The Edmonton Oilers, who previously named Andrew Ference as their captain, has announced today via Twitter that they have named six players as alternate captains for the upcoming season. For those of you who are wondering, this is not a typo. The alternate captains are Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nick Schultz, and Ryan Smyth.
This is a very unique system, and very confusing at the same time. Each team may only have two alternate captains per game (three if the captain isn’t dressed). This is going to lead to interesting scenarios on how the alternates will take turns as physically having the “A” on their jersey.
I’m speculating that it may be a game-by-game decision as to who deserves to wear the “A” for the game at hand, unless they have a calendar already written out for who will wear the “A” on each game.
What pressure does this put on the alternates?
This can work in Dallas Eakin’s favor (head coach of the Oilers) by instilling competition for all six of the alternates to try and become more of leaders in practices, games, and in the dressing rooms. This could also have a negative effect if the amount of leadership becomes overwhelming for the hockey club. This is a scenario that players haven’t experienced yet. The closest to this could arguably be during the Olympics where the locker room could be filled with captains from several other NHL teams, although the Olympics are far shorter than an NHL season.
Concerns about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has had a disappointing NHL career thus far, and several NHL critics were shocked at the decision to name Nugent-Hopkins as an alternate captain. Based off of his history of not being able to compete for a complete NHL season, there may have been better alternatives such as Ales Hemsky who has been in the organization for a decade.
Andrew Ference’s impact
Andrew Ference was expected to bring leadership and experience to the Edmonton Oilers’ locker room. I think it is safe to say that although the Oilers were looking for a captain, no one was expecting Ference to come in and become the captain in his first year with the organization. Ference brings the recent playoff experience that is crucial for the Oilers.
What Ference didn’t have was the personal friendships with the other Oilers players. This may have set him up for immediate success, however. If he was able to enter the locker room as more of an acquaintance rather than friend, he may have stood out as a leader to Dallas Eakins and the rest of the coaching staff.
Watch the Edmonton Oilers tonight against the Winnipeg Jets. Puck drops at 8:00PM (MST).