Brenden Morrow has been the captain of the Dallas Stars since 2006, and even though he has a below average start to this season, there is no reason to suggest his captaincy is in jeopardy. He is the captain and will be the foreseeable future, unless there is a meltdown of Ryan Getzlaf like proportions or a blockbuster trade. But to put that “C” on a player’s jersey is more than just an honor, it is a job. A job that extends both on and off the ice. Morrow has been the penultimate captain, playing gritty leadership style hockey and scoring clutch goals in big games (most notably that San Jose four overtime marathon) and taking care of his responsibilities off the ice, making him a fan favorite.
Similarly, the Stars have always been an organization that treats the “A” with esteem. They do not throw it around to just anyone, it has to be earned. Last season, the Alternate (or Assistant if you prefer) Captains were Brad Richards, Steve Ott, and Stephane Robidas. Of those three, Brad Richards was the only one to wear the A day in and day out, while Ott and Robidas bounced it back and forth.
This season saw more of a solid routine. When the Stars play at home, Morrow is the captain while Ott and Robidas wear the A. When Dallas plays away games, the alternates change to Robidas and Loui Eriksson. This setup remained until Ott had his hip injury, and Eriksson became an alternate full time until Ott returned. Now, I don’t know Loui personally but he seems to be more of the “lead by example” type of player while conversely, Ott is the kind of guy who is there to pump the team up and change the momentum of a game when it’s needed, very similar to how Morrow plays. Robidas is the defensive leader, and any team that does not have a defenseman wearing a A is a team that is sorely lacking leadership on the blue line (I’m looking at you, Buffalo Sabres).
The routine of one captain with two alternates was disrupted when Morrow went down with his upper body injury. To compensate for his loss, the Stars decided to add two new alternate captains, Jamie Benn and Sheldon Souray. Benn wears the A at home, while Souray takes it on the road. The transition of Jamie Benn to a leader on this team was one that every Stars fan saw coming, he’s the kind of guy who has the popularity and the skill to become the Captain of the Dallas Stars in the future. Sheldon Souray has exemplified leadership for as long as he’s been playing, most recently in Edmonton, before there was a falling out that we’ve all read about that led to his arrival in Dallas. Souray and Benn getting this opportunity is a small look at what is going on inside the heads of Glen Gulutzan and General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk.
For Souray to be given the opportunity to exemplify himself as a leader on this team shows that the rumors of him being a distraction in the locker room in Edmonton have not been any kind of issue during his stay in Dallas so far. He was an early favorite to participate in the All-Star game, and while his production has tailed off recently, his leadership and defense have been solid. The man is affectionately known as “Hammer” around the organization, and all you have to do is watch him unleash that slap shot (or, wonder bomb) during a game to know why. His one year contract was a risk for Nieuwendyk, but it’s paid off, and trusting him with a leadership position might indicate that the team plans to keep him around a bit longer that just this year.
As for Jamie Benn, as mentioned earlier, this transition is an obvious one. While it is possible that the Captains and Alternate Captains will go back to normal when Morrow returns, this was a small peek into the future, and it’s not to be taken for granted. Benn is becoming the franchise, and Souray, even though he is in the tail end of his career, has the potential to be an important key to the team’s current and future success.
And now, let’s look at some stats for fun, since everyone loves stats.
Well, would you look at that? The Stars are a respectable 3-0 when Jamie Benn gets the extra patch on his sweater. It’ll be interesting to see if the team decides to keep flipping between Alternates, or to keep the dominant trio of Robidas, Ott, and Eriksson. Either way, the leaders on this team, whoever they may be on any given night, have been doing what they need to do, playing their roles, and showing up big. It’s been an exciting season and things are just getting started.
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