Boston Bruins’ Alternate Captain Tango

Milan Lucic is one of the top candidates for the vacant Bruins' alternate captaincy position. (Wendy Bullard/ Flikr.)

Who gets the B’s “A”?

It’s time to consider that most pivotal of positions within the Bruins’ organization – that of the currently vacant second alternate captain.

All kidding aside, at some point over the next two months, B’s coaching and management will need to come to a decision on exactly who will wear the “A” not taken by Patrice Bergeron. There are a good number of candidates for the job, so let’s break down the situation and separate the contenders from the pretenders:

Andrew Ference

Pros:  One of the “Elder Statesmen” in Boston again this year, Ference is the oldest challenger for this honor not named Shawn Thornton. Entering his 12th season, with two Stanley Cup Finals under his belt, an excellent performance in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs and a guy who demonstrates leadership in and out of the locker room, Ference has to be one of the best contenders for the job.

He did a spectacular job cultivating the team’s chemistry with the acquisition of the now-infamous Bruins’ Player-of-the-Game Jacket which was such a part of the locker-room culture that the Stanley Cup itself donned the majestic garment during their victory celebration. Ference’s quick and incontestable willingness to come to the defense of teammates is hard to overlook.

Cons: Ference is, even at his best, not a “core” Bruin production-wise. He’s not prone to even modest point totals (never once reaching even 20 points), is prone to injury, occasional extended periods of mediocre play and is frequently delegated third-pairing duties. He’s not a flashy guy and besides his penchant for quotability, isn’t a face-of-the-franchise type.

The Verdict: He’s not a particularly exciting option, but with his experience, leadership and 2011 postseason performance – I can’t help but declare him the frontrunner at this point. Odds: 2-to-1 (33.3%)

Dennis Seidenberg

Pros: When discussing the B’s postseason heroes, the stout German blueliner is often erroneously overlooked. In fact, Seidenberg played more minutes and blocked more shots than any other player in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His elevated performance established himself as solid #2 to Chara and the pair played some smothering shut-down defense on the way to the Cup. Of all the primary candidates, he’s the only one locked up past the 2012-13 season, which might matter if the B’s are looking for another ambassador.

Cons: Der Deutsche defender, Seids would be the third non-native English-speaker among the B’s captains (not that there’s anything remotely wrong with Bergeron or Chara’s ability to communicate). Additionally, he seems like more of a lead-by-example guy, of which the B’s already have two in their leadership group (Rex seemed by far the most demonstrably vocal).

The Verdict: Love the way he plays the game, but I’m not sure he’s the ideal candidate for the “A”. Odds: 14-1 (6.7%)

Milan Lucic

Pros: Where do I start with Looch? He’s been a leader on many (wearing an “A” with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, and captaining Team Canada during the 2007 Super-Series), plays with an edge, finishes his hits, plays hurt (was in need of major nose surgery throughout the playoffs but played through the discomfort), defends his teammates and steps up when it matters most (as evinced by his excellent playoff stats, and 2007 Memorial Cup MVP).

Cons: Opinions of Lucic’s playoff heroics (and leadership) soured a bit with somewhat lackluster 2011 postseason performance. Additionally, his overly-aggressive antics get himself and his team into hot water on occasion, and he’ll take bad penalties. Still just 23 years of age, Milan may not have the experience Coach Julien and the B’s Brass are looking for when handing out the “A”.

The Verdict: His youth and recent playoff performance raise serious questions and may put the kibosh on his chances. Still, he’s an intriguing option, and far from a dark horse. Odds: 4-1 (20%)

David Krejci

Would Krejci look good with an "A" stitched on his jersey? (Icon SMI)

David Krejci

Pros: Krejci’s candidacy may be gathering steam with the unsubstantiated rumors that the B’s might be working on a contract extension with the young center from the Czech Republic. Only Thomas and Bergeron can count more years of being with the Bruins’ organization – despite his youth. . Krejci is one of the more productive players on the B’s, and  has the most points on the team since the start of the 2008-09 season.  Even moreso, his consistently productive performance in the playoffs has earned him accolades from around the league and was the scoring leader in the 2011 Stanley Cup postseason – no small feat.

