Wearing the “C” and its fabricated importance

Image c/o Amy Irvin

With Claude Giroux mired in his 21 game goalless drought prior to snapping it against Edmonton on Saturday, and the Flyers in the cellar of the Metropolitan division, many people began to question Claude Giroux as captain.

I’m here to tell you…just stop. Please.

Fans and media alike have glamorized the Captain in hockey. As if wearing a “C” on the jersey grants its wearer the supernatural ability to drag his team forward, or if he’s not worthy, send them plummeting far from contention.

A locker room is comprised (or should be) of many leaders; not just a single person. Do we think they sit around in the locker room biting their tongues, waiting for their captain to do or say something as their leader? I don’t think players care about who wears a letter on their jersey or not. It won’t prevent somebody from doing, or saying something if they feel the need to do so.

Have you ever noticed that the universally accepted good or bad captains tend to directly correlate with good and bad teams? It’s because it’s not a real thing. It’s fabricated. It’s fans and media grasping for answers as to why a particular team is good or bad. “Whelp, it must be their captain. He’s pushing all the right buttons (or…he’s just not willing his team to victory).”

Who are some of the most well respected Captains in hockey? Jonathan Toews, Ryan Callahan, Shane Doan? Do we really think we’d be hearing or reading anything different in the Philadelphia area if they were the captain of the Flyers and not Giroux?

Conversely, which player is the furthest from ideal Captain material? Patrick Kaleta, Nikolai Zherdev, Sean Avery? If they were the Captain of the surpising Colorado Avalanche, we’d be reading fabricated story-lines about their effort and hustle and how they’re really driving the team to succeed.

Heading into last year’s lockout shortened season, the Flyers were coming off of a 103 point season, good for the sixth best record in all of hockey. (I point this out because this would classify the Flyers as a “good team”.) Shortly before the shortened season began Giroux was named Captain.

I won’t say it was unanimously accepted as the right decision, and a deserved honor for Giroux, but that opinion was quite easily the majority.

Look no further than some of the comments on Broad Steet Hockey’s article on the news. A few examples:

Beautiful

Its about time he’s made captain. He should’ve been captain last year too.

I was quite happy to hear this! And I was considering which bottle from which to pour a shot to toast our new Captain!

Or perhaps this thread from HF Boards.

Well earned.

He deserves it.

Yeah buddy! Everyone knew it was Giroux’s team. He’s the heart and soul.

Hmmm…good team…must be a good captain.

Fast forward to today, the Flyers are in the basement of the division and everyone wants him to take the “C” off. Hmmm…bad team…bad captain.

This fabrication of importance is nothing more than giving undue credit or blame to a single individual. Hell, the tune of the fans and media can change in a matter of weeks, not even necessarily from one season to the next.

In 2012, Dustin Brown was the much-maligned captain of the Los Angeles Kings. They only snuck into the playoffs as the eigth seed with a strong finish to the season. Before that, people were calling for the head of their captain.

Exhibit A from bleacherreport.com

Not only that, but I thought that maybe Brownie, if he remained on the team, should have been stripped of his captaincy because he was too quiet, not enough of a leader and frankly, not producing enough to be the captain.

I thought we had a better choice in the more vocal Mike Richards, who was the captain on the 2010 Stanley Cup runner-upPhiladelphia Flyers.

I had to include that blurb about the “vocal Mike Richards”. That’s just funny. No knock on Richie, I still love him.

Exhibit B from frozenroyalty.net 

Ever since Dustin Brown was named as the 15th captain of the Los Angeles Kings on October 8, 2008, many have been highly critical of his captaincy, with a considerable number calling for the “C” to be ripped off his chest, something that has become a common, repeated refrain, year after year.

I particularly like this excerpt which I think is incredibly accurate:

To be sure, being fiery, loud and vocal, getting in the faces of teammates, and dropping the gloves barely scratch the surface of the make-up of a National Hockey League player. Furthermore, they do not even make the list of prerequisites for being a captain of an NHL team, despite what so many believe.

That’s right folks. Being fiery, loud and vocal, and fighting a lot, are not required to be the captain of an NHL team, and never have been.

So in a matter of months Dustin Brown went from needing to be relieved of the “C” to being given probably more credit than he deserves for winning the Stanley Cup. That’s what happens when you’re a bad team…and then the best team. Same player, different team results, so therefore a different perspective on his performance as captain.

I’m not trying to say there’s no such thing as a good or a bad captain. Clearly some people are meant to lead, and others are not; but in the real world people don’t go from being a good to a bad and back to a good leader again. You are or you aren’t and that doesn’t change regardless of how your team (or your department at work) performs in a small period of time. I get that sometimes as fans people need to be able to explain things away. The Flyers are not a good team right now and people want it fixed. It’s easy to point to a single player, the captain, and claim that that’s the (or a large part of the) problem. But that’s nothing more than grasping at straws. Let’s stop romanticizing the “C”.

  • Richard Norcross

    I think Claude is doing a great job. I see him as a Datsyuk. He isn’t Pavel but he makes plays. The first couple of games Claude didnt register a point. Now he and Vinny lead the team with 8 points and in a completely opposite way. Vinny has 6 goals with 2 assists and Claude has 7 assists with a lone goal. Now when I watch the game or see the scores on my phone I expect to see Claude get an assist, not a goal. Besides Ovechkin or Crosby, not another captain is really a goal scorer. They are a Minute Men. They are brought in when they are needed. I don’t think another player deserves to be captain more than him. He averages over 20-21 minutes a game easily. He comes out every game trying to create chances, forces them sometimes but he’s still out there to make plays. Maybe he needs to learn to just take the shot, but Claude needs to stay in philly as long as possible. I feel confident in this team. “Patience”.

  • marylou

    Great article Kevin….insightful….nice pic Amy….captures the essence of G!!