Well, it’s certainly a time for the Ducks faithful. For many, Getzlaf may be the only captain of the Ducks they’ve ever known. Many things can be said about this franchise great, however, as they say: “Out with the old and in with the new.” So now that the captain dad is gone, who’s next in line for the top job amongst the player group?
There’s a case to be made that a young player could take the reins of the team given they’ve in some ways just started a rebuild. The idea being, that they would grow with the team. However, of that young group, Troy Terry may be the only player who appears to be in the mix right now. Given that this is his first season as a full-time NHL player it may be prudent to hold back on him just for now. That other aspect is that the leadership of the team should be built on the back of experience, with that experience tutoring the youth, who in turn become the experience. Thus, perpetuating the cycle. Given this, I believe that giving a young player the captaincy is akin to the blind leading the blind. They may find their way, but will it be through luck or by design?
The greatest rugby team in modern history, the All Blacks, have an internal ‘motto’ of sorts, to leave the jersey in a better state when they leave to when they got there. This culture drives leadership at the ground level and builds it over time. With this in mind, I believe that there can only be two options for the Ducks captaincy.
Cam Fowler is one. As a good, but not all-star, defenseman, Fowler like Getzlaf before him has played for only the team that has drafted him. He’s seen multiple coaches, multiple defensive partners. He’s seen the good and he’s seen the bad. If the idea is that experience matters, there are no players on the Ducks roster who have experience with the Ducks that Fowler can boast. With a contract going long into the future, it seems he could be here for some time as well. At least as long as it takes for newcomers Jamie Drysdale and perhaps Olen Zellweger to supersede his offensive role on the blueline. The one thing that may hold the team back here is that Fowler has seemingly been groomed for captaincy for years, and yet by all appearances doesn’t have that on-ice presence that many captains have. That’s not to say he’s no leader, as it’s clear he is. The question is, what type of leader to the Ducks desire?
The other player in question is Adam Henrique. He wore an ‘A’ in New Jersey and has in Anaheim in recent times as well. He’s been an important part of the player group over the past five seasons and has become beloved by the fans. Perhaps most importantly, he appears to be about as calm as can possibly be. A fantastic demeanor in a leader, and particularly a leader of a team which going to see it’s fair share or rough nights. Even through last year’s up and down season when he was removed from the team and placed on waivers, he was unflappable. When the going is good, everything is always alright. However, when the going is tough, the players will look to the coach and the captain and emulate what they do. If the leaders are freaking out, the younger players will freak out with them. I can’t even imagine Henrique freaking out.
In the end, I think the team has seen the writing on the wall for Getzlaf’s career, and them moving Henrique into an on-ice leadership position this season shows what they think of him. Given the choice between Henrique and Fowler, and both are very reasonable choices, if only for a short few seasons, Henrique stands out to me as a captain. As a leader. The team’s on-ice results have declined over the past few seasons, it cannot be denied. But if I were to be asked if the team is in a better place because Henrique’s presence, I would say yes. He’ll leave the jersey in a better state than he when he arrived. For that reason, he’s my choice to lead this young Ducks team into the future.