To receive the honor of wearing the captain’s letter “C” for an NHL team is a feeling of emotion that only a unique group of skaters can express that they have experienced. And, with that being said, to have the “C” stripped away from one of those NHL player’s jerseys would entail even more mixed feelings; but with a perception that could only carry pain moving forward.
To a surprise, the NHL and its fans alike have witnessed not only some of the league’s brightest stars (at the time), but all-time greats who were stripped of the coveted captain’s “C” on an NHL sweater.
Some star-studded skaters were only named captain of their respective club for one or two years at a time, while others have donned the “C” for over a decade before having it torn away from their jersey and hearts. On occasion, perhaps it can be justified as to why an NHL captain was stripped of his captaincy. However, more so than not it was probably a mistake to have a group of players, who are listed below, stripped of their “C’s.”
The Sportster ranks the Top 15 NHL Captains Who Were Stripped Of The “C.”
15. Scott Mellanby – Florida Panthers
Forward Scott Mellanby became the Florida Panthers second captain in franchise history when he was given the captain’s letter “C” during the 1997 offseason. The former Edmonton Oiler and Philadelphia Flyer captained the Cats until the end of the 1999-00 season, as the front office then decided to hand over the “C” to Russian superstar, Pavel Bure.
A fan favorite, Mellanby was later traded midway way through the following season (2000-01). Respected by all NHL players and fans alike, Mellanby rightfully makes this list. Mellanby was acquired by the Panthers during the club’s inaugural season, and was a key player during the Panthers’ 1996 Stanley Cup Finals run. On the other hand, Bure’s tenure as captain lasted one season as he was later traded to the New York Rangers after a forgettable tenure in Florida.
14. Theoren Fleury – Calgary Flames
Most NHL fans can recall former Calgary Flames forward “Theo” Fleury scoring the overtime game winning goal against Edmonton in 1991. And, most fans alike can also remember when Fleury donned the “C” for the Flames. But, did you know that the former eighth-round draft pick (1987) was stripped of his captain duties after wearing the “C” for two seasons (1995-97)?
One of hockey’s brightest stars, at the time, was replaced by a defenseman and known goon, Todd Simpson in 1997-98. Fleury earned over 1,000 career NHL points before later retiring as a Chicago Blackhawk in 2003. Still, it was interesting that Fleury was originally given the captaincy after Hockey Hall Of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk refused to report to the team back in ’95.
13. Dustin Brown – Los Angeles Kings
Entering the 2011-12 regular season, the Los Angeles Kings had never won a Stanley Cup championship. However, that all changed when the Kings hoisted Lord Stanley for the first time in franchise history during the spring of 2012. And, Los Angeles did so again in 2014 after defeating the New York Rangers in five games.
Forward Dustin Brown captained both of those championship squads, and the American born was known for being one of the league’s top captains (at the time). Yet, Brown’s performance on the ice soon took a toll after those long Stanley Cup Playoff runs and the former Kings’ first round draft pick (2003) was stripped of his captaincy prior to the start of this season. Brown was replaced by the talented, Anze Kopitar.
12. Joe Thornton – San Jose Sharks
Similar to former San Jose Sharks captain, Patrick Marleau, forward Joe Thornton was once stripped of his captaincy with the Teal. During the 2014 offseason, the Sharks’ front office announced that Thornton would no longer officially act as San Jose’s captain heading into the 2014-15 NHL regular season.
Big Joe had captained the club from the beginning of the 2010-11 regular season, but since that time the Sharks failed to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals; as the team had been perennial front runners to do so, at the time. In 2014, the Sharks took a 3-0 series lead vs. the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Quarter Finals, but lost the series in seven games. The historic upset by the Kings marked the last time Thornton wore the captain’s “C.” He would be replaced by Joe Pavelski and the switch has worked well for all parties.
11. Vincent Lecavalier – Tampa Bay Lightning
The former first overall draft pick of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft captained the club that drafted him, but for only a short stint. Vincent Lecavalier was the Tampa Bay Lightning’s pride and joy for over a decade and captained the Bolts from 1999-00 until the end of the 2001 season.
