Now that the offseason has come and gone and it’s officially official that Claude Giroux will not be returning to Philadelphia, the new era of Flyers hockey can get underway. His absence will leave many holes within the Flyers organization, one of the biggest being his title as captain, a role he has held since 2012. There will be plenty of potential heirs to the throne, but not everyone makes a good captain. For the Flyers, it’ll be about finding the right guy to lead the team through one of the toughest stretches in franchise history.
The seemingly natural solution for next captain is the veteran who may be the best forward on the team, but it just can’t be the case. Couturier, who is entering his 12th NHL season, just started wearing an “A” in 2019-20. Even though he may well be a respected voice in the room, it resonates the same stale voice that has influenced the team since Chris Pronger went down now 12 years ago. Just because Couturier’s going to be here for much of the next decade shouldn’t make him the de facto captain. The next captain should be a breath of fresh air taking the team in a different direction, not more of the same tire spinning that’s been happening for years.
The second-longest tenured assistant on the team other than Couturier would be Ivan Provorov. The 25-year-old seems to take the “lead by example” route, which there’s nothing wrong with, but it may not equate to a great hockey captain. Is his voice loud enough to matter then the team needs it most? Does the rest of the team have the collective brain power to follow a lead by example approach? Is he the guy to lead the team in the first place anyway after his end-of-season press conference when frustration boiled over and we all got a look at the not so cool, calm and collected Provorov? He may not be in the best head space to be the next leader.
A name that has started to rise to the top of the leadership group among the current team seems to be Scott Laughton. The 2012 first round pick has established himself as a flexible, bottom-nine forward that can squeeze into any role the team demands of him. Even though he’s a relied upon member of the team, typically speaking, the captain is also one of your best players. While Laughton may be one of the hardest working, he doesn’t really qualify as the best, which may ultimately keep him from being crowned captain. Though at this point, if he’s the most deserving and high on the food chain of relied upon leaders in the room, he may as well take the “C.”
Hayes has felt like the unofficial official leader of the team since his arrival in 2019. His energy and personality certainly make him a candidate that could throw his hat in the ring and be an acceptable captain as he seems like a key member leadership group anyway, making the “C” more of a formality at this point. Other than Couturier, Hayes feels like the odds on favorite to be coronated next captain.
Atkinson feels like the nicest, most likable player on the current roster, certainly from a fan perspective anyway. He took a page out of the Bryce Harper playbook upon his arrival last summer and sucked up to the Philly faithful. He’s currently the second oldest player on the roster behind Justin Braun, so maybe seniority reigns? Sometimes players work better as the supporting cast rather than the guy in the spotlight, though having a relatively fresh voice take over in the room could help right the ship for the future.
A Young Guy
The team could always take the route they did with Giroux and thrust the title on to a young player. Right now, that would probably be Joel Farabee, who at just 22 years old, has the brightest future among the Flyers’ forwards. Potentially Cam York, who appears to be the real deal on the blueline, although he hasn’t secured a full-time NHL spot just yet. There’s a good chance that one day Farabee will be a leader on the team, but throwing the “C” on him right now seems premature. It’s best to let someone earn it rather than an undeserved coronation just because he’s young and the most talented option they currently have.
Quite frankly, there aren’t many other names on the team at the moment that seem like suitable captains. Maybe that could’ve been a role for Ryan Ellis, but with his playing career in doubt, he takes himself out of the running. A relatively quiet offseason from the Flyers didn’t really add anybody else to the pool for consideration. It’s unlikely someone like Nic Deslauriers gets the “C” and players like Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim or Rasmus Ristolainen just don’t seem to be leaders of any kind.
These days, it’s not uncommon for a team to lose its captain for one reason or another and roll without a new “C” for a few seasons until somebody stands above the crowd and earns the title. That could very well be the best path for the Flyers to take. The veterans who have been here forever just continue to drag out the same problems that are already here, the kids are too young and don’t have a strong enough hold on an NHL spot yet to be calling the shots, and the newer veteran core appear to be a better supporting cast rather than bonafide leaders. Maybe rolling with a handful of assistants for at least the 2022-23 season and letting the cream rise to the top is the best way for the Flyers to pick a leader out moving forward. Especially with a roster with so much young talent on the horizon.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: bleacherreport.com