Captains play a very important role with their team. They are role models, leaders, and are a strong voice for their team especially when questioning a penalty with the referees. They wear the “C” proudly on their jerseys and accept the major responsibilities that come with leading their team.
One of those most well known and well respected captains of all-time is Maurice “The Rocket” Richard who led the Montreal Canadiens to four consecutive Stanley Cups while he was their captain (1957-1960).
Another household name is Mario Lemieux who captained the Pittsburgh Penguins to two consecutive Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.
And of course we can’t forget the “Great One” Wayne Gretzky who led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cups in five years – 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988.
Although the struggles of the team aren’t entirely the captain’s fault, they quite often take the blame if their team is performing poorly. And the same goes for when a team is very successful, the captain usually gets a tremendous amount of credit for leading such a talented group of guys.
Here is a list of the 8 best and 7 worst captains across the league since the year 2000.
15 15. Best: Henrik Sedin
Henrik Sedin has spent his entire sixteen-year NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks from 2000 to the present day. The 6’2, 183 pound center took over the duties as team captain in 2010.
Throughout his entire career to date, he has 1,014 points (236 goals, 778 assists) and an excellent +192 plus/minus rating in 1,238 regular season games. He had the most points among his teammates in five different seasons and even led the entire NHL with 112 points in 2009-10. As a matter of fact, Sedin has the most points (1,012) and assists (777) in franchise history.
He also appeared in 105 playoff games and recorded 78 points. Although the Canucks made it to the final round of the playoffs in 2011, they have yet to win a Stanley Cup under Sedin’s leadership.
So far in his career, he has been awarded one Art Ross Trophy (most points), one Hart Memorial Trophy (regular season MVP), and one King Clancy Memorial Trophy (leadership qualities on the off the ice, along with making a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in the community).
Although the team is currently struggling, Henrik Sedin possesses great leadership qualities and has a tremendous talent to fill up the score sheet, so I’ll say that he’s still a great choice for Vancouver’s captain.
14 14. Worst: Zdeno Chara
Zdeno Chara has spent the last eleven years of his NHL career with the Boston Bruins from 2006 to the current day. The very large 6’9, 250 pound defenseman has been serving as their team captain since his first season with them in 2006 and is still currently wearing the “C”.
So far with Boston, he has recorded 423 points (128 goals, 295 assists) and a great +170 plus/minus rating in 812 regular season games. He is known to throw his large body around with 1,693 hits, averaging just over two a game. He also has 1,143 blocked shots. He has appeared in 96 playoff games with them and has 44 points. He helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011 as their captain.
Also during his time with Boston, he was awarded one James Norris Memorial Trophy and one Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.
Despite making it to two Stanley Cup Finals during his time as captain, the Bruins did not make it past the second round in any of the other seasons and even failed to make the playoffs three times, including the last two consecutive seasons. Perhaps it’s time for a change in leadership?
13 13. Best: Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin has spent his entire twelve-year NHL career so far with the Washington Capitals from 2005 to the current day. The 6’3, 239 pound left winger has been their captain since 2010.
In 911 regular season games to date, he has racked up 1,028 points (554 goals, 474 assists) and an impressive +86 plus/minus rating. In four of his twelve seasons, he earned over 100 points, including three consecutive years from 2007-08 to 2009-10. He led the entire NHL with the most points in 2007-08 and has led the league in goals scored six times, including the last four consecutive seasons.
He has also appeared in 84 playoff games and earned 82 points. Despite making the playoffs in five of his six years as captain, the Capitals have yet to win a Stanley Cup under Ovechkin’s leadership.
He has been awarded several trophies throughout his career, including six Maurice Richard Trophies (most goals), three Ted Lindsay Awards (most outstanding player), three Hart Memorial Trophies, one Art Ross Trophy, and a Calder Memorial Trophy (rookie of the year).
It’s no surprise that this outstanding player wears the well-deserved “C” for the Capitals.
12 12. Worst: Dion Phaneuf
After spending the first several years of his NHL career with the Calgary Flames, Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in January 2010. He remained with the Leafs until February 2016 when he was exchanged to the Ottawa Senators. He served six years as Toronto’s team captain from 2010 to 2016.
During his time with the Leafs, the 6’3, 219 pound defenseman tallied 196 points (45 goals, 151 assists) and a disappointing -31 rating in 423 regular season games. He also appeared in 7 playoff games and recorded 3 points. During his six seasons as captain, the Leafs only made the playoffs one time and lost in the first round.
Although it’s not entirely his fault that his team was struggling, there were much better choices as captain than him. Prior to becoming their captain, he had not even played a full season with them. There were obviously better choices to wear the “C”, such as Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel or Tomas Kaberle.
11 11. Best: Daniel Alfredsson
Daniel Alfredsson spent the first seventeen years of his eighteen-year NHL career with the Ottawa Senators from 1995 to 2013. The 5’11, 203 pound right winger spent thirteen seasons as Ottawa’s captain from 1999 to 2013.
