Last season, the New Jersey Devils made a very strong choice when they named Andy Greene captain of the team. It was a choice voted on by both players and management, and was touted as a quality decision. I for one thought it was a solid choice, as the only other player I would have strongly considered was Adam Henrique.
With him last season, there were several players who donned the "A" of the alternate captain. The aforementioned Henrique held the honor along with Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias and Michael Cammalleri. The players were supposed to rotate their uses of it, but obviously Henrique and Zajac ended up with the majority as the other two went down with injuries.
The question I have is what will they do with the "A"s this season? If Elias is re-signed for one more season, then theoretically they can all remain alternate captains and no changes have to be made. However, there is now a 5th player who warrants definitive consideration: newcomer Taylor Hall. Yes that may seem premature as he has never played a minute with his new team yet, but there are still positives about such an appointment that should be considered. Let's look at some arguments on both sides of the coin.
Yes, Give Hall an "A"
There are several reasons as to why giving Hall the honor of being an alternate captain would be a good idea. First off, he was already an alternate captain for Edmonton before being traded here. Edmonton did not have a captain last season, keeping the spot vacant, so Hall was effectively one of the main leaders of the team along with Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Andrew Ference. This means that he already has leadership experience. Making him a symbolic leader of the Devils this season would give him a platform from which to tap into that leadership experience and use it to improve the team around him.
Next, it was obvious that the Devils needed a shake up to a degree, and made the deal for Hall with this in mind. The team as it was constituted before the trade was too defensive, with too little offense or ability to move the puck up ice. The Hall trade helped to bust up the old squad, bringing in new blood to infuse more offense and create a faster, more attacking team (two of the three NJD philosophies). Making Hall an alternate captain would cement that shake up, letting the guys in the locker room know that things need to be different this season. 184 goals will not cut it, and more needs to be done to push the puck up ice, improve possession, and generate more opportunities and more goals. Giving him an "A" could help really drive home that message.
Also, Hall is only 24 and a superstar to boot. He is absolutely someone that the Devils management should want on this team for many years to come. He has four years left on his contract as is, but when that is done he will still be in his 20s, with quality productive years still in front of him. Re-signing him at that point will probably be something both the management and the fans would want to happen (of course many things could happen that would change that, but there is a good chance of it nonetheless). With this in mind, making him an alternate captain now would cement his meaning to this Devils franchise both now and for the future. It would be management telling him that he is welcome here, he is wanted here, and they want him to stay here. You don't trade for someone, give him an "A", then get rid of him shortly thereafter.
No, Don't Give Hall an "A"
Of course, there are also arguments against the idea. The most obvious is that he has never played for the Devils before, and is a new face in the locker room. New Jersey may have been a bad team last year, but there were positives, and steps were taken in a direction that should hopefully lead out of a rebuild and into contention at some point. Hall was not a part of that, but other quality leaders like Henrique and Zajac were. To automatically thrust an "A" onto Hall above other guys who were here last season could be looked at as a slap in the face to some. It would not be worth giving him an "A" if it meant it would sow dissatisfaction and discord in the locker room.
Next, while Hall was an alternate in Edmonton, he was not the captain. In fact, Edmonton management felt that no one was worthy of being captain last season, Hall included. This is odd, as Hall was clearly one of the top stars on the team and an integral part to their offense. Connor McDavid may become the next captain of the team, and he would be a great choice, but last season he was only a rookie and was not an option. From where I am looking, Hall was the obvious choice last year, but he was not given the "C". That could be concerning, and could say something about his lack of leadership abilities.
Also, if Elias is indeed re-signed, making Hall an alternate captain would mean that one of the other four guys would have to lose their own "A", and that might not be the best idea. I personally feel that there is no way under the sun that Henrique should lose an "A", and removing the "A" from Elias would be a monster slap in the face to someone whose number may end up in the rafters sooner than later. Fans despise Zajac for his lack of offensive production despite his contract, but he has been an alternate captain since 2013, and has been with the organization for over a decade. He is a strong two-way center, plays in the top 6, and is respected by his teammates. I feel it would be tough to remove the "A" from his as well, although it would not be as heinous as compared to the previous 2 guys mentioned.
That leaves Cammalleri, and here is where I think a debate is possible. He was given the "A" last season, his second with the club, was an alternate with Calgary before coming over to NJ, and is one of the top offensive forwards on the team when healthy. Also, he plays a very similar role to Hall in that his main purpose on the team is point production. Hopefully if all goes well, it would most likely be Hall and Cammalleri that would lead the Devils this season in goals and perhaps points as well, with only Henrique and Kyle Palmieri competing with them in either department. So if you remove his "A" and give it to Hall, you're just moving it from one point producer to another. There is the issue of staying healthy though, and if you want your alternate captain to be the best scorer and point producer on your team, then most likely it will be Hall.
In the end, I think there are solid arguments on both sides of this debate. Generally superstars are given the captaincies or are alternate captains for their teams, and no one can deny that Hall is now the biggest superstar on the Devils. If Hall is not given an "A" this year, you can bet that he will most likely be given one sooner than later. But this is his first year with the new club, so I also see the trepidation about moving too quickly. And I did not even mention Palmieri in the "No" arguments either: if anyone else should be considered for an "A", you would have to look to Palmieri as well. Hall is not the one and only candidate. If it were up to me, however, I would probably not make him an alternate if Elias re-signs, but if Patrik is not brought back, I would strongly consider giving him the fourth "A", even over Palmieri.
Of course as I just alluded to, this argument could be made moot if Elias is not re-signed. It would open up a slot for someone else to be given an "A", and at that point a new debate would have to ensue between giving it to Hall or giving it to someone else on the team, namely Palmieri, or just not giving it to anyone at all and sticking with only 3 alternate captains. For now, however, what do you think about the debate? Would you make Hall an alternate captain this season, or do you think it is too soon? If Elias is not brought back, what should happen then? If he is re-signed, should nothing change, or should one of the current alternates lose their "A" in favor of Hall? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.