The organization decided to strip the Canadian Gold Medalist of his captain duties and then named hockey great and veteran forward Dave Andreychuk captain in 2002-03. While there probably weren’t any bitter feelings from Lecavalier and the club did win its first ever Stanley Cup (2004) with Andreychuk at the helm, one of the game’s brightest stars in “Vinny” goes down as one of the top NHL players who were stripped of the C. At some point, the Lightning will more than likely retire his number 4.
10. Patrik Elias – New Jersey Devils
Patrik Elias quickly won over the hearts of all New Jersey Devils fans with his playmaking ability and inspiring energy that he brought night in and night out with the club. By the time the 2002-03 season had officially ended, with Elias hoisting his second Stanley Cup with the Devils, it seemed that it was only a matter of time before the Czech Republic native would proceed the great Scott Stevens as team captain.
The former second round draft pick (1994) was named captain in 2006-07, but when the Devils hired a new coach the next season, Brent Sutter, Elias was stripped of his captaincy and was replaced by Jamie Langenbrunner. There’s no doubt Elias will have his number 26 retired by New Jersey, but just imagine if his number was lifted to rafters as a captain.
9. Chris Pronger – St. Louis Blues
Another familiar name and face from this list, Chris Pronger, played the role of victim and thief during his NHL career in relation to players being stripped of the captain’s “C.” The Hockey Hall Of Fame defenseman donned the “C” from 1997 until the end of the 2001-02 season. Another Hall Of Famer, in Al MacInnis, was later named captain in 2002-03.
Pronger had been captain of the Blues for a while without much playoff success, and chances were that the organization was seeking a more mature veteran to try and lead the Blues to their first ever Stanley Cup championship. The ultimate goal of hoisting Lord Stanley never happened for the Blues, and Pronger eventually left St. Louis for the Edmonton Oilers after the 2005 NHL Lockout.
8. Brett Hull – St. Louis Blues
The former St. Louis Blues star and Hockey Hall Of Famer Brett Hull had, let’s say, “that awkward moment,” after the Blues acquired forward Shayne Corson during the 1995 offseason and then named Corson team captain to begin the 1995-96 regular season. So, Hull had captained St. Louis from 1992 until that time when the former longtime Montreal Canadiens skater arrived in Missouri.
The all-time leading goal scorer (741) for American hockey players was stripped of the coveted “C,” and never regained his captaincy with the Blues. While Corson only went on to play parts of two seasons with St. Louis before being shipped back to Montreal, Hull eventually left the Blues for the Dallas Stars during the 1998 offseason. What’s even more interesting is that another all-time great ended up taking away Corson’s captaincy in 1995-96.
7. Shayne Corson – St. Louis Blues
As noted above, forward Shayne Corson arrived in St. Louis and made noise from the get-go when Brett Hull was stripped of the captain’s “C” in favor of Corson. However, Corson was later stripped of the “C” after the Blues acquired Wayne Gretzky late in the 1995-96 regular season.
The Great One was anointed the “C” for St. Louis, which made him the team’s third captain in less than one calendar year. But, I guess when you’re Gretz you automatically receive the captaincy, and no matter where you played or who else was on the current roster, right? After a short stint in St. Louis, Gretzky left the Blues for the New York Rangers during the 1996 offseason. St. Louis chose not to rename a captain the following season.
6. Eric Lindros – Philadelphia Flyers
It was drama from the beginning for Eric Lindros and the City of Brotherly Love…as I’m sure most can recall the historic trade which sent Lindros from the Quebec Nordiques to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1991, after the power forward refused to play for Quebec.
Well, almost a decade later, Big E was stripped of his captaincy from the Flyers. Why?