During his time with Ottawa, he produced 1,108 points (426 goals, 682 assists) and a fantastic +153 plus/minus rating in 1,178 regular season games. As a matter of fact, he’s the all-time leader among all Senators players in franchise history in goals, assists and points.
He also appeared in 121 playoff games with Ottawa and produced 100 points. Although the Senators did make it to the playoff finals in 2007, they did not win the Stanley Cup during any of the seasons that Alfredsson captained the team. In fact, the last time they won the Stanley Cup was in 1927, in their first incarnation.
Throughout his career, he was awarded one Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award (great leadership qualities on and off the ice), one King Clancy Memorial Trophy, and the Calder Memorial Trophy.
With a great talent to produce points, as well being a great leader on and off the ice, Alfredsson was the perfect choice to captain the Ottawa Senators. This well-respected player even had his number 11 jersey retired by the Senators on December 29, 2016.
10 10. Worst: Gabriel Landeskog
Gabriel Landeskog has spent his entire six-year NHL career with the Colorado Avalanche from 2011 to the present day. The 6’1, 215 pound left winger has been serving as their team captain since 2012.
So far in his career, he has produced 275 points (115 goals, 160 assists) and a +10 plus/minus rating in 418 regular season games. In four of his seasons, he racked up over 50 points in each of them. He also isn’t afraid to throw his body around with 909 hits so far in his career, averaging over two hits a game. He appeared in 7 playoff games and earned 4 points.
In 2012, he was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year.
During his time as team captain, the Avalanche have only made the playoffs once and they lost in the first round. Landeskog began his second NHL season as a captain and although his first season was fantastic with them, perhaps they should have picked a more experienced player to wear the “C”, such as Matt Duchene or Paul Stastny.
9 9. Best: Nicklas Lidstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom spent his entire twenty-year NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings from 1991 to 2012. The 6’1, 192 pound defenseman served as their team captain from 2006 to 2012.
He had an incredible career with the Red Wings having racked up 1,142 points (264 goals, 878 assists) and an astonishing +450 plus/minus rating in 1,564 regular season games. Throughout his career, he led all NHL defensemen with the most points in four separate seasons. In fact, he leads all Detroit defensemen in franchise history in goals, assists and points.
He also appeared in 263 playoff games with them and recorded 183 points. He helped them win four Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008) with the last one being won while he was their captain.
During his career, he won seven James Norris Memorial Trophies (best defenseman) and one Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP).
This incredible point producing defenseman and current Hockey Hall of Fame member (inducted in 2015) was certainly a great choice to wear the “C” for the Red Wings. In March 2014, the Red Wings retired his number 5 jersey.
8 8. Worst: Dustin Brown
Dustin Brown has spent his entire thirteen-year NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings from 2003 to the current day. The 6 foot tall, 216 pound right winger spent eight years as their captain from 2008 until 2016 when he was stripped of wearing the “C”.
In his entire career thus far, he has 502 points (229 goals, 273 assists) and a disappointing -44 plus/minus rating in 954 regular season games. His production has been declining in the past several years. After racking up over 50 points in five consecutive seasons, he has failed to reach even 30 points since the 2011-12 season when he earned 54 pts. He has also seen a lot less ice time during the power play in the last few years.
He did, however, appear in 81 playoff games and earned 46 points while helping his team win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014 (both while he was their captain).
So far in his career, he has been awarded the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award and the NHL Foundation Player Award (player who applies the values of hockey – commitment, perseverance and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in the community).
Although the beginning of his time as captain was successful, as his career went on, Dustin Brown’s struggles were hard to ignore and it’s never a good sign when you have the “C” taken away from you. And that is exactly what happened in 2016 when he was demoted from team captain and the leadership role was given to his teammate Anze Kopitar.
7 7. Best: Mikko Koivu
Mikko Koivu has spent his entire twelve-year NHL career with the Minnesota Wild from 2005 to the present day. The 6’3, 215 pound center has served as their team captain since 2009.
So far in his career, he has produced 609 points (179 goals, 430 assists) and a +60 plus/minus rating in 834 regular season games. He has led his team in points during four seasons. As a matter of fact, he’s the all-time franchise leader in assists and points.
He also appeared in 45 playoff games with them and tallied 22 points. Although the Wild have never won a Stanley Cup, they’re considered to be a favorite to go far in this year’s playoffs. They’re currently ranked second in the Western Conference standings (just one point behind the first place Chicago Blackhawks).
His talent on the ice, combined with his great leadership role in the locker room, along with being very well respected by his teammates makes Koivu a great captain for the Wild.
6 6. Worst: Brian Gionta
Brian Gionta spent five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens from 2009 to 2014. The 5’7, 178 pound right winger also served four years as their team captain from 2010 to 2014.
During his time in Montreal, he recorded 173 points (97 goals, 76 assists) and a +3 rating in 303 regular season games. He also appeared in 45 playoff games and tallied 28 points. And despite making the playoffs in three of the four seasons that he captained, the furthest the Canadiens got was one time to the Conference Finals where they lost to the New York Rangers.
