NHL’s Worst-Kept Secret: McDavid Named Captain

It was the worst-kept secret in the NHL. Who was going to be the Oilers next captain? Would they go with “veteran” Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? How about newcomer Milan Lucic?

The Oilers organization knew all along who would wear the C, but waited until the middle of the preseason to make it official. I think it’s safe to say the rest of the hockey world knew who it would be as well. And when management confirmed a captain would be in place by the time the season started, it left very little to the imagination.

When Team North America (fronted by Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan) named Connor McDavid their captain at the World Cup of Hockey, the writing was certainly on the wall.

calder finalists
(Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

McDavid Will Be the Youngest Captain in NHL History

At 19-years-old and with 45 NHL games under his belt, Connor McDavid will officially be the youngest captain in league history. Sidney Crosby and Gabriel Landeskog both got the C at age 19, but were days older than McDavid. So it’s not an unprecedented move by any means. And with McDavid always drawing comparisons to Crosby, it’s hard to say it’s the wrong decision.

The concern over naming such a young captain is his lack of experience and lack of presence in the dressing room.

McDavid is already facing a ton of pressure to be the face of the Oilers, and the face of the league, despite not having played a full NHL season, and getting the captaincy just adds to that. But the make-up of a player, rather than his age, should be the determining factor of whether he will be a successful captain. McDavid has already shown a maturity off the ice, and poise on the ice. He is already respected in that room as the best player on the ice. He “gets it” in terms of how to handle himself in the spotlight.

(Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)
(Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Coach McLellan was vocal regarding the decision:

“When he returned to the lineup last year, he showed he was ready to take charge. He takes a lot of responsibility and puts it on his shoulders. He puts the team ahead of himself. Connor will need full support from his teammates. At home, with media, in the rink. When you’re in the locker room and you get a sense of his care for his teammates, you appreciate him even more. He’s mature beyond his years. He’s dealt with the (media) since he was 14.”

McDavid is a special player, and not just in terms of his talent. Could the Oilers have waited till he had one more season under his belt? Sure, but they decided that the time was now, so why put off the inevitable?

There will be a lot of external debate over whether or not the concept of a captain is overblown. There are usually plenty of leaders on any given team, whether they have letters on the jerseys or not. But it means something to the guys on the ice. Those on the outside don’t understand player dynamics. So while it may not seem important, it’s still significant.

Reactions to the Oilers Decision

For the most part, Oilers fans are happy with the decision. The concerns that he doesn’t have enough experience are legitimate, but then again, if the captaincy isn’t deemed important, then it shouldn’t matter, right? I happen to think there’s a lot of significance on which player wears the C, and in this case, I believe McDavid is the right man for the job. Connor has likely known for a while, but he was finally able to voice his thoughts on having the honour.

“There’s a bunch of guys in this room that are leaders as well and have a louder voice in the room,” he said. “It’s a team effort. I’m not the big raw-raw kind of guy. I lead by example. I think I was very lucky to come in, everyone treated me like an equal. That could be difficult coming on to a team at 18. It really hasn’t sunk in yet, I’m just excited to wear the C for the Oilers.”

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Milan Lucic, who will be one of three alternates, had this to say regarding the decision:

“He doesn’t put himself above anyone else just because of his abilities. That’s what makes him a great leader. He’s still got lots to learn, but it’s older guys like myself that can help him with a few things. Coming in and seeing what he’s all about, I don’t think anyone deserves it more than him.”

Oilers goalie Cam Talbot also chimed in.

“There’s no better guy to lead this team moving forward than one of the best players in the league,” he said.

The Oilers have an important season coming up. They have made some significant changes, they have handed the leadership keys over to their young star, and they need to start putting things together on the ice.

It’s unclear how much of a jump they’ll make in the standings, but they’re finally starting to form an identity, which had been lacking for the past few years. McDavid is now the guy who will set the standard for the organization, and there isn’t any better choice.

(Quotes courtesy of Oilers Nation Twitter)