Oh captain my captain: Who will replace Andrew Ladd?
The Winnipeg Jets prepare for Ladd's return Friday night, but lingering questions remain over who will replace him as team captain.
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Friday night, former Jets captain Andrew Ladd returns to MTS Centre with his new team, the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. While Ladd and the Hawks are set to make a run at another Stanley Cup this spring, the Jets are in next year mode playing out the stretch with a number of call-ups and young players.
Now that Ladd is riding shotgun with Jonathan Toews on the top line in the Windy City and Marko Dano is settling in to Winnipeg, there is one lingering question still to be answered in the aftermath of the Jets-Hawks trade: Who will replace Andrew Ladd as captain of the Winnipeg Jets?
Count me among many who assumed this would be a quick and easy decision for the club. In many ways, Blake Wheeler has played like a captain, leading by example on the ice and being a strong voice in the media, consistently available in victory and defeat. If Wheeler is to be named captain, it won’t be for a while.
The lack of an announcement on a successor to Ladd and the suggestion the team will wait until next season to name a captain shows there is much more to the decision than what most fans assume. On ice performance, locker room leadership and influence are at the top of the list. The new captain will also be a face of the franchise for the foreseeable future and will be expected to carry a bigger load with the media, as well as being a conduit between the players, coaching staff and management.
So who will get the honour of wearing the C on his chest? It comes down to three candidates.
Blake Wheeler – Wheeler has been the Jets best player on the ice and has developed into one of the top players in the NHL. He has also shown to be willing to face the music and speak to both the fans and his teammates through the media when needed. At 29 years old and signed for three more seasons in Winnipeg, the former Olympian has come into his own and seems ready for the responsibility of captain. Already wearing an “A”, Wheeler seems to be the most likely choice to succeed Ladd.
Dustin Byfuglien – After committing to the Jets for five more seasons, Byfuglien should certainly get consideration. The undisputed alpha dog in the dressing room is beloved by his teammates and has developed into a reliable impact player after some rocky times earlier in his in Winnipeg service. That said, no one is sure Byfuglien would even want to be captain, as the job entails much more media time and off-ice responsibility than may be to his liking.
Mark Scheifele – Scheifele’s breakout play this year and the potential of a lengthy contract extension with the Jets this offseason has pushed his name in to the conversation. A tireless worker who gets better each season, he is the first-ever draft pick by the Jets and would be a perfect long-term face of the franchise. Much younger than Wheeler and Byfuglien, Scheifele as captain would also fit nicely in the room between the Jets’ veterans and the continuing influx of younger players. I’m not sure it makes sense to make Scheifele captain so early in his career, but he has certainly earned the consideration.