The C ain't what it used to be
The NHL alphabet used to begin with the letter C.
There was no role on a team as sacrosanct as captain. There was no responsibility, on the ice and off, that carried so much honor or weight. Compared to most other sports, the significance of the hockey captaincy still resonates -- certainly it has greater heft than the letter on Red Sox catcher
The hockey C-word used to be pretty straightforward: the captain was selected or sometimes elected and, well, that was pretty much it. The letter would stick, maybe forever as it did for
Now under the guise of underlining the significance of the position, some NHL teams actually have undermined the position. The most flagrant example was the Minnesota Wild under former coach
The Buffalo Sabres couldn't choose between Column A and Column B and used to rotate
Now two of the NHL heritage franchises, Toronto and Montreal, are temporarily trading in one captain for three alternates. This is the second straight year, since
Because Montreal GM
"These teams have had a tremendous amount of turnover, so I can understand waiting until you get your team assembled (before naming a captain)," San Jose captain
Blake, who turns 40 in December, is not the longest serving NHL captain, but no one has had a better vantage point from which to observe the changes in the role. He first wore the "C" during the 1995-96 season, succeeding
While the playoff-challenged Sharks were desperate for a change in the official leadership --
"One of the differences from when I first was captain to now is that then you used to go in and talk to the coach by yourself," Blake said. "Now, you're going in with two or three guys. It's not about the captain as much as the leadership group."
The concept of a "leadership group" has been kicking around since at least the 1970s when
The job of the captain also has expanded. Apart from being a conduit, a social director and the emotional fulcrum of a team, the captain is supposed to be the oracle, available to the media after every game. When Blake started in the role in Los Angeles, that meant answering the questions from a couple of beat writers, the odd microphone, and maybe a TV camera. With the dotcom/sports radio boom, Blake says the responsibility has to be divvied up, which the Sharks do with their veterans.
"The captaincy is still a big part of the history of our game, but no doubt it's changed," Blake says. "Ideally, you want all players taking some responsibility, all being leaders."
True enough. But to borrow from Gilbert and Sullivan, when everybody's somebody, then no one's anybody.
Other than Washington's estimable
Some of it has been remarkable, starting with Philadelphia's
But two NHL powers should feel queasy about what they witnessed saw in goal on the other side of the Atlantic.
Generally Detroit takes a two-goal lead and sticks it in a lockbox. Thank you for coming, drive home safely. The Red Wings almost never blow a comfortable cushion like that and then lose in regulation, but it happened twice -- to division-rival St. Louis in Stockholm in a disastrous homecoming for the NHL's Team Sweden.
The Chicago Blackhawks took three of four points in Helsinki against Florida, but their No. 1 goalie