Best NHL Captains Going Into The 2013 Playoffs

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 by The Hockey Daily

The NHL trade deadline goes down tomorrow afternoon. Between now and then there will be some trades involving contending teams looking to make themselves better for a long playoff run. Hockey is a team sport like no other, but if you look at teams that win Stanley Cups there is almost always a very great captain leading the way. While the Cup favourites all try to add final pieces, the captains they have in place already give a good indication whether they are real Cup contenders or not. This is a look at the best captains in the NHL.

The captains that have proven themselves.

Sidney Crosby is a dynamic force.

Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Sid The Kid just suffered a broken jaw that could see him miss the rest of the regular season. At this point his hold on first in league scoring may be safe even if he doesn’t play another game this year. Sidney Crosby is the best scorer in the game. However, scoring points isn’t the only thing that makes Sid one of the best captains in hockey. Crosby excels in the face off circle, in shootouts and five on five play. With Crosby wearing the ‘C’ the Penguins are always a threat to win the Stanley Cup. Crosby won his first Cup in 2008-09.

Crosby has done it all and he’s still young. At just twenty-five years of age Sidney Crosby has won an Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, Lester B. Pearson, Maurice Rocket Richard and Mark Messier NHL Leadership award. Plus his teams have won the Stanley Cup in 2009 and Olympic gold in 2010. Take all his accomplishments, include all the many intangibles he brings to the game and Sidney Crosby is an obvious choice for best captain in the league. But there are other great captains to boast about.

Jonathan Toews is Messier to Crosby’s Gretzky.

Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The comparison isn’t dead accurate because Sid and Toews haven’t played on the same NHL team, but they almost could have. In the 2006 NHL entry draft the Pittsburgh Penguins chose C Jordan Staal second overall. Jonathan Toews was selected third by the Chicago Blackhawks. I wonder if it was ever a close call between Staal and Toews or if J. Stall was always their guy. Hindsight is 20/20 so there’s no debating whether or not the Pens made the right selection, both picks were very successful for their teams. All that being said, Jonathan Toews has become one of the leading centres in the game both offensively and defensively.

Jonathan Toews does everything very good. Every season you know what you’re going to get from Jonathan Toews. You’re getting a point per game player, a timely goal scorer, a shootout specialist, a dominant force in the face off circle, a gritty forechecker, an excellent passer, and a proven leader. When it counts the most, Jonathan Toews delivers. He won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2009-10 to help his Blackhawks win their first Stanley Cup in forty-nine years. Toews has 50 points in 52 career playoff games.

Zdeno Chara is boss.

Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

When the Bruins signed Zdeno Chara in the summer of 2006 a lot of people thought the Ottawa Senators were crazy for letting Big Z hit the open market, but I don’t think anyone imagined Chara would excel as a leading man to the extent that he has. Chara is one of the most feared and respected players in the game today.

Chara’s got some hardware in his trophy case too. In 2008-09 Zdeno Chara won the James Norris Trophy for best defenseman in the NHL. He’s a candidate to win the award almost every season thanks to his consistent, bordering on dominant defensive play. Zdeno also won the 2010-11 Mark Messier Leadership Award, chosen by Mark himself. And of course, in 2010-11 the Bruins big captain was a driving force in their Stanley Cup victory, playing tireless minutes ensuring a scoring chance on G Tim Thomas was a rare thing for opponents, a quality second chance even rarer. Chara does the dirty work that makes his team successful.

Dustin Brown is a Stanley Cup captain.

Dustin Brown may not be as high profile as the first three guys, but it’s impossible to deny how great he was less than a year ago when him and his Los Angeles Kings had one of the most dominant Stanley Cup performances of the modern era. In only twenty games the Kings managed to capture their 16th playoff win with Brown scoring twenty points along the way, almost earning himself a Conn Smythe.

The captains who weren’t captains when they won.

The amazing Henrik Zetterberg

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

When Nicklas Lidstrom retired it was hard to know how they Detroit Red Wings would respond. They gave the captain’s ‘C’ to Henrik Zetterberg and they’re doing just fine all things considered. If you took one of the top five defenseman of all time off any other roster in the NHL I am not sure they would be sitting seventh in their conference, five games above 500, and four points up on the ninth place team with only twelve games remaining in the season. New Wings’ captain Henrik Zetterberg is a big part of what has made that possible. Not surprising really, his mentors were Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman.

