseman Barret Jackman, currently an alternate captain, might be a good choice. In fact, he might, too, be a mentor not only on the blue line but in terms of the ultimate leadership for 19-year-old Erik Johnson.
19. Atlanta Thrashers (26-25-4, Previous: 26) – Veteran Bobby Holik was named captain this season with the retirement of Scott Mellanby, but expect a change next season since Holik's deal will be done and it's doubtful he'll return. The question is will Ilya Kovalchuk be ready to assume the responsibility? Has he toned down his antic enough to lead a group? There's no question about his production and how Kovalchuk will be Atlanta's go-to guy for years to come. It might be best not to put Kovalchuk into a position that might take away from other parts of his game.
20. Washington Capitals (24-24-5, Previous: 21) – Injured most of the season, 31-year-old Chris Clark has been captain since 2006 and is signed through 2010-11, but doesn't it seem logical and appropriate that Alexander Ovechkin is about ready for the role? If it doesn't happen sooner, it certainly will later considering Ovechkin is in the fold for another 13 seasons.
21. Buffalo Sabres (23-21-7, Previous: 24) – Like Minnesota, the Sabres are rotating the role and winger Jochen Hecht was awarded the interim captaincy Monday. He would be the first player of German descent to captain an NHL team. Coach Lindy Ruff had departed veteran centers Chris Drury and Daniel Briere share the responsibility since 2005. Defenseman Brian Campbell would appear to be the logical fulltime successor, but the uncertainty of his future with the team prevents that designation at this time.
22. Carolina Hurricanes (26-25-4, Previous: 22) – No question here, Rod Brind'Amour is one of the better leaders in the game. He was named captain in 2005 and promptly led the 'Canes to a Stanley Cup. He is under contract for three more seasons, which would appear to be the perfect transition to pass the captaincy to Eric Staal, who would be 26 with seven years of NHL experience under his belt.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets (25-23-6, Previous: 17) – Adam Foote brings experience from a winning environment (Colorado) to a team that is transitioning from a perennial non-contender to a team knocking on the door of postseason for the first time. Once that transition is complete, the obvious choice is to turn the reins over to Rick Nash.
24. Edmonton Oilers (24-26-5, Previous: 25) – Ethan Moreau assumed the role at the outset of the season in a city that has certainly featured great captains throughout its storied history – Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Kelly Buchberger and Jason Smith to name a few. Moreau, 32, has strong leadership qualities, yet he's missed so much action the past two seasons. Down the road, the Oilers could be looking at Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner or even Sam Gagner.
25. New York Islanders (24-23-6, Previous: 18) – Bill Guerin brings a veteran presence to the captaincy, but this is probably viewed more as a band aid fix until one of the younger players on the roster emerges and appears ready to handle the job, and the Isles have time to assess the situation since Guerin is signed through next season. My hunch is the team's next captain isn't on the current roster.
26. Chicago Blackhawks (23-24-5, Previous: 23) – Not only is the captaincy vacant, but alternates are being rotated, too, so clearly coach Denis Savard – captain of the 'Hawks in 1988-89 – is looking for someone to step up and fulfill the role. With a commitment to youth, it's likely the next captain could come from a group that includes Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Cam Barker, James Wisniewski or Dustin Byfuglien.
27. Florida Panthers (24-25-5, Previous: 27) – Olli Jokinen has captained the Panthers since 2003, and while he's done all he can to guide the struggling team, it's come to a point where even his future with the organization is being questioned. You get the feeling there needs to be a housecleaning and new direction in Florida. The list of possible successors from the current roster includes Jay Bouwmeester, Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton and Bryan Allen.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs (21-24-9, Previous: 28) – Not that Mats Sundin has done anything wrong during tenure as captain since 1997, but it feels like change is just around the corner. Sundin might get dealt later this month if he agrees to waive his no-trade clause. The Leafs would be in no hurry to name a new captain, and the current roster only offers a couple possibilities – Tomas Kaberle, Jason Blake and Darcy Tucker. But don't they need new blood around here?
29. Tampa Bay Lightning (21-27-5, Previous: 29) – Lame-duck captain Tim Taylor has been injured all season, is questionable to return even for the last few games following rehabilitation from hip surgery in September and plans to retire at season's end. So there's an opening here, and maybe Vincent Lecavalier should be given a second chance. He was captain early in his career, but conflict with current head coach John Tortorella led to change. Lecavalier is more mature and clearly the leader of this team on the ice.
30. Los Angeles Kings (21-30-3, Previous: 30) – Injured defenseman Rob Blake was named captain at the start of the season, and there's question whether he'll actually finish the year as a King. He'd have to waive a no-trade clause to be moved, but either way it might be time, at least at the outset of next season, to turn the captaincy over to Dustin Brown. He recently signed a long-term deal and he exhibits a hard work ethic not only on a nightly basis but from shift to shift.