Adam Henrique is entering his 5th NHL season with the New Jersey Devils. At only 25 years old, he may not seem like the rugged veteran that most of us think of when we imagine team leaders. While he has quality NHL experience, he is still quite young in NHL years, and should have a long career ahead of him barring major injuries. He also has not had the dynamite production that many of us associate with top of the line players and leaders. Last season, he had only 16 goals and 43 points in 75 games played. Those were pretty good numbers on an incredibly poor offensive squad, but 0.57 points per game is not all that impressive for someone who will be making 4 million dollars this season.
Despite all of this, however, today I want to argue that if the Devils are going to move forward and begin to progress towards becoming a competitive team, Adam Henrique needs to become one of the next leaders on this team. He may not need to be named captain (Andy Greene can take that mantle for now, or even Travis Zajac), but he needs to become one of those guys in the locker room that other players can look to for leadership and example. Here are some reasons why I believe this:
The Team is Getting Younger
Last season, Adam was one of the younger guys on the oldest team in hockey. This season, however, as the team looks to build from the ground up, he is no longer one of the young guys. I am not trying to imply that 25 is old (I sure hope not!), but most of the entire defense is younger than him, plus there are forwards like Stefan Matteau, Reid Boucher, Jacob Josefson, Pavel Zacha, and others who are younger and have less NHL experience. With that being the case, Henrique can start to become a mentor and leader to these guys. He can show them what it takes to be consistently successful at the NHL level, and the work that needs to be done to become a quality NHL player.
From there, his leadership can then grow to become team-wide. Someone does not always need to be the eldest to be a leader. Granted forwards like Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac may also command respect and take on leadership roles as some of the older guys in the room, but that does not mean that they also cannot look to Henrique as one of the leaders. If Adam steps up this year and becomes a leader, this team will only be the better for it, both now and in the future.
He is Here to Stay
Henrique also has one of the longer contracts with the team. He is signed through the 2018-19 season. The only forward to be signed for longer at this point is Zajac, who is signed an extra two seasons on top of that. This means that Adam will be here for the entirety of the rebuilding process, and should be here to see the team get back into contention (hopefully). Considering this, he needs to be one of the guys to step up and lead. Players that are only signed for a season or two do not have as much invested in this hockey club. If they feel that it is not working out, they know that they can test the market in a year or two and sign somewhere else. Henrique, however, won't have that luxury. Therefore, it will be on him to help see this team through the dark days and back into the light, and he can only help expedite that process as someone who leads instead of someone who follows.
Leaders Do Not Have to be Outspoken
There is also a general notion amongst most people that leaders are the most outspoken ones on the team. They are the guys that fire up the rest of the team via speeches, talks or whatever else. While Henrique could certainly be that person, he does not have to be in order to be a leader. Leaders can also be the quiet guys on the team that simply work harder than anyone else. Showing how to be successful by example can be just as good, if not better, than telling someone how to be successful.
Now while I do not know Henrique personally, given his success at the NHL level, you would have to assume that he has a great work ethic and a good head on his shoulders. He can use these things to become a leader on this team, whether he decides he wants to be a vocal one or not. Leading by example, if that is the way that suits him better, can be just as powerful as leading by words.
A great example of this, in my opinion, has to be Elias. Elias has been a leader in the team's locker room for over a decade. Despite this knowledge, however, he has only worn the captain's ‘C' for one season, and does not wish to wear it. Patrik is someone that is certainly a leader, but not someone that likes to soak in the limelight as the team's most notable player. Henrique may end up like that in many respects, especially if someone like Zajac or Greene become the next captain, as they have long contracts with the club as well. Having someone to take over Elias' role on the team once he decides to hang up the skates is definitely of importance to this team, and if Henrique ends up being that guy, then the transition could be seamless.
In the end, when a team is going through a rebuild and is trying to become competitive once again, it needs strong leaders. A team that is floundering and leaderless will not climb to the top. For the Devils, I hope that Adam Henrique becomes one of those leaders that helps bring this team back to greatness. If he can take a leadership role, I feel that the path to competitiveness will be that much shorter. Despite being only 25 years old, he has plenty of NHL experience already, and as this team only gets younger and younger, he will almost certainly become a mentor to some of the young forwards. He does not need to become the next captain of the team, but if he can become a strong locker room presence that helps push this team to better places, then that can only help with respects to our favorite team.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you believe that it is important for Henrique to become one of the next leaders on this team? If so, why? If not, why not? Who else needs to step up on this team and become leaders? Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.