Cons: Krejci is another guy who doesn’t seem like the most vocal leader on the team… If the contract situation isn’t resolved relatively soon after the start of the season (particularly if negotiations are at a substantial impasse) there are concerns among the fanbase that he might not be around long enough to earn the “A”.

The Verdict: DK’s contract status will undoubtedly significantly impact his candidacy (one way or another), but I doubt they would give an “A” to a 25-year-old forward if they didn’t expect him to stick around for a stretch. Odds: 9-1 (10%)

Nathan Horton

Pros: After his exit from the hockey purgatory that is this decade’s Florida Panthers, Nathan Horton’s name wasn’t exactly mentioned in the same breath with hockey’s leadership elite. In fact, many questioned the drive and work ethic of a former top-3 pick who never seemed to really get going. How quickly things change! One year later, Horton’s heroic playoff performance (which included a NHL-first, two game-7 winners in one postseason), even playing through a separated shoulder has earned him the right to be considered for the B’s “A”. One could go so far as to even call him “gregarious” with the media during his ‘rookie’ playoff campaign, and his inspirational return to Vancouver with the team is the stuff you dream of.

Cons: Horty has only been with the team a year, and while he’s beloved, there’s a chance that his (relatively) limited time in Boston would dampen a bit his consideration for the alternate captaincy. Like Lucic, he’s prone to taking some ill-advised liberties with opponents and penalties which detract a bit from his value. He’s still relatively young at 26, but that puts him in the same boat as Krejci and Lucic.

The Verdict: Horton is another of those guys who earns some consideration, but with minimal time with the Bruins, and other candidates possessing perhaps more of the things Horty’s value depends on, he’s more of a dark-horse than frontrunner. Odds: 11-1 (8.3%)

Shawn Thornton - Bruins

Shawn Thornton is a master of fisticuffs - but is giving him the "A" the right choice? (Icon SMI)

Shawn Thornton

Pros: The laughingly long-shot pugilist’s candidacy is gaining momentum. He’s one of the leaders of the Bruins’ clubhouse: He defends his teammates, takes punishment for the good of the team, and is willing to take a back seat for its betterment/step up to the plate when his time comes. He’s a favorite of fans and consistently reaches out to both the media (to hilarious ends sometimes) and Bruins’ Nation. Thornton is a dyed-in-the-wool Bruin who should have been born with a spoked-B birthmark on his butt (and I have it on “good” authority that this might be the case!)

Cons: Teams are often loath to hand out leadership positions to dedicated fourth-liners from a P.R. standpoint: Thornton does it all – except produce. Thorny’s contract status (one year left before UFA) might make the B’s a little skittish about handing him the stitched-on “A”.

The Verdict: I personally like the idea of Thornton getting the “A”, because of his leadership (only Bruin with multiple Cups) and drive. Completely unselfish and unequivocally “Bruin”, his experience and ability to influence players (including Seguin) was well noted throughout 2010-11. While he might not be the sexiest pick, there’s a decent (and perhaps growing) chance he winds up with the “A” on his sweater in 2011-12. Odds 5-1 (16.7%)

….And all the rest:

Gregory Campbell would be an interesting selection, but he doesn’t exceed Thornton or Ference in any category enough to overcome his single season with the franchise and fourth-line status. Dan Paille suffers in much the same way, but would an even less likely candidate than Soupy. Midseason acquisitions Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley have less than a season under their belts, and despite their contributions to the Cup, don’t stand out from the pack nearly enough to warrant further discussion. Likewise, Joe Corvo and Benoit Pouliot can be removed from consideration on the basis of their only recent membership into the spoked-B club, even if the rumors of their work ethic/drive issues were completely without merit. Super sophomores Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin, Adam McQuaid and Steven Kampfer have not done enough collectively or individually to garner serious discussion at this point in their careers.

