Sidney Crosby has served as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins since the 2007-08 season. That year, he led the Pens to the Stanley Cup Finals, but was unable to overcome the Detroit Red Wings. He corrected that the following year when the Penguins bested Detroit in Game 7. In 2010, he served as an alternate captain and led the Canadian National Team to a gold medal victory over the United States. Crosby even managed to score the winning goal in the gold medal game.
In recent seasons, Crosby has suffered major injuries, including a scary battle with post-concussion syndrome that sidelined him for the majority of the 2010-11 season and the beginning of the following year. In spite of the injury issues and looming lockout, the Pens signed him to a 12-year deal. He rewarded them with a Hart Trophy campaign in 2013-14, but hasn’t been able to return to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Being a captain is an enormous responsibility for a hockey player. A captain must be the face of the franchise, the bridge between the coaching staff and players, and must also produce consistently enough on the ice to maintain the respect of his teammates. Crosby certainly meets some of those criteria, but he’s undeniably the biggest diva in the sport. Hated by opposing fans, but beloved by the Pittsburgh faithful, Crosby is a divisive figure. However, he is hardly the best captain in the NHL. Here are 12 captains that are better than Sidney Crosby.
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12 Shane Doan
To say that Shane Doan is the face of the Arizona Coyotes is an understatement. He is the only remaining member of the franchise that played with the Winnipeg Jets before their move to the desert. He is the longest serving captain in the NHL, having served as the Coyotes captain since 2003. Doan was also the leading scorer for the franchise in every season between 2003 and 2011. His longevity has allowed him to become the Coyotes all-time leading scorer and he continues to serve them as an exemplary leader.
11 Claude Giroux
Sidney Crosby is not even the best NHL captain in his state, because that honor belongs to Claude Giroux. While he may have lost out to Crosby on honors like the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award, Giroux has the unwavering loyalty and respect of his teammates. Giroux’s infectious personality has been on display since early in his career, when he lived with teammate Danny Briere and his two sons. As the leader of the Philadelphia Flyers during their rebuilding process, he has the less talented Flyers competing with the Pens for a playoff spot.
10 Zdeno Chara
Zdeno Chara is one of the most intimidating figures to ever take the ice in the NHL. After several seasons with the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators, Chara signed with the Boston Bruins in 2006 and was immediately named captain. He led the Bruins as they lifted the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1974, cementing his legacy for one of the NHL’s Original Six franchises. In addition to being the tallest player in league history, he appeared in multiple All-Star games and has been a Norris finalist six times, winning once.
9 Dustin Brown
After being named the captain of the Los Angeles Kings at the age of 23, Dustin Brown has consistently proven that to be a wise decision. His physical playing style and lead-by-example nature has lifted the level of his teammates enormously. Brown captained the Kings as they lifted the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. Throughout his career he has rarely missed time due to injury and is considered one of the best defensive forwards in the league.
8 Eric Staal
As the oldest of the NHL’s four Staal Brothers, Eric Staal was born into a leadership role. Since taking over as captain of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009, Staal added to his already impressive resume by becoming a member of the coveted Triple Gold Club. He has been named to the All-Star team on four occasions and took home MVP honors in 2008. Throughout his NHL career, Staal has rarely missed games due to injury and has the Hurricanes franchise record for consecutive games played.
7 Shea Weber
When Shea Weber signed a $110 million offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Nashville Predators jumped into action to re-sign their captain. Weber is a physically imposing defensemen known for delivering big hits and blessed with one of the hardest slap shots in the league. The two time Olympic gold medalist has been named to five All-Star teams. He has produced at a consistent level offensively throughout his career and is an annual nominee for the Norris Trophy.
6 Henrik Zetterberg
Filling the vacancy left by NHL legend Nicklas Lidstrom is an enormous responsibility and Henrik Zetterberg has risen to the occasion masterfully. Despite being plagued by back injuries in recent seasons, Zetterberg’s grit and skill on the ice are routinely on display. Earlier this season, Zetterberg became one of only five Red Wings to score 300 goals and earn 800 points with the franchise. In addition to his NHL credentials, Zetterberg is also a member of the Triple Gold Club.
5 John Tavares
Halfway into the 2013-14 season after being named the 14th captain in the New York Islanders history, John Tavares suffered a significant knee injury that caused him to miss the remainder of the season. Tavares was 3rd in the NHL in scoring at the time, but managed to return stronger than before finishing 2nd in the race for the Art Ross Trophy the next season. As the franchise transitioned from their Long Island home to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Tavares is the face of the franchise and scored the first Islanders goal in the building’s history. It is plain to see that Tavares has a great career ahead of him.
4 Steven Stamkos
As the NHL trade deadline looms, the Tampa Bay Lightning may be attempting to trade their captain, Steven Stamkos. Widely considered among the league’s elite goalscorers, he holds the Lightning franchise record for goals in a season with 60. He is one of only three players in Lightning history to accumulate over 500 points, joining the ranks of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. As he closes in on 300th career goals, it will be interesting to see if Stamkos makes that mark in Tampa Bay or elsewhere.
3 Henrik Sedin
After taking over for Roberto Luongo as captain of the Vancouver Canucks, Henrik Sedin has led the club to one of the most successful stints in its history. Henrik is joined at many times by his identical twin brother Denis, and the two have had an enormous positive impact on the ice, displaying freakish teamwork. He is the franchise leader in games played, points, assists, and consecutive games played. Henrik is a model professional and will leave an enormous legacy as one of the greatest Canucks of all-time.
2 Alexander Ovechkin
Alexander Ovechkin is essentially the evil, more skilled version of Sidney Crosby. The shoot-first winger has led the league in goals five times during his career and is threatening to do it for a sixth time this season. Ovie has served as captain of the Washington Capitals since 2010 and has helped them to the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons. He reportedly has an ongoing feud with Crosby’s teammate, Evgeni Malkin, which has stoked a rivalry with the Penguins. Ovechkin is proving himself in the current campaign by leading the Caps as they dominate the Eastern Conference.
1 Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews was almost an immediate success when he joined the Chicago Blackhawks after being drafted 3rd overall in 2006. Toews was named captain in his second season after receiving a nomination for the Calder Trophy and has rewarded the franchise by helping them win the Stanley Cup three times. He earned the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010, Selke Trophy in 2013, and helped Canada win two gold medals in 2010 and 2014. Toews’ knack for showing up in the clutch and delivering on the biggest stage make him the best captain in the NHL.
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