The captain serves an essential role for a hockey team. He needs to set a good example for his team as well as his teammates. It is not an easy job and a lot of captains are heavily criticized as some people feel that they do not deserve to wear the “C” on their jersey.
Sometimes, the captain is not picked based on how many goals or assists he can put up in a season. It's the voice of the room who can bring the best out of his teammates. This is essential for key games when the team is down a goal and the captain motivates his players to not give up and stay in the game. Many NHL captains shoulder the blame when their team plays poorly, as opposed to selfish players.
There are players out there who have been stripped of the "C" and some that make you wonder "why is this guy the captain of the team?" Many teams have a vacant spot at captain which means that they haven't even selected the leader of their team yet. This list will touch upon who deserves to be captain on those teams, as well as who should not have the privilege to be one on other teams.
Believe it or not, not every player can step up and lead his team. It really requires someone who can showcase leadership and help his coach motivate the other players on the team.
15 Deserving: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs still have a vacant position at captain this season and they have not had a captain since they traded away their former one, Dion Phaneuf, in 2016. The Leafs are extremely fortunate to have drafted elite forward, Auston Matthews, in last year’s draft and it might be time to give him the duty of wearing the “C”. He is looking to become a franchise forward for the Leafs and is most likely going to hit the 30 goal mark by the end of his first season.
Auston has three gold medals to his name and feels right at home in his first season in the NHL. At only 19 years of age, it would be monumental for the city of Toronto if he and his team could one day bring home the Stanley Cup and put the Maple Leafs out of a 48-year championship drought.
14 Not Deserving: Derek MacKenzie, Florida Panthers
Derek MacKenzie has worn the Florida Panthers jersey for the past three seasons and was just recently named captain of his team. Derek is a career bottom-six forward who frequents the fourth line and has never hit more than 25 points in a single season. The only explanation would be his veteran presence in the NHL, as he has over 500 games played but his team already has the more experienced, accomplished player in Jaromir Jagr.
Derek is also aging and his time in the NHL might be coming to an end. The Panthers have many options for captaincy in the years to come with young emerging stars in Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau. It would be no surprise if one of those players is listed captain in the near future. Did I mention Jaromir Jagr still plays on this team?
13 Deserving: Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
When the Carolina Hurricanes traded their long time captain Eric Staal, there was a hole left to be filled on his former team. Eric had helped win the only Stanley Cup for the Hurricanes back in 2006, and who else would be better to fill that role than his younger brother. Jordan, also, is a Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Staal is an experienced forward who can put pucks in the net. This would be excellent for a team that comprises of a young core and they could learn plenty from an experience vet like Jordan who could potentially lead them to another run for glory. The future looks bright for the emerging Canes.
12 Not Deserving: Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog made history when he was elected NHL captain in 2012. He received the title of youngest NHL captain of all time, a title that now belongs to Connor McDavid, but it was remarkable that a player this young could lead his team. The Avalanche have not achieved much during his tenure as captain. General manager Joe Sakic has been shopping Gabriel around to see what assets he could acquire in a trade.
This all seems like wasted potential to name him captain at such a young age and then potentially trade him at the trade deadline. There are other suitable candidates on the team as well with their young superstar Nathan MacKinnon. Matt Duchene is another possibility although he is being shopped around as well. It is safe to say the Avs would like to have a captain for multiple seasons and not one for a short period of time.
11 Deserving: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
The 6-foot-9 beast Zdeno Chara has served as captain for the Boston Bruins for over 10 years. It is well merited considering what the Bruins have accomplished in that span. Chara is a player to be feared. Through his size alone, he has the ability to breeze through the opposing team as the opposing player would have to face a giant—and not just any giant. A giant that can fire pucks at more than 100mph!
With all of these skills, Zdeno helped the Bruins capture their sixth Stanley Cup in 2011. The Bruins will soon have to pass that torch to another leader on the team with Chara nearing his 40s.
10 Not Deserving: Andy Greene, New Jersey Devils
Andy Greene is a perfect example of a player who is captain based on his veteran presence. At 34 years of age and an 11 season tenure with the Devils, it is surely noted that he is past his prime and the Devils may soon give the "C" to another leader. The Devils recently acquired elite forward Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers and his scoring touch is exactly what the Devils needed on offence.
By appointing a player like Hall as captain, teammates could look up to his scoring ways and attempt to replicate that. The Devils are very content with Taylor and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him spend a long portion of his career at the Prudential Centre. Therefore, it seems reasonable to eventually strip Andy of captaincy and pass it over to Hall.
9 Deserving: Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Ryan Getzlaf has had an unbelievable career with the Anaheim Ducks. With more than 10 years of service and a Stanley Cup in 2007, the Ducks owe a lot to Ryan for his leadership ability and his countless impressive seasons. He is a player that leads by example and it isn’t only the Ducks who have noticed this.
Getzlaf was captain of the 2012 IIHF Canadian team and although they were not able to capture the gold medal, it is still an impressive feat. Ryan absolutely deserves to wear the “C” on his jersey and he is not done yet. At 31 years of age, he has plenty of gas left and looks to provide the Ducks with many more years of service and leadership. It would be a weird feeling to see him lead any other team.
