Generally speaking, I think that on most occasions, Jim Matheson and I view the game of hockey quite differently. I'm much more interested in the numbers behind the game than he is, but despite those differences, I do still make it habit to read most, if not all, of what he writes because he tends to be fairly well connected when it comes to the Oilers. And last night I came across an article of his titled 10 things to ponder as Edmonton Oilers struggle to get out of NHL basement. It was the ninth item on the list that really caught my attention and I want to take a closer look at here.
9. They should totally ignore people who say McDavid should be given the ‘C’ next year because he’s going to be the best player in the game. He’s 19, give him a few years. Go without a captain again next year, with some A’s (Matt Hendricks, one of the core guys who stays—Hall, Eberle or RNH), McDavid and one of the D-men). It’s enough pressure on McDavid just playing the game. Name him captain after his second season.
I don't completely agree with Matheson here but on his primary point - not making Connor McDavid the team's captain next season - we are in complete agreement. Yes, McDavid is a great hockey player right now. And he could be one of the very best in the league next season. He'll even be the captain of the Oilers one day. But none of that mean that the team should put the responsibility onto his shoulder right now. That is a lot to ask of a teenager, even the very best teenager in the world. And so I think the team would be much better of if it were someone else who had to stand up and explain why the team fell on their faces if/when that happens next season.
Where I disagree with with Mr. Matheson is when it comes to who should be the captain next season. He suggests that the team should go without a captain, like they did this season when the team opted to have four alternate captains rather than one captain, waiting until after next season to name McDavid as the 18th captain in Oilers' history. I would do things differently. I would give the captaincy to Taylor Hall right now, and I would give it to him until McDavid's entry-level contract expires two years from now. Hall would be this generation's Lee Fogolin.
Hall isn't stupid, he knows that this is going to be McDavid's team at some point, if it isn't already, and that being the captain would be nothing more than an interim thing. And I have no reason to think that he would have any problem with that. Hall has always struck me as the kind of guy who will do anything to win and if that means being a placeholder for a couple of seasons then I think that's what he'll do.
I wouldn't even be surprised if this is where the Oilers are leaning. From the moment it was announced that McDavid would be living with Hall this season I thought that Hall was being given a one-year, unofficial trial run as the team's captain. And what I saw this season did little to change my mind on that front. From the outside at least, Hall appears the be the team's de facto captain today. If there is a ceremonial faceoff to be taken, it seems as if he's always the one out there to take it. And during the Rexall Place closing ceremonies on Wednesday night, it was Hall who was the player from the current team that was chosen to do an interview. I find it hard to believe that that was just a coincidence.
Obviously it's not up to me, but if it were, I would name Taylor Hall the next captain of the Oilers.