Sunday, May 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Who should be captain of Lightning?

The Lightning parted ways in the offseason with Vinny Lecavalier. Not only did it lose the face of the franchise and the organization's all-time leading goal scorer, it also lost the team's captain. The Lightning is expected to announce a new captain Tuesday, and it has really only two options: Marty St. Louis or Steven Stamkos. Other sports have team captains, but the captain in hockey seems to hold an especially honored place on the team. Being a hockey captain means more than organizing team functions and talking to referees. The hockey captain is the team's leader on the ice, off the ice and in ways that can't be measured. Lightning coach Jon Cooper, his assistant coaches and, surely, general manager Steve Yzerman will select the new captain. Here's a case for St. Louis and for Stamkos, and a final thought on who it probably will be and who it should be.

A case for Marty St. Louis

There's no question St. Louis is the heart and soul of this franchise.

He was the dominant force and best player in 2003-04 on the team's only Stanley Cup winner. He's a six-time All-Star, a two-time league scoring champ and a one-time league MVP.

He looks 5-foot-nothing but plays like he's 10 feet tall. Even at age 38, he remains on many nights the team's best player. He not only led the team in scoring last season, he led the NHL, becoming the oldest player to do so.

St. Louis is about to enter his 13th season with the Lightning, making him by far the most veteran member of the team. Think of it in these terms: When he joined the Lightning, Steven Stamkos was 10 years old.

But here's the important part when you're talking about sewing a C on a player's sweater: He leads by example and leads by having a voice.

St. Louis isn't an in-your-face screamer, but he possesses two qualities a leader must have: He is brutally honest, and he is not afraid of confrontation.

Plus, he's accountable when he doesn't play well and is always in front of his locker, win or lose, when it's time to face the media.

A case for Steven Stamkos

Stamkos will be captain of the Lightning someday. The only question is whether that day will be now or later.

He's an elite player. An elite player doesn't necessarily make a good captain, and you don't have to be a great player to be a great captain. Dave Andreychuk wasn't even among the best five players on the Lightning during the 2004 Stanley Cup run, but he remains probably the best captain the franchise has had.

But it helps to have a captain who is a great player and a dedicated worker in order to set an example others will follow. Stamkos works hard, and his commitment to hard work is perhaps his best quality.

He's only 23, and we've seen players fail at being a captain that young. But he doesn't seem 23. He's more mature than that. And, hard as it is to believe, Stamkos is about to enter his sixth NHL season.

Like St. Louis, he isn't the type to chew out a player, but if he has something to say to the group, he isn't afraid to stand up and say it. And also like St. Louis, Stamkos will take responsibility for his play, seeing to it his game is fixed before talking about the entire team's.

If he will be captain someday, why wait? Why not name him now?

Final analysis

My guess is the Lightning will choose St. Louis as captain. When you get down to it, St. Louis deserves it more than Stamkos, and Stamkos won't be insulted if he isn't named captain. St. Louis might be insulted if he isn't, and you can understand why. Being named captain means more to him than it does Stamkos.

If it were me, I'd choose Stamkos, and here's why: I'm not sure St. Louis will be here for the long haul. If the Lightning falls flat this season and it becomes apparent this is a rebuilding project, St. Louis could be traded, and you always hate to trade your captain. Stamkos isn't going anywhere. He is the face of the franchise and will continue to be for years to come.

It probably doesn't matter who wears the C and who wears the alternate's A. St. Louis and Stamkos are the undisputed leaders of this team, and a letter on their chests isn't going to dictate their ability to lead.

The best part is the Lightning has two great choices for captain. There were many years this franchise didn't have one.

tom jones' two cents

   
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