Monday, April 11, 2011

And the Next Captain of the New York Islanders Is...

If there's one thing that stood out during this past season, it's that the new era of New York Islanders hockey has finally arrived on Long Island.

The organization has exhibited a knack for finding quality players, whether it be the ones they've drafted (Tavares, Okposo, Comeau, Nielsen, Hamonic) or those they've plucked from the market (Moulson, Streit, Grabner, Parenteau).

Each of these guys have their own set of strengths and talents.

Garth Snow's mission was to build a lineup with character and has done just that.

These Isles certainly have "grit, character and heart," which was the team's credo in 2007-2008.

However, there is another trait which is possessed by more than a few players in that locker room, and that's leadership.

With Doug Weight pondering retirement, the Islanders need to usher in the new age by naming a new team captain. This may appear to be a relatively easy decision, but the reality is, there's much more that goes into anointing a new "king of the locker room" than you might think.

Their choice has to reflect the team's identity and best symbolize what these Islanders are all about.

Here are five guys (and a sixth possibility) who could fit the bill:

Honorable Mention: Zenon Konopka 

Konopka really does bleed orange and blue.

He is easily the most vocal player in that locker room and is never afraid to speak his mind, whether it be in defense of a teammate's actions or out of disappointment for the lack of respect the Isles get around the NHL.

He hits, fights, wins key face-offs and gives his very best every night.

The problem is, he may not be back next season, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
He's the ideal choice (in my book) to wear the "C" in 2011-2012, but it will be Garth Snow's decision to either bring Konopka into the fold or let him go.

#5 Andrew MacDonald

MacDonald has slowly matured into one of the more underrated rearguards in the NHL.

His commitment to defense has set the proper example for his fellow teammates, a major reason behind the Isles' decision to name him an assistant captain later in the season.

Perhaps he's due for a letter switch.

 #4 John Tavares

John Tavares is the face of the franchise, there's absolutely no question about that.

The first overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Tavares has definitely made an impact with his play over his first two seasons.

Maybe the Islanders will follow the trend set recently by Pittsburgh, Washington and Chicago, naming their "next one" as their captain.

#3 Kyle Okposo 

Kyle Okposo is a natural leader and has made an excellent case to be just that for the Islanders.
He uses his size and strength to keep the puck on his stick, always back-checks and never gives up on the play.

There are many in Islander Country who have been clamoring for the franchise to give him the captaincy and, should they award him with a "C," he'll certainly have earned it.

 #2 Mark Streit

From an experience standpoint, Mark Streit has the most of virtually anyone on this list.

After all, he has captained Team Switzerland at the Olympics, worn an "A" on Long Island and has been to the playoffs with Montreal.

His strong two-way play can serve as the right example for these young Islanders, especially if he gets the captain's "C."

#1 Frans Nielsen 

Frans Nielsen is my pick to become the next captain in the history of the New York Islanders because there's simply nothing he can't do.

Need a clutch shootout goal? Frans is there.

Effectiveness at both ends of the ice? Check.

Leadership skills? You bet.

He's easily one of the most underrated forwards in the game today and, is deserving of consideration for the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward).
It's time to hand him the keys.

Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter: @nyifaceoff360

Comments are welcome.


Jess Rubenstein said...

I would not be in a rush to name a captain as the Islanders have 2 prospects who are both wearing the "C" for their respective teams in Calvin de Haan and Casey Cizikas.

The Islanders have some quality prospects coming that are going to help improve this franchise's fortunes sooner than later

Daniel Friedman said...

I hear that, but with Doug Weight likely retiring, surely someone needs to be captain. If those guys later step in and show they deserve the C, it's not going to be held back from them. For all we know, Cizikas may not be in an Islander uniform for at least 3 seasons. So, I do think they need to make a decision now. It doesn't have to be set in stone, but there should be a captain.

Anonymous said...

Nielsen is clearly the next captain..- he is a far more intelligent player than any of the of the best in the league actually when it comes to hockeyIQ. Okposo is too young..a nice "A" but not a " C " in my book. The whole team respect Nielsen and would be 100 procent behind him. he is in his prime years and you notice him whenever he is on the ice. I agree with you 100 procent.

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