The six-foot-five forward publicly criticized Philadelphia’s training staff after he kept suffering from ongoing concussion syndromes. The Flyers’ front office wasted no time in taking away the captaincy from Lindros and eventually handed it over to fan-favorite, Eric Desjardins (2000). And, Lindros would play in his final game with the Flyers during the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Hockey Hall Of Famer requested a trade during that same offseason. The former Flyers’ captain was traded to Philadelphia’s biggest rival, the New York Rangers.
5. Joe Sakic – Quebec Nordiques
Believe it or not, but Hockey Hall Of Famer and two-time Stanley Cup champion Joe Sakic captained another team other than the Colorado Avalanche…well sort of. Before the organization moved to Colorado in 1995, Sakic captained the franchise while it was located in Quebec and known as the “Nordiques.”
Yet, Sakic would be stripped of his captaincy after just one season donning the “C” for the Nordiques. And, that mistake only lasted for one season, too (1991-92). After the club had named Mike Hough as Sakic’s replacement, it became evident that this was Sakic’s team – on and off the ice. Sakic went on to captain the Nordiques/Avalanche for a total of 17 seasons, before retiring after the 2008-09 season. Since that time, Colorado has clearly never been the same team on the ice.
4. Patrick Marleau – San Jose Sharks
Since 1997, forward Patrick Marleau has been the heart and soul of the San Jose Sharks organization. The former second overall draft pick of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft has seen it all in the Bay Area, except for winning a Stanley Cup, that is.
In fact, Marleau joins the fraternity of captains who were stripped of their leadership duties, too. The 2014 Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist captained the Teal from 2005 until the end of the 2008-09 season. Marleau was replaced by Hockey Hall Of Fame defenseman Rob Blake, and he hasn’t been given the honor back since that time. Marleau will probably go down as the greatest player to pull a Sharks’ sweater over his head, but there will still be that odd feeling knowing that he was stripped of the “C,” from San Jose.
3. Brian Leetch – New York Rangers
One of the most popular teams in the NHL has had quite a few superstar players wear the captain’s “C.” The New York Rangers were captained by Hockey Hall Of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch from 1997 until the end of the 1999-00 regular season. He was stripped of his captaincy after the Rangers’ front office re-acquired another Hockey Hall Of Famer in Mark Messier.
Sure, Messier’s nickname may be “The Captain,” but Leetch was still stripped of the “C” after already establishing his uncanny loyalty to the Big Apple. The Texas native called Madison Square Garden “home” for 17 seasons, and is the franchise’s all-time leader in assists with 741. Leetch’s number 2 was lifted to the Garden’s rafters in 2008, and he is arguably the greatest New York Ranger of all time.
2. Scott Niedermayer – Anaheim Ducks
Defenseman Scott Niedermayer was a hockey champion at almost every level of competitive hockey that the Hockey Hall Of Famer ever played at. And, with every great champion, comes great responsibility. Niedermayer served as an assistant captain for the New Jersey Devils for a majority of his career, and when we he signed with the (then) Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2005-06 he was immediately named team captain.
While the Mighty Ducks eventually changed their name to just the “Anaheim Ducks” in 2006-07, that wasn’t the only change on the horizon and at The Pond. In 2007-08, the Ducks decided to strip Niedermayer of the “C,” and handed the captain duties over to another great defenseman in Chris Pronger. Oddly enough, Niedermayer was given back the “C” the following season.
1. Mike Modano – Dallas Stars
When NHL fans across the world think of the Dallas Stars they immediately envision, Mike Modano. The former first overall draft pick (1988) of the organization (then Minnesota North Stars) skated with the Stars for 20 seasons, and is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 1,359 points with the club.
While Modano became one of the NHL’s best players of all time and rather swiftly, the Michigan born stud didn’t don the “C” for the Stars until the 2003-04 regular season. It’s hard to believe that it took Dallas almost two decades to name its pride and glory team captain, but it’s even tougher to imagine and understand that Modano was stripped of his captaincy for Brendan Morow to begin the 2006-07 regular season. Either way, Modano’s number 9”was lifted to the rafters after his retirement in 2011.
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