August 13, 2011
Zach Parise(notes) should be the next captain of the New Jersey Devils. He was drafted by the team, his competitive level is unmatched and he's hugely popular with the fans. He's the type of player one could imagine having a several-years run with the 'C'.
Parise is on a 1-year deal, having avoided arbitration with the Devils but unable to come to terms on a lengthy contract extension ahead of next summer's unrestricted free agency. President/GM/Ruler of All He Surveys Lou Lamoriello says the sides will work towards a new deal … but Parise's future in Jersey's a bit clouded.
So that leaves a few options for the Devils and their captaincy, according to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record:
That might mean leaving the captaincy vacant for the entire 2011-12 season, as the Devils did in 2005-06 following Scott Stevens' retirement and Scott Niedermayer's(notes) departure. Or, perhaps, Lamoriello and head coach Pete DeBoer give Parise the captaincy anyway as a show of faith that he will be this team's leader for a long time.
Naming another player captain appears to be the least likely option right now.
Hopefully that's the case. Gulitti mentions former Devils captain Patrik Elias(notes), who doesn't want the gig, and winger Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), who captained the Atlanta Thrashers before he was traded to the Devils.
As a Devils fan, I like Kovalchuk. I wish the best for him, because we're stuck together for the next 14 seasons (wink wink). But under no circumstances should Ilya Kovalchuk be the Devils' captain in 2011-12, even if the odds are long.
Face it: One of the reasons Parise's status is uncertain is because this franchise committed $100 million to another top-line left winger, giving them three: Elias, Parise and Kovalchuk. We've yet to see these pieces fit successfully because of Parise's injury last season.
Devils fans are already preparing themselves for the inevitable "sign Kovalchuk, lose Parise" meme that will crash like a wave of bitterness should Parise walk next summer (or be dealt before that). Putting the 'C' on Kovalchuk next season will just reinforce that perception. If Parise leaves, a Kovalchuk captaincy couldn't be more symbolic of the choice this franchise essentially made.
Yes, there's a chance that Parise won't be a Devil after this season. But reality be damned: Give the guy the captaincy.
Even if it's a 1-year run — hell, it's not like this team isn't built to win now, what with the goalie pushing 40.
And if you have to give the captaincy to someone else in 2012 … well, it's not like this franchise isn't familiar with transitioning leadership, what with Lamoriello changing coaches as often as most of us change bath towels.