Very few players ever win the Conn Smythe trophy, Henrik Zetterberg is one of them. In 2007-08 when the Red Wings won their first Cup post Yzerman/Fedorov up front, it was Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk that led the way. Henrik Zetterberg had 27 points in 22 games to help the Wings organization win their fourth Cup in eleven seasons. The following year, the Wings made the finals again only to lose a tight series to Crosby’s Penguins. It was another great playoff run for Zetterberg who recorded 24 points in 23 games. Zetterberg is one of those talented players who is capable of making a difference in the most high pressure situations. That makes him a great leader.

Eric Staal will try and win a Cup as the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The only big question is when that day will be. Staal is a great player who brings a lot to the table for his club. He’s big, good on face offs, wins battles and scores goals. His team may not appear ready to win right now but Staal is still young with lots of time to get another crack at the Cup. Staal and his Carolina Hurricanes won the championship in 2005-06 season. Staal had 28 points in 25 games during that championship run by the Canes.

Ryan Getzlaf gives the Ducks incredible leadership.

In 2006-07 the Anaheim Ducks won their first Stanley Cup against the Ottawa Senators. After a few disappointing seasons the Ducks look to be contenders again this year. Getzlaf is your typical Canadian centreman captain. He’s big, tough and an excellent playmaker to boot. When the Ducks won in 07’ they were led by two of the game’s great defensemen, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. Getzlaf scored 17 points in 21 games to help his team capture his first Cup. Another Cup win for the Ducks this season could cement Getzlaf as one of the best leaders in the game.

The long time leaders.

Daniel Alfredsson is the longest serving captain in the NHL.

Daniel Alfredsson, Detroit Red Wings, Stanley Cup

Daniel Alfredsson. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Alfie has certainly had his chances over the years. From the days before Lockout II when the Sens could never put it together in the playoffs, to the days before Lockout III when the Sens made it to the Stanley Cup finals only to lose decisively, Alfredsson has been close to Stanley Cup glory. The Sens dismantled after their Cup finals loss in 07. Now, only a few short years later they have rebuilt quite nicely. They look relatively safe to make the playoffs for the second straight season, this time hoping to advance beyond the first round.

On paper Alfredsson winning the Cup this season is a long shot. If you take into account what the Senators have been able to do this season without their Norris winning defenseman Erik Karlsson and elite centreman Jason Spezza, it’s hard to argue the Sens aren’t going to be tough to beat come playoff time. They are tied for second in goals against and second in penalty killing at 89.1%. Their strong defensive habits make them dangerous in tight checking playoff games. If the chips fall right, this could be Alfredsson’s chance to finally get his name on Lord Stanley’s Mug.

Shane Doan is arguably the most underrated player of the last decade.

I guess that’s what happens when you play in Phoenix your whole career. Shane Doan is all heart. He plays the game hard, sacrificing his body on a nightly basis and in recent years his hard work has rubbed off on his teammates enough to help them make the playoffs consistently. What makes Doan even more special is that he’s a fierce competitor. Although he’s played on some bad teams he’s never lost his will to win which was very evident in the playoffs last season when Doaner’s Coyotes went three rounds of playoffs. Doan had 9 points for his club throughout their run.

Doan isn’t just heart and soul, he has talent too. Similar to Dustin Brown, Shane Doan is a scoring winger with intangibles that most players just don’t possess. It’s starting to look like a long shot, however, if the Coyotes make the playoffs this season and go all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, Shane Doan will be a huge reason why.

The new hopes with the C on their chest.

There are some teams going into the playoffs this season without captains that can boast a history of success or long tenure. These captain hopefuls deserve some honourable mention. Any one of these guys could be this season’s Dustin Brown if they can take their game to new heights for a two month playoff run.

Brian Gionta of the Montreal Canadiens – 1 Stanley Cup (Devils 03’) 

Andrew Ladd of the Winnipeg Jets – 2 Stanley Cups (Hurricanes 06’ Blackhawks 10’) 

Dion Phaneuf  of the Toronto Maple Leafs – (No Stanley Cups) 

Bryce Salvador of the New Jersey Devils – (No Stanley Cups) 

Mark Streit of the New York Islanders – (No Stanley Cups) *may be traded over next 24 hours. 

Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals – (No Stanley Cups) 

Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers – (No Stanley Cups)

Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild – (No Stanley Cups) 

Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks – (No Stanley Cups) 

Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks – (No Stanley Cups) 

David Backes of the St. Louis Blues – (No Stanley Cups) 

Shawn Horcoff of the Edmonton Oilers – (No Stanley Cups) 

Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators – (No Stanley Cups)