Captain Schmaptain

Posted by The Coach on December 11, 2013
Columbus Blue Jackets

I hope to never hear about the Blue Jackets captain ever again. Ever. Ever ever ever. And I don’t mean that I hope they name one so I don’t have to hear about it. I just mean it in a very general sense. I swear, it seems you can’t read a single thing anywhere about the Jackets without having the captaincy come up in the comments. I can only imagine what it is like on Twitter (I more or less quit Twitter for the reason of keeping my sanity intact). Fun fact: IT DOES NOT MATTER. Not one iota. It is probably the least relevant thing when it comes to a hockey team. I mean that literally. The actual talent of the players is more important. The amount of video watched by the players is more important. The specific systems of the team are more important. Every single decision every single player makes at any given time is more important. By that I mean that one decision, by one player, on one shift, is more important in the grand scheme than who has the C on their chest. Hell, the tape each player uses on their stick is more important. A microscopic nick on a skateblade. The amount of snow built up in the crease. ALL of those things are more important than who has the C.

You may think I’m joking here. I swear I’m not. Not even the line about the tape. The taping of sticks before/during games is a ritual, a time of team bonding, or preparation, of getting everything just right so you have confidence that everything is the way it should be when you take the ice. Take that, multiply it by twenty players over a full eighty-two game season. That is infinitely more important than the C.

Fun fact about me: I more or less have an encyclopedic memory when it comes to hockey. I can’t explain it, but I just seem to remember pretty much everything I come across that is hockey related. I remember everything from my own playing and coaching time. I remember specific shifts I had over a decade ago. I remember my stat line from a tournament I played in Peteborough, Ontario when I was in PeeWee (5 goals, 4 assists, +7 in 5gp, named tournament MVP even though my team lost in the finals). I can tell you the linemates I played with most during every 20+ years I’ve played.

Know what I can’t tell you? Who the captain was on pretty much every team I’ve ever played for, coached, or worked for. The exceptions? The last team I coached (recency bias!) and the one year I was a captain in Bantam. That’s it. I cannot say with any certainty who wore the C. I could give you a guess, but that guess would have NOTHING to do with some fabric stitched on their uniform. It has everything to do with the way guys are in the room. The guys who stepped up to speak when we needed someone to speak. The guy player looked to when we needed something, be it a goal, hit, blocked shot, or whatever else. Those guys are going to be those guys. A stitched on letter isn’t going to change that. Brandon Dubinsky isn’t going to do anything different if he has a C or doesn’t. Choosing Nick Foligno as captain won’t mean anything either.  Who actually has the C means nothing.

All of that is not to say leadership doesn’t matter. While I may not remember who wore the C, I do remember who the leaders were. I remember the guys who know how to put the team on their back when it was needed. I remember the guys who knew how to pick up a player having a rough go of it. I remember the guys who were able to put the fear of God in me. I remember the guys who made me believe so hard in the concept of “team” that I would bleed for them. Having those guys is what matters. That’s probably the most annoying part of the whole captain nonsense. THE JACKETS HAVE THOSE PLAYERS. You can’t sit on the bench and watch the way Brandon Dubinsky plays and then go out and half-ass it. Well you can’t and be able to look yourself in the mirror. You can’t watch Nick Foligno, and Jack Johnson, and Ryan Murray, and Derek Mackenzie, and RJ Umberger, and even Nathan Horton (when he returns) and then bail out on taking a hit to make a play. This is a solid blue collar team, built on players with a blue collar work ethic. I can’t speak to the behaviour in the dressing room, but on the ice they have what they need leadership-wise.

Giving the C to one of those guys isn’t going to change that. It isn’t going to make one player more respected in the room. It isn’t going to give anyone any more sway than they already have. If they choose the most respected guy in the room, he doesn’t get more respect, nor does anyone else get less respect. If they choose someone who is not the most respected player, he doesn’t automatically get elevated above anyone else. It doesn’t lower anyone else. It just is. The captains (note the plural) matter. Having that group of respected players act as conduits to the coaching staff (and refs to a lesser extent) matters. But that is already in place. They have captains, those guys probably speak to the coaches, the team, and are the guys that the team looks to. They are already there. All that is missing is a C. I mean that literally. Just a little letter C.

2 Comments to Captain Schmaptain

  • Well said. The chemistry of the locker room is far more important. Its about listening to someone you respect, than someone you a forced to listen to because they have a letter.

    “You have to look at the guy next to you and look in his eyes and know he will sacrifice himself for this team. Because when it comes down it you’re gonna do the same for him”

  • Being a newer hockey fan, I’ve been trying to understand the whole Captain thing and even cheered the “Dubinsky for Captain” movement. But, you’re right. It’s overblown and actually means very little in the grand scheme of things. I agree that Brandon probably wouldn’t play any better or any worse with a “C” on his sweater. Nor would Foligno (a personal favorite aside from Mr. Jenner).

    In the end, I’ll take wins over anything else ;).

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