The New Jersey Devils yesterday named Bryce Salvador the 10th captain in team history.
There have been a lot of opinions that other players may have been a better choices. Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk, and a few others have been mentioned as possibilities since Zack Parise bolted for Minnesota. I’m going to focus on the three main suggestions, however. Salvador, Elias, and Kovy. Some people may disagree with me, but in my opinion, the Devils made the correct choice.
Salvador is a stay at home defenceman, known to punish the opposition in his own zone. A pure D-man, he rarely scores, except in the playoffs, and also has a St. Louis connection (sounds like someone we know Devils fans?). I’m not saying he’s on that captain’s level – if I have to tell you who I mean stop reading this now – but the similarities are striking.
During his time in NJ, Salvador has developed a reputation as a stand up guy who is quick to his teammates defense. Often referred to as a “silent leader,” Salvador admitted to the media he has been known to let teammates hear his mouth from time to time, though he likes to lead by example as much as he can. The fact the Devils stuck by him after missing a season tells you he is very valued by the organization as a leader.
He appears universally admired and respected by his teammates. Even his reaction when the news broke was humble, grateful, and honored. Dude is a class act in my book. All these things, as well as how he carries himself on the ice, make him the right choice.
But what about Patty and Kovy?
We all remember the disaster that was Elias’ captaincy. Granted, Patty is a hell of a player and has given his all to the team. But at the time he was one of the top scorers on the team. His production in the 06-07 season was okay (21g – 48a – 69 pts) and dropped slightly the following year , when Brent Sutter stripped him of the C (20g – 35a – 55 pts).
But he never looked comfortable. At the time, he was counted on for much of the Devils goal scoring. And, as we all saw, he was not himself. The captaincy seemed to weigh on him. If you remember, he almost seemed relieved when stripped, though many have said it caused a rift between him and Sutter. That rift seemed to have affected his production, as he put up much better numbers the year after being stripped (31g – 47a – 78 pts in 08-09).
Maybe it was Sutter, or maybe it was the pressure of being a captain and the big scoring threat. Whatever it was, being captain and the madness that followed seemed to have a negative effect on Elias and the team. He even said this week he didn’t want the “C” back, and hoped the team would choose someone else. I guess it’s hard being the man and the captain.
Which brings me to Kovy…
Ilya Kovalchuk is a world class talent and probably one of the top 5 players in the NHL. Jump all over that statement if you want, and I’m sure some will, but that’s my opinion. As I mentioned in my previous piece on Kovy and the KHL drama, Parise’s departure thrusts him into the role he seems to thrive in most. The dude, the man, the biggest gun in the Devils’ arsenal, that’s who Kovy is now.
Granted, he was a captain in Atlanta, as well as their best player. But the Thrashers are not the Devils, let’s be honest. I just feel between his contract, and this new role, he would not have been the right choice. When people suggested he be named captain, I cringed. I felt it would be the Elias situation all over again. All the pressure he is under already, coupled with the captaincy, could have been crushing.
I’m much more confident in the Devils success with him as an alternate, and Salvador with the “C”. This way, Kovy can focus on what he’s still owed $83 million to do. And that’s score. A lot.
I don’t doubt he may have wanted it, and maybe he saw it as logical as the team’s best player. But this fan could see no good coming from it, and I feared an Elias two year swoon could happen all over again.
Salvador isn’t the perfect captain, and he isn’t that certain HOF defenseman who struck fear into the hearts of forwards. But, for me, he was the best choice. His leadership, confirmed by his coaches and teammates, makes him the logical and correct choice. His play is always steady. You can see him lending his experience and knowledge to the younger players every night on the ice.
Elias and Kovy are great, World class players, for sure. But I’d rather have them concentrate on scoring. Besides, as is often said, you don’t need a letter on your sweater to be a leader. But sometimes, that letter can weigh a ton.
Jon Michaels – Speaking of the Devils Contributor