Who Will Captain the Ottawa Senators?

For the second straight year, the Ottawa Senators have parted ways with their captain and are set to name a new one before the season starts. As last year’s captain, Jason Spezza wasn’t able to handle being under the microscope as well as some thought he would. Spezza was a lightning rod for criticism and was unfairly treated, which led to his request for a trade and ultimately, his departure in early July.

jamesmaclennan/flickr
Former Senators’ captain Jason Spezza. jamesmaclennan/flickr

“Get it right” seems to be the motto around Ottawa these days. It might be a big problem having to change captains two years in a row, but it’ll be an outright travesty if it happens a third time.

Last season, Spezza was given the captaincy on September 14, three days after training camps had commenced. Now, with only 2 weeks until the Senators start their camp, the clock is ticking and it’s time to for management to weigh their options and make a decision. It’s time to get it right.

Give It To a Vet

The easy option is to give the captaincy to a guy who has been around the organization for a period of time. And with a combined 28 years with the Ottawa Senators, Chris Neil and Chris Phillips fit that description.

Both Neil and Phillips have their pros and cons though.

Chris Neil is the biggest physical presence the Senators have. The strong right winger knows how to throw a solid body check and will drop the gloves with anyone. But one of the downfalls in Neil’s game is that he takes too many costly penalties. Neil has lead the Senators in minor penalties for the past 4 seasons and he’s also made an appearance in the league’s top ten the past 5 years. It’s hard to lead a team when you’re in the box all game.

Having taken Cody Ceci under his wing last season, it’s clear that Phillips is capable of leading this team. There’s no current Senator that has more years under his belt than Chris Phillips and already having an A on his chest, the transition would be somewhat easy. He’s not the player he used to be though. Phillips has shown clear decline in his game over the past few seasons. The Calgary native is losing his stride bit by bit and when his current 2-year contract is done, so might be his time in Ottawa.

If the Senators are looking for a veteran to grab the reins on this shaky looking season, then look no further. It’s a toss-up between Neil and Phillips.  But if they want to take a longterm approach, then maybe giving it to someone on the younger side of 30 is a better idea. Neil (35) and Phillips (36) won’t be around for much longer.

Let King Karl Reign

When asked about the possibility of being the Senators’ next captain, Erik Karlsson said all the right things.

“Obviously it’s something I wouldn’t say no to [but] it’s not something I’m going to ask for. I think whoever takes that decision is going to make the right one and whether it’s me or someone else I think it’s going to be good for the team and good for the organization.” – Erik Karlsson. National Post. Published: Aug. 18, 2014.

It’s a good thing Karlsson won’t say no, because it almost feels like he’s the front-runner for the job.

Steven Stamkos
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

In today’s NHL, the credentials for a captain are changing. Nowadays, teams don’t necessarily give the C to the guy that always speaks up in the room, or the guy that has been there the longest. They give it to the all-around best player. Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos are by far the best players on their respective teams, and have been awarded captaincy because of it. There’s just something special about being able to lead by example.

Erik Karlsson is the star of the Ottawa Senators and an on-ice leader like no other. He’s been in the top-two in scoring on the team three times in the past 4 years, and by the looks of it, he’s going to lead the team in scoring again this year.

“Right now I feel fresh and I feel like I’m in a place in my life, on and off the ice, where I’m happy about myself and I’m excited moving forward and there’s a lot of small things that I know I need to take care of on the ice to be a better player and I think I’m up to date on what I need to do.” – Erik Karlsson. National Post. Published: Aug. 18, 2014.

The only knock on Karlsson is that he can be a bit of a loose cannon in the PR department. Multiple times last season, Karlsson took to Twitter to bash a couple of the Senators’ major sponsors. But when choosing a captain, Paul MacLean and company shouldn’t necessarily worry about how Erik feels about his cell phone and cable providers.

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The Unusual Suspects

Though they may be doubtful contenders, Marc Methot, Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur could bring a lot to the table if chosen to be captain.

Born and raised in the heart of Ottawa, Methot is a no-brainer consideration. The way he handles himself on and off the ice speaks volumes about how people view him.

“When you get recognized in public, and people know who you are, it’s really flattering. For me, I’m always flattered by it. I embrace it. I like talking to people … I never really get sick of doing those things, as cheesy as it sounds. I’m always pretty outgoing with that kind of stuff. I always have been. It’s just the way I am.” Marc Methot. Ottawa Sun. Published: Aug. 21, 2014.

Unlike Karlsson, Methot would be able to fly somewhat under the radar while wearing the C; something the Senators should think about after Jason Spezza was pulled to pieces last year. Though not signed past 2015, Methot says he’s comfortable playing without an extension for the time being. A brand new contract would definitely help Methot’s case for captaincy.

Kyle Turris is another interesting candidate. Already taking over for Spezza as the No. 1 centre, the 24-year old has his hands full, but he has only shown great potential. Turris also played the role of an assistant captain for a good chunk of time last year and maybe he’s ready for even more reliability.

Another dark horse for the role of captain, Clarke MacArthur is fresh off signing a 5-year extension with the Senators. The contract may be MacArthur’s best argument for at least a letter on his chest next year. He’s also coming off a career high 24 goals in 79 games last season. With no other Senator locked up longer than MacArthur, maybe it’s time for management to give him the opportunity to lead.

No Captain, My Captain?

The last option may be the most favourable one for the Senators. Instead of having a captain and a couple assistants, why not try no captain and three assistants?

Whatever it is, Ottawa seems to be having troubles with their captains as of late. Maybe they should hold off on naming a captain for a year and let a player like Karlsson or Turris grow just a bit more. There’s no need to rush into anything. What this team requires is a legitimate shot at a playoff spot. Leadership controversy is the last thing they need.

Wait. No, scratch that. The New York Rangers tried it last season and they didn’t do very well, right?

(Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports)
(Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports)