The Ottawa Senators organization officially named defenseman Erik Karlsson team Captain Thursday. The announcement comes with just two days before the NHL preseason ends and the regular season begins.
I’m not surprised at all by this decision, but I’m disappointed the organization didn’t choose veteran defenseman Chris Phillips.
There are several obvious reasons why Phillips should’ve been given the “C”. This guy has spent his entire 16 year NHL career with the Senators. He’s got far more experience and keeps his composure in high pressure situations.
He’s the heart and soul of this team and is a constant voice to the younger players in the dressing room. At just 24, I’m not convinced Karlsson will be able to lift the team and provide his teammates with confidence when things aren’t going as planned.
I’m not trying to belittle Karlsson in any way. He had a career year last season, tallying 20 goals and 54 assists in 82 games for the Senators. But being captain isn’t based on point tallies. It’s about having the ability to carry your team in high pressure situations and lending a helping hand off the ice.
My main concern is that Karlsson doesn’t have the composure required off the ice to deal with criticism from the media or from head Coach Paul MacLean. Phillips on the other hand has the experience, composure and the ability to lead on and off the ice.
Regardless, as assistant captains, Phillips and Chris Neil will be leaned on heavily to teach Karlsson what it means to wear the “C”.
This obviously wasn’t an easy decision for Eugene Melnyk and the Senators staff to make. But the bottom line is that this decision was for the future of the team. This team is built around a much younger group of players now. And at age 36, it’s unclear how much longer Phillips will be playing.
Therefore, the organization really didn’t have a choice. It will take some time for Karlsson to get used to his new role. He’s freely admitted that he’s still in shock and is nervous. But he’s vowed to help his teammates as much as he can. He’s delighted to take on this new challenge and wear the “C” that Jason Spezza and fellow Swede Daniel Alfredsson wore.
Karlsson becomes the ninth captain of the Senators and will no doubt use this new role to better his career.
If he just keeps it simple and plays his game, he’ll be able to lead this team to success in the upcoming season. It’s not the decision I was hoping for.
This is the second time Phillips has been denied the “C”. But I’m excited to see how it will impact this team moving forward.