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Oilers Name New Alternate Captains

Time to put an "A" on those shirts, ladies.
Time to put an "A" on those shirts, ladies.
Rich Lam

Without much in the way of training camp battles to keep an eye on or preseason games to watch, the Oilers coaching staff decided this afternoon to give the fans something to talk about by changing the men who will don an "A" as the team's alternate captains this season.

For those keeping score at home this means Shawn Horcoff will still be the captain and that Ales Hemsky and Ryan Whitney will no longer wear a letter.

Generally speaking I think too much emphasis is put on who the captains of a team are. The Oilers wouldn't have been a better team last season with different captains. They don't make in game decisions and the certainly don't decide who the team puts on the roster. But I do think these changes are at least a little interesting.

Let's start with Nick Schultz. My first reaction was that Justin Schultz had been selected which would have easily been the most Oilers thing ever and gives you an idea of my faith with this organization. That would have been a terrible idea but but Nick Schultz, who came to the Oilers at the trade deadline last season, has only played in 20 games with the Oilers so it still comes as a bit of a surprise.

If I'd been handicapping Captaincy Decision 2013 I'd have been betting on Ladislav Smid being named an alternate. Smid took a big step forward last season and is more than willing to step up for his teammates; both things I would look for in a captain. Perhaps Schultz is more vocal in the room. Maybe the players gravitate to him a little more. We'll probably never know for sure why Schultz was the guy the Oilers chose today but it's fun to speculate.

Then there are two of the Young Gunz!™ being named alternates. There seems to be no limit to how much this team will heap on their young stars. As I said before I don't think who the captains are changes anything on the ice but in a hockey mad city like Edmonton being the captain or an alternate makes it pretty tough to stay out of the spot light. This isn't anything Hall or Eberle has shied away from in the past but being the face of the team at 21 and 22 years of age is a different thing altogether. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing but I also wonder what the rush is.

While this puts the focus on a couple of the Young Gunz!™ it lets Hemsky slid a little further into the background. Hemsky has been, up until now, the guy that the Oilers most depended on for offence. But that is changing quickly. Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins haven't yet shown that they can do all the things Hemsky does on the ice but teams (and the media who has been relentless in their treatment of him) won't be able to focus on him the same way that they used to which should, in theory at least, give Hemsky the space he needs to shine. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see a healthy Hemsky score 40 points this season which would be exactly the kind of leadership the team has always hoped to get from him.