As New Jersey heads toward the 2015-16 season, the heir to Devils captaincy remains uncertain. With Bryce Salvador dealing with a major decline and a long list of injuries, his return was unlikely and, as of this morning, he has now confirmed that he is retiring with a piece in the Players' Tribune. That means that the Devils are looking for a new captain heading into this season. According to a Rich Chere report from the Star Ledger from a few weeks ago, the Devils may go without one for the 2015-16 season. In response, Alex took a look at the relative merits of going with or without a captain in the upcoming season. My personal take, though, is that the Devils should identify someone to lead the team into this new era, and the choice for me seems relatively clear.
Andy Greene deserves the captaincy for this team. He is a player whose contributions are much-overlooked around the NHL, but he has been buoying a defense which is elsewhere filled with inconsistency and injuries for several seasons now. With the Devils now in a pretty-much unprecedented level of organizational flux, they could use a steadying force to help guide this roster into the future. And no player on the current Devils has been more steady on the ice than blueline stalwart Andy Greene.
He's the Devils' Top Defenseman
On a team that has now been constantly changing for several seasons, Greene has been a rock and the most consistently solid player on the ice. He doesn't necessarily blow up the stats sheet, nor is he renowned as a guy who delivers bone-crushing hits, but he does everything well and is an ideal two-way defenseman in today's NHL. He can jump into the play and score when called upon and he can lay a hit or two when the time calls for it. He consistently has the Devils He is one of the few Devils you can trust to be effective in any situation, whether it is at even-strength, on the power play, or killing penalties. He is the best and most trusted defenseman on this roster, and after several years of buoying a constantly shuffling set of defensemen he makes a lot of sense as a captain.
Shepherd for the Young Defense
With respect to the aforementioned young defensemen, they now make up a vast majority of the Devils' options on defense. After a much-needed offseason purge in New Jersey, Andy Greene is now one of the elder statesmen of this hockey club. Despite now being one of the more aged players on the team, Greene is still only 32 (33 at the end of October) and with less than 600 NHL games, he should still have a good amount of tread left on his tires. This means he should be around to bring the Devils' young core of up-and-coming defensemen into their own.
Naming Greene captain would be a great gesture, given the responsibility that Greene now carries for this defense. The Devils have some very promising talents on the blue line, but entrusting top-pairing duties to any of them without the safety net of Andy Greene means things get a lot more shaky. Greene serves as a great role model on the ice for this crop of defensemen with his calm demeanor and great decision-making abilities. As a guy who was neither big nor highly-touted he worked his way up to the Devils as an undrafted free agent pickup and now with the experience of a lot of different NHL rosters, he has a good amount of wisdom to impart and is a guy who can be looked up to as a player. With this defense hopefully evolving into a top NHL unit in the future, Greene makes a lot of sense as a leader to help get them there.
He's a Career Devil
With so much turnover on the Devils roster (and bench... and front office) over the past few years, the faces that people know are now becoming more and more scarce. Greene, who arrived in the 2006-07 season, is now tied for the second-longest tenured Devil (with Travis Zajac), behind only Patrik Elias (whose arrival was about a decade earlier). Greene, despite often falling into the "unsung hero" category of things, is as close to the face of the Devils as anyone else at this point. That might say more about the Devils than it does Andy Greene, but the point still remains that he has been in New Jersey, playing strong and occasionally elite-level defense for close to a decade now, while many other faces have come and gone.
He also stands to be a significant part of whatever this team is about to become in their new post-Lamoriello era. He embarks on the first year of a new 5-year deal this coming season, so he will be a part of this roster as it tries to build its way back to the playoffs. He will take on the tough assignments and allow his younger counterparts to grow into their roles as NHL defensemen. And since his contract will take him to age 37, there seems to be a strong likelihood of him finishing out his career as a Devil. Even if his role as captain is transitional and he hands it off in two or three years to one of the young players whose evolution he will be guiding, I think it's an honor that he deserves. So if the Devils do name a captain before the season gets underway, that captain should, without a doubt, be Andy Greene.
So who do you think should be the Devils' new captain with Bryce Salvador officially announcing his retirement? Should Andy Greene take the reins as the new C? Or is someone else on the roster better suited? Should the Devils have any captain at all at this point? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below and thanks for reading.