The Carolina Hurricanes will have a team captain this season.
Canes coach Bill Peters said Tuesday that a captain will be named because: 1) it’s the right time and team to have a captain; and 2) he’s alsotired of being asked about the team not having one.
Last season, the Canes decided to use four alternate captains – forwards Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask, and defenseman Justin Faulk – but no one wore the “C” as team captain. That will change, Peters said, as the Canes look to end an eight-year playoff drought.
“Someone is going to wear one, for sure,” Peters said. “Our leadership group is fine, and we’ve got real good candidates. They’ll all provide leadership whether they wear a letter or not.”
Peters probably has an idea who he wants, but said he will wait until the end of training camp to name one.
“It will be a group decision,” Peters said. “I think it’s important to get everybody’s ideas. When you ask people, not only do I ask them but I also ask them why? Give me an example of why you picked that guy. Give me another one. Give me an example of how he showed leadership.”
It’s could be any of the four players who wore an “A” last season. Another candidate could be defenseman Jaccob Slavin, a quickly emerging standout in the NHL who received a seven-year contract extension in the offseason and is a big part of the Canes’ core group.
Then there’s Justin Williams. The veteran forward, who helped the Canes win the 2006 Stanley Cup, was signed to a two-year, free-agent contract in July. He returns with two other Cup rings – both won with the Los Angeles Kings – and is a leader both in his professional demeanor and his play on the ice.
Until last season, the Hurricanes – since moving to North Carolina in 1997 – have always had a team captain to begin the season. But former captain Eric Staal was traded to the New York Rangers in late-February 2016. Peters then elected not to have a captain in 2016-17.
Skinner, now 25 and about to begin his eighth NHL season, said he enjoyed the experience of serving as an alternate captain for the first time last season.
“As a player and person you always look to continue to grow and develop,” he said. “As a player, I’ve now been around a little bit of a longer time than most guys here. You try and kind of be a good role model, and anything you see them going through that you went through hopefully you can have a positive impact on them like the older guys had a positive impact on me.
“It’s always good to have a guy to look up to. You look at Eric Staal and the impact he had on my career, not only on the ice but off the ice as as person. It was always good to have someone of that caliber, for me, to look up to in how he carries himself and his preparation.”
Canes general manager Ron Francis was once the Canes captain, taking over from Keith Primeau after Primeau’s extended contract holdout that led to Primeau’s trade to the Philadelphia Flyers in January 2000.
Asked, in hindsight, if the Canes should have had a captain last season, Francis said, “We went with four A’s and I don’t think looking back we necessarily say, ‘We should have done this.’ I think we were comfortable with that decision. And quite honestly, I’d be comfortable without one this year. I could go that way, too. I still think we’ve got a good group in the locker room who are leaders.”