With the return of old man Adam Foote, we unfortunately don't get to spend the summer debating who should be the next captain of the Colorado Avalanche. In fact, it will be very surprising if Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk don't retain the A's on their jerseys as well. But, hell, speculating on how the the Avs are going to meet the cap floor is getting to be pretty mind-numbingly boring, so let's take a look at the leaders of this club anyway.
Long time assistant captain Adam Foote took his well-deserved place as captain last season. Footer doesn't really seem to fit in with the team identity of speed and puck-pressure that allowed the Avs to be successful (though the collapsing defense of the entire defensive corps didn't really fit) but his smarts allowed him to stay in the play. From a team perspective, I wasn't exactly jumping for joy when he decided to stay on another year. But from a leadership perspective, how could I be less than thrilled? You know that he is gonna challenge the young guns to be at their best each and every night and I'm sure the plethora of young defensemen will be lucky to have him as a mentor. On the ice he also adds a bit of snarl that I feel is in short supply, especially on defense. Stewart is tough and Gali was nasty in the playoffs but Cody McLeod pulled a disappearing act during much of the season and Tucker and Koci were/are useless. So, with no heir-apparent for captain and no one to replace his role on the blueline, I'd rather have the shadow of Adam Foote than no Adam Foote at all.
The 'veteran' center Paul Stastny is supposed to be the offensive leader of this team and the person Sacco seemed to lean on when the team needed a goal. He was 18th overall in points and 8th among centers so I think its fair to say that he came through. He does run hot and cold and isn't as clutch as I would like the team's best forward to be (to be fair, though, Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg might have spoiled me when it comes to clutch play) but he absolutely is a leader on this team. I'm not sure I see him as captain, though. If Matt Duchene can become the superstar that he looks like he can be, I think that Stastny can flourish as the second-line center and long-time assistant captain. It will be interesting this season to see if we've already seen what SoS can do or if he can take his play up another notch and make me reevaluate my opinion him as the next captain.
With the departure of Darcy Tucker, Milan Hejduk is the sole forward over thirty currently on the team (only member over 26, in fact, Koci excluded) and because of that is assistant captain almost by default. Hejduk is one of the best players the franchise had ever had and one of my favorite players ever but he never really struck me as the leader type. I expect him to consistently pot goals but I never really expect him to go out and do something when the team is desperate. And I've noticed him ratchet up his intensity during a big game. Then again, maybe his relentlessly calm attitude is more helpful than I give credit for on such a young team. I certainly don't begrudge Hejduk his 'A' since there is no one more deserving on the team at the moment but, I don't know, Hejduk just never seemed like captain material to me.
Matt Duchene was hyped as a leader coming out of the draft after standing out in the playoffs on the very good Brampton Battalion. He obviously had a bit of trouble adjusting to the NHL last season and because of that, he didn't really seem to become a leader on the team. He has the makings, though, as he is smart, serious and never seems to take a shift off. I feel like he is still the best candidate to become the captain of this franchise in the future though, admittedly, he has yet to prove himself.
The other teen rookie center showed some flashes of leadership. Ryan O'Reilly was one of the few players who seemed to kick it into another gear when the team was struggling and for much of the season he was Sacco's go to guy for defensive zone faceoffs. However, his faceoff numbers weren't as good as the go to guy's should have been and his extra gear rarely resulted in points. If he can continue to become an elite defender and up his point totals into the forty or fifty range then a letter on his sweater in the future is not out of the question.
T.J. Galiardi was great during the regular season and the playoffs because he played his heart out every shift. There was no other player (save perhaps Matt Hendricks) with a higher compete level than Galiardi. I think as far as point production, he probably tops out in the fifty range, maybe sixty on a good year. But he is superb defensively and brings some physicality. He's an excellent on ice leader and to tell the truth, I'd love to see him with an 'A' on his jersey, even as soon as next season if Hejduk or Foote go down with an injury.
Agree? Disagree? Anybody you think I missed?