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Pros and Cons: A Captain-less Devils

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With Bryce Salvador still an unrestricted free agent, the New Jersey Devils are without a captain. GM Ray Shero, however, recently mentioned that he feels it is not mandatory to find a captain before the season begins. Let's dive into this thought.

The greatest captain in Devils history.
The greatest captain in Devils history.
Elsa/Getty Images

Here on this site, since the downfall of Bryce Salvador and the lamenting of his diminished skills, we have discussed who the next potential captain of the New Jersey Devils would be.  We have discussed numerous candidates, from Andy Greene to Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, Mike Cammalleri, and even perhaps Patrik Elias.  While we've yet to come to a definitive conclusion (if you asked me, I believe the final consensus would be Greene, but that's just me), there was never a real doubt in our minds that someone would be named captain for the 2015-2016 season.

The other day, however, Ray Shero was very noncommittal about whether or not he would name a captain.  According to Rich Chere, Shero said "I'm not sure we'll have one...maybe we will."  That is about as vague as it gets, claiming that either side could be possible.  It throws the certainty of a captain for this team into doubt for the near future.  He may decide on a captain if he sees a standout during training camp, but in his opinion, there is no rush to name one, and one may not be named.

Given this knowledge, today I wanted to throw out some pros and cons of not naming a captain for this season.  What would be some positives of having just assistant captains, and what negatives could develop?  Let's dive in, take a look, and discuss.

The Pros of a Captain-less Devils

1.       Allows for a clear cut captain to develop

Shero's reasoning behind waiting is, for the most part, a good one.  It is much better to let a captain and a leader distinguish himself amongst the rest of the team than to have that leadership role thrusted upon him by management.  Some players might feel overwhelmed by having the "C" on their chest, and may prefer to help the team by solely focusing on themselves and improving their own games.  One of the better examples that I can think of is indeed Elias.  Patrik was captain of the team for one season, the 2006-2007 season.  After that year, however, he decided that he no longer wanted to be a captain outright, and instead donned the "A" that he has worn since then.  In his place the Devils named Jamie Langenbrunner, and Elias was much happier for it.  Patrik is a leader in the locker room, there is no doubt about that, but he prefers to mentor his teammates and guide them without the pomp and circumstance of being the official captain of the team.  Why should someone like that be forced to wear the "C" if they feel that it will be detrimental?

2.       Allows Shero and Hynes to get to know the players first

Shero and coach John Hynes are new to this organization and this team.  By this point they have certainly watched plenty of game film on their players, but they do not have that bond with them that someone who has been around for a while would have.  By not naming a captain right away, it allows for Shero and Hynes to get to know their players better.  This added knowledge about who certain people are and what they bring to both the ice and the locker room can be vital when determining who the best possible captain would be.  They may name a captain now, and three months from now realize that he was the wrong choice, and they should've named someone else. Well, if that person has a long contract with the team, it would be difficult to remove them from the captain's role without much media attention and possibly media backlash.  That is never good, and is best avoided.  Therefore, waiting to learn more about the players could be a positive move when it comes to making sure that the right person gets the job.

3.       Gives players who want to be captain a chance to show their leadership skills

There may be multiple players on the team who would love to become the next captain of the Devils.  By not naming a captain right away, it would give these players a chance to showcase their leadership abilities to Shero and Hynes.  For example, maybe Cammalleri really wants to be the captain, but Shero and Hynes do not think he is a great candidate at this point because he only played one season with the team.  Well, not naming a captain right away would give Cammalleri a chance to show them that he is the right man for the job.  If he impresses, then maybe Shero and Hynes change their mind and give him the "C".  Scenarios like this could definitely play out if a captain is not immediately named.

4.       A captain could be named whenever

Many people seem to think that a captain should be named before the season starts.  A captain should have a full season with the team to develop with them, win with them, and even lose with them.  However, this is not a requirement at all.  If Shero does not name a captain before October 9th, it is not like he has to wait until next year to name someone captain.  He could decide on a captain in November, December, whenever.  The great part about waiting is that there really is no rush.  Whenever the choice becomes clear is when the captain will be named.

The Cons of a Captain-less Devils

1.       The team is leaderless without one

A captain brings a sort of solidified leadership to a team.  Yes there might be several players in a locker room who act as leaders in one way or another, but without a captain, there is not one sole, unified voice in the room that acts almost like another coach to the rest of the team.  That added leadership presence can be huge.  A great captain will never take a second off during a game.  He may only get 20 minutes of ice time, but the other 40 minutes he is on the bench communicating with the rest of the team, teaching them and pumping them up and doing what he has to do to make sure that his team wins.  Without a captain, that presence may not be there, and the team may flounder as a result.

2.       The team may lack an identity without one

Captains also tend to help create and solidify an identity for a team.  For example, under Scott Stevens the Devils had an identity as a ferocious, hard-nosed, defensive team.  It was a team, frankly, that most people did not want to play against.  There is no doubt that the punishing hits and stifling defense that identified the team when Stevens was captain made others wish they were playing somewhere else.  Granted the coaching staff and the other players also have a large hand in determining the identity of a team, but it is the captain that solidifies that identity, and it is the captain that lets others know who this team is and what it is about.  Right now, this Devils team is without an identity.  No one really knows how this team will develop and what it will look like.  All we know is that it is supposed to be fast, attacking, and supportive.  The sooner Shero names a captain, the sooner that a true identity can be formed for this new Devils squad.

3.       A captain would be greatly beneficial to Hynes

This is the first season that John Hynes will be coaching in the NHL.  While he does have many years of coaching experience, with good success, nevertheless I have the feeling that coaching in the best league in the world has to be somewhat unique.  This is especially true considering that Hynes is only 40 years old, and has players on his team that are nearly his age (Elias).  This is very different than the AHL, where most of his players were generally in their early 20s.  With this knowledge, having a strong captain to help lead this team could help ease the learning curve for Hynes' transition to the NHL.  He would have someone that he could rely on to keep the team in line and following his orders.  The coach-captain relationship is important, and for Hynes, developing that connection sooner rather than later could pay dividends.

Conclusion

I know that I wrote 4 pros and only 3 cons, but I tried to make the sides as equal as possible.  In the end, there are multiple reasons on both sides with regards to the captaincy question.  There are good reasons to wait it out and there are also good reasons to name one before the season starts.  In my personal opinion, I would lean towards the pro arguments of this article.  I agree with what I wrote on the con side, but I also think they help to solidify the other side of the argument as well.  Naming a captain is important, and it would be beneficial to this team if Shero could get it right.  If that means waiting a little while and evaluating the team before making a decision, then so be it.  I do not condone waiting forever, but if training camp ends and no one has distinguished himself as an ideal candidate, then wait it out a little and see.  This is a transitional year, and with that knowledge in hand, it is not imperative to have a captain in place before October 9th.

Your Thoughts

Now that you have read both sides of the argument and heard my opinion, what are your thoughts?  Do you believe that Shero should wait for the perfect candidate, or do you believe that he should absolutely name a captain before the season starts?  Do you have any other additions to the argument, either on the pro side or the con side?  Who do you think the next captain of the team should be, and why?  Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.