Melrose: Vinny would be "the perfect captain"
Perhaps the decision already has been made. Perhaps coach Barry Melrose already knows star center Vinny Lecavalier is the Lightning's next captain. If so, he is not saying. What Melrose did say is he wants to look at Lecavalier in a team setting before anything is finalized.
"Vinny would be the ideal guy," Melrose said. "But I'm not picking Vinny because he is the best player."
Nor, owner Len Barrie said, will Lecavalier be named because of his recently signed 11-year, $85-million contract extension. Barrie said naming Lecavalier captain was not part of the negotiations.
No, Melrose said, if Lecavalier is to be captain, he is going to have to earn it, and the final step will take place at training camp.
"Look," Melrose said. "I've only spent two days with Vinny."
So Melrose said he will watch. Speaking generally, Melrose said he has a criteria for what he looks for in a captain.
"I'll watch the dressing room. A leader will take over the room," Melrose said. "I'll watch at practice. Are they leaders and the first guys in drills? I'll watch workouts and how they are with the younger guys. I have a captain and three assistants to name, so I have a lot of work to do."
Lecavalier was captain previously, of course. Named on March 11, 2000, at age 19, he was the youngest full-time captain in NHL history (Steve Yzerman was 21 in 1986, when named captain of the Red Wings). But that honor was taken away from Lecavalier before the 2001-02 season, when the organization deemed him not ready.
Is he ready now? Lecavalier, 28, the first Lightning player to twice score 40 goals and the NHL's leading goal scorer in 2006-07, will have some competition. Veterans such as Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi, though newcomers, will command instant respect. Jeff Halpern, though injured, has quiet intensity. Marty St. Louis has become a growing locker room voice.
But Lecavalier is the face of the franchise and one of the best players in the world.
"I love the way he plays," Melrose said. "He would be the perfect captain. But that doesn't mean he will be captain."