The Verdict: Stranger things have happened… Odds: 19-1 (5%)

Bob Mand
Bob is a Contributing Editor and Boston Bruins Correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He also works as managing editor at NHLMockDraft.org. He has also worked as an editor and lead columnist for Bruins Talk Radio.

8 Comments

  1. Call me crazy, but I – hands down – award the “A” to Shawn Thornton. #1, sign him to a minimum 3 year extension. He embodies everything a true leader is; Effort, competitivness, drive, unselfishness, a strong voice, and time after time – honestly holds his team accountable for their performance… You may notice that “points” are not what make him my choice, but his overall dedication to leaving everything out on the ice, 100% of the time, without doubt. ‘Points’ are not what make a great captain. If you want to talk about “leadership by example”, he is it.

  2. Archbishop Krejci says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Claude rotates the “A” like he did during the 08-09 season. Chara had the “C” and Bergeron had the “A” and the second “A” was worn by several players that season every 15 games or so. Sturm, Savard, Begin are the ones I remember, but I also believe PJ Axelsson had it and possibly Mark Stuart. Then Recchi wore it after he was acquired at the deadline.

    That seems like a good motivational technique for younger players to develop leaders, as a reward for solid play and leadership.

  3. Did two different people write this article? In one paragraph, Lucic is lauded for his playoff effort despite the need for surgery; in the next, he’s slammed for his “lackluster” performance. Bizarre.

    About the “A”, it should go to Ference, if the Bruins do go that route. Before last year the “A” was alternated, and they could go back to doing that.

    • Well I wrote, “Opinions of Lucic’s playoff heroics (and leadership) soured a bit with somewhat lackluster 2011 postseason performance.” I don’t know if that’s a ‘slam’ per se… especially since it’s not reflective my personal feelings on the matter.

  4. @BsWin2K11: while your sentiment is understood and notable, you do understand that your scenario pretty much violates much of the NHL’s rules on captaincies, right? Sure, Chara & Bergeron COULD alternate the C like Buffalo tried with Drury and Briere, but that would just lead to some small level of chaos, I’d imagine.

    Additionally, goalies are forbidden to wear Cs or As on their jerseys, which Vancouver tried to circumvent when they named Luongo captain…and that also showed that it just wasn’t going to work to have a goalie as a named leader of the team, given the added responsibilities that come with the letter.

  5. In all seriousness, I wish both Chara and Bergeron could both wear the C. Bergeron is the quiet leader of this entire organization and IMHO deserves to wear the C. Eventually, he will wear it, but his time will come. If anyone deserves to wear the “A” next year it’s TIm Thomas. David Krejci and Milan Lucic are next in line, but will have to wait another season at least. Our number one priority should be keeping Lucic, Horton and especially Krejci in a Bruin’s uniform for the next 5 seasons. If Savard comes back (cross your fingers and pray), he’ll be wearing the A.

  6. It all depends on if you’re going for experience or talent.

    If the team wants a second alternate who has been in the league for a long time and knows just how hard you have to work, I think Shawn Thornton is the guy for the youngsters.

    If the team is going for a player who would be best at leading by example and I was the one making the decision, my choice would be Nathan Horton or Milan Lucic.

    Personally, I’ve always preferred a captain (or even an alternate) who is a true veteran of the league, but that’s just me.

  7. Krejci
    would also be further motivated by wearing an ‘A’ on his jersey next year.Quiet waters run deep. It’s time for him to lead. He certainly did by his performance in the playoffs.Why not Thorton, Ference or Lucic? Thorton is a great guy but will no doubt be a healthy scratch as a fourth liner more than once next season. You don’t want your “A” in the press box. Ference is another good choice but Chara, a fellow defenceman, already has the “C”. Also has a history of injury. You can’t give Lucic the “A” and not consider “Horton”. Krejci would not have to be vocal (he is a quiet guy). You already have the NHL’s best leader in Chara (Messier Award). Begeron is the Heart of the Bruins. This would be developmental for Krejci. A vote of confidence from management. Lead by example on the ice. The Bruins have lots of other dressing room guys. Krejci is also someone you want to build the team around in the future. The “A” would also go very nicely with a contract extension.

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