He had only played one season with the Canadiens before becoming their new captain and although his points total in his first season wasn’t bad (46 points in 61 games), there were much better candidates who could have worn the “C” such as Michael Cammalleri, Andrei Markov, or Tomas Plekanec.
After his time with the Canadiens, they did not re-sign Gionta and he ended up going with the Buffalo Sabres where he is currently serving as their captain.
5 5. Best: Steve Yzerman
Steve Yzerman spent his entire twenty-two-year NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings from 1983 to 2006. The 5’10, 187 pound center served as their team captain from 1986-2006.
He had a phenomenal career with the Red Wings, having racked up 1,755 points (692 goals, 1,063 assists) and a very impressive +202 plus/minus rating in 1,514 regular season games. He also had six consecutive seasons (from 1987-88 to 1992-93) where he racked up over 100 points in each of them.
He also appeared in 196 playoff games and earned 185 points. He helped the Red Wings win three Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998 and 2002, all of them while he was captain.
Since this article is based on captains since the year 2000, let’s take a look at how great the Red Wings did while Yzerman captained them from 2000 to 2006:
The Red Wings made the playoffs in each of those six seasons and finished each year with over 100 points in the standings. In fact, they won three Presidents’ Trophies for having the most points in the entire NHL. They also won the Stanley Cup in 2002.
He was awarded several trophies throughout his entire career with Detroit which includes one Conn Smythe Trophy, one Frank J. Selke Trophy (best defensive forward), one Ted Lindsay Award, one Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (shows qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport), and one Lester Patrick Trophy (outstanding service to hockey in the USA).
This phenomenal hockey player and current Hockey Hall of Fame member (inducted in 2009) was certainly the right choice to captain the Detroit Red Wings for two decades. In January 2007, the Red Wings retired his number 19 jersey.
4 4. Worst: Eric Staal
Eric Staal spent the first twelve years of his NHL career with the Carolina Hurricanes from 2003 to 2016. The 6’4, 208 pound center served as their team captain beginning in January 2010 until February 2016.
During his time with the Hurricanes, he produced 775 points (322 goals, 453 assists) and a -57 plus/minus rating in 909 regular season games. In ten consecutive seasons with them, he recorded over 30 points. He also appeared in 43 playoff games with them and tallied 43 points.
The team failed to make the playoffs in all of the seasons he served as captain. In fact, in five of those seasons, they finished ranked worst than 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings. Although Staal’s point totals were fantastic with Carolina, the whole team struggled to win games and ultimately lacked in leadership and confidence.
3 3. Best: Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews has spent his entire ten-year NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks from 2007 to this current day. The 6’2, 201 pound center has been serving as their team captain since 2008 and has led his team to three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013 and 2015).
So far in his career, he has produced 618 points (271 goals, 347 assists) and an amazing +201 plus/minus rating in 709 regular season games. He’s consistently one of the top point producers on his team and even led his teammates with the most points in 2010-11 and 2014-15. He also appeared in 124 playoff games and earned 108 points.
During his career, he has been awarded one Conn Smythe Trophy, one Frank J. Selke Trophy, and one Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.
Toews can do it all – produce points while at the same time excelling in the defensive aspect of the game; he’s a big asset in the faceoff circle; and is a well respected leader. There’s no doubt that he deserves to wear the “C” for the Blackhawks.
2 2. Worst: Bryce Salvador
Bryce Salvador spent the first part of his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues before joining the New Jersey Devils in 2008. The 6’3, 215 pound defenseman spent three seasons as the Devils’ captain from 2012 to 2015.
He definitely wasn’t a point producing defenseman with just 47 points (8 goals, 39 assists) in 339 regular season games with New Jersey. He did, however, have a large amount of blocked shots with 524 and delivered 441 hits. He also appeared in 38 playoff games with them and recorded 15 points.
During his time as captain, the Devils never made the playoffs in any of those three seasons. That was quite the upset considering they were in the Stanley Cup Finals the year before he took over the captaincy. Although it was the entire team who was struggling, they could have chosen a better veteran to lead the team, such as Patrik Elias or Travis Zajac. After his time with New Jersey, Salvador retired in 2015.
1 1. Best: Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby has spent his entire NHL career thus far with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2005 to the present day. The 5’11, 200 pound center has been their captain since 2007 and has led his team to two Stanley Cups (2009 and 2016).
So far in his twelve-year NHL career, Crosby has 1,019 points (379 goals, 640 assists) and a phenomenal +167 plus/minus rating in 773 regular season games. He also has 137 points in 124 playoff appearances. In five of his twelve seasons, he racked up over 100 points. He also led all NHL players with the most points in 2006-07 and 2013-14.
He has also been awarded many trophies throughout his career, including three Ted Lindsay Awards, two Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Memorial Trophies, one Conn Smythe Trophy, one Maurice Richard Trophy, and one Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.
It’s pretty easy to say that the extremely talented Sidney Crosby is definitely worthy of wearing the “C” for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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