Some thought it was going to be Taylor Hall, the heart and soul of the Oilers young core. Fresh off a new long-term contract, the present and future of the team, Hall seemed like the perfect candidate. Others thought it could be Jordan Eberle, also locked up for a long time, a leader on and off the ice, less emotional than Hall, but just as respected in the room. There was even thought perhaps Sam Gagner would be the guy. A “veteran” on a largely inexperienced team, Gagner has been around throughout the rebuild and has emerged as a strong leader.
Youth Will Not be Served. Yet.
But the Oilers decided to go off the board. They wanted someone with playoff experience. Someone who knew how to win. Someone who understood what it takes to succeed. Not many players on the Oilers have any of that on their resume. Not yet at least. Edmonton wanted to name a captain before the season started. They could have handed the reins to a young guy, like the Avalanche did with Gabriel Landeskog, and the Dallas Stars did with Jamie Benn, but elected to go a different route.
Over the summer the Oilers had just one real notable free agent signing, bringing in local boy Andrew Ference from the Boston Bruins. Ference, who cheered for the Oilers as a kid, was brought in to stabilize the defense, and provide some toughness from the back-end. He was also sought after for his leadership and Stanley Cup experience. The Oilers knew what they were getting in Ference, and they knew what they wanted out of him. Either one of Hall or Eberle could be a solid captain of this team some day. Today just isn’t going to that day.
“He’s the most important man in this organization because he has to unite the players. He’s the captain. They are all in there with a common goal (winning) and he has to include them all, push them in the right direction, inspire them. He has a lot of different jobs.” – Dallas Eakins
Oilers were Looking for Experience
Eakins wasn’t ready to hand the leadership of this team over to a kid, no matter how much of an important role that kid will eventually play. Right now, the team needs structure and direction from someone who’s been there before. The 34 year-old Ference is a veteran of 760 regular season games. He won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011, and made it to the final with Calgary back in 2004.
“It’s the right move for us,” Taylor Hall said. “He’s got a lot of experience in winning, being in the finals and winning a Cup. We don’t have a lot of that in this group, especially with the young players. He’s comfortable with who he is and that’s a good sign of a leader. We’ve all taken to him.” (Edmonton Journal)
It’s appears as though the decision has been well received in the dressing room. This team seems to understand that it’s time to show some results on the ice, and putting the pressure of the captaincy on a kid clearly wasn’t the best idea for a team under some pressure to challenge for a playoff spot.
Ference is approaching the back nine of his career. He will probably hand over the “C” to Hall some day soon. For now, the Oilers need experience to lead this team. Hopefully to a playoff spot.
“To come back to my hometown and pull on this jersey, letter or not, I know how fortunate I am to have had this path.” – Andrew Ference.