8 Not Deserving: Brian Gionta, Buffalo Sabres
Brian Gionta is fortunate enough to have been named captain by two NHL teams, the Montreal Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres. He was once an unbelievable sniper for the New Jersey Devils as well where he notched 48 goals in a single season. Those days are long gone and Gionta now finds himself playing on the bottom-six for the Sabres.
In his prime, there would be definitely no problem having him as captain. However, it seems a bit odd that the Sabres named him captain even after his disastrous tenure with the Canadiens. The Sabres have recently drafted their franchise centre, Jack Eichel, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him named captain in the foreseeable future.
7 Deserving: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid is the prized possession of the Edmonton Oilers. It is no surprise that a player of his caliber was named captain of his team at only 19 years of age, making him the youngest NHL captain of all time. Connor is currently on pace to finish this season with more than 80 points.
With McDavid leading the way, the Oilers have looked like a playoff contender, and not the team sitting at the bottom of the standings that we have gotten used to seeing. The Oilers know that this is their franchise center. Making him captain shows the entire team that this is the player that can help lead them to glory. The prime days are ahead for McDavid and the Oilers are welcoming this with open arms.
6 Not Deserving: Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues wanted an experienced defenseman to lead their team by example and that is exactly what they got when they named Alex Pietrangelo as the team captain. This was surprising because the Blues own one of the best goal scorers of this generation, Vladimir Tarasenko. For the past few years, Tarasenko has been putting the team on his back by scoring an insane number of even strength goals. It all seemed reasonable that he would be named the next team captain.
Now, goals aren’t everything but when a player like Tarasenko can take control of the game like that, it seems to beg the question on why he wasn’t named captain so he could lead the offensive core of this Blues team. Pietrangelo is a great player with amazing strengths but the pass on Tarasenko on captaincy made this a notable mention on this list.
5 Deserving: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Being the captain of a team that has won three Stanley Cups is an achievement one can only dream of but this dream was a reality for Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. This is practically the biggest reason why he makes such a large salary. The leadership strengths that Toews has brought to the Hawks core is something that will be remembered for years to come.
Even with the Hawks core dwindling down due to salary cap constraints, Jonathan still plays his role as captain and ensures that every player, new and old, has a leader they can depend on. A leader that strives for success. The Hawks became a dynasty and they owe a lot of that to Jonathan Toews for his major contribution as captain.
4 Not Deserving: Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators
Mike Fisher was given the opportunity to be captain when the Nashville Predators dealt their former captain, Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens. Mike has had an outstanding career and while he may be getting older, he is still able to put out respectable stats. It was surprising that the Predators didn’t name another defender as captain considering that they have one of the best defensive cores out of the whole NHL.
Roman Josi may have been one of those faces that could replace the role Weber once had on the team. Roman learned a lot from Weber and he seems to only be getting better as he gains more experience. As captain, Josi could have led the amazing defensive core that now welcomes P.K. Subban. It just did not make sense to name Fisher captain at the time of his career where he may be facing retirement.
3 Deserving: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin is by far the best goal scorer of this generation and is definitely the right candidate to lead the Washington Capitals. He leads one of the best and most balanced teams in the NHL–what more can you ask from your captain? Alex has surpassed the 60-goal mark in his remarkable career, highly reflecting on the teammates that he supports. It is highly motivational when the captain knows how to score goals and win games almost single-handedly.
The leadership Ovechkin provides for his teammates Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie has stood out, especially this season, as they are having stellar years playing alongside him. He just has that effect and this is why he is good at what he does. It is duly noted that Ovi can provide the leadership necessary for the Caps to bring home the Stanley Cup.
2 Not Deserving: Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames had the honor of having superstar Jarome Iginla lead their team for many unforgettable years. When the Flames parted ways with Iginla, they had to name a captain and this is where Mark Giordano came in. He had just come off some stellar years but is this the captain that they needed in order to lead a playoff contending team?
Let’s face it, Mark is no Iginla, but the Flames have recently drafted some players who could come close to him. Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are two very talented young players who can make a drastic impact on the game due to their maneuverability with the puck. With Giordano aging and his stats declining, it may soon be time to name a new captain and both Sean and Johnny have the passion to lead their team.
1 Deserving: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
“Sid The Kid” as they once called him. The best player of this generation will surely make his mark. It took some time but Sidney Crosby was eventually named captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. With a team that housed superstar Mario Lemieux, Sid had a lot of expectations to meet as a leader. He exceeded those expectations in his tenure as captain, winning two Stanley Cups. He has proven that he just makes his whole team better.
There are many examples of how Crosby could literally make the players around him better and as the captain of the team, this goes above and beyond on what you’d expect. He doesn’t just lead; he revolutionizes the game of hockey. Crosby can take a player and transform him. Look at how well Conor Sheary has meshed with Crosby. It takes serious skill and passion to lead a team the way Sidney does, and through the highs and lows of the Penguins, he is always there to make sure the job gets done.