For the past 95 games, since the departure of Rick Nash via a trade to the New York Rangers, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been without a team captain. This time span includes the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and over half of the current 2013-14 season.
During that time, the Blue Jackets have gone 46-37-11, arguably one of their best stretches in their 13-year history, including a recent five-game win streak and a furious 19-5-5 finish last season, only to miss out on the final playoff spot on a tiebreaker.
The current five-game win streak (cumulating with a 5-1 win over Washington) comes off of the heels of the arrival of their signature offseason Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) signing of Nathan Horton and a return to health of many of their oft-injured and key players.
Through all of the Blue Jackets success, there has been clamoring, mostly by their fans, as to why a team captain has yet to be named. However, there has been no urgency to name a team captain by the Blue Jackets’ executive brass or head coach Todd Richards.
It appears to be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it could be some recalcitrance over the awkward exit of Nash, having requested a trade out of Columbus, albeit primarily with his issues with the prior regime. Perhaps it’s due to awaiting for Horton to be fully healthy and in game shape – Horton appears to have all of the traits of a leader in the Blue Jackets locker room. Perhaps they are patiently waiting to see if someone such as forward Brandon Dubinsky, a firebrand performer, or defenseman Jack Johnson, a former Team USA Winter Olympian who was struggling in the earlier part of this season, to seize the leadership reigns. Or maybe, just maybe, they’re in no hurry to make a decision, abiding by the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
In short, is the lack of a team captain really a bad thing?
For perhaps the first time in franchise history, the Blue Jackets have a unified, “all in” locker room. They’re a team that plays a tight, forechecking, gritty style — a team that, while not necessarily possessing elite talent, many do not want to play against. It’s also likely that a decision done in haste, just to appease its fan base, could cause some disappointment amongst members of the core group.
Recalling that when Nash was named captain, former Blue Jackets team captain Adam Foote also requested to be traded, putting the organization in quite an awkward spot. In hindsight, Nash’s captaincy left quite a bit to be desired. Nash was very low-key and, at best, more of a “leader by example” and not the type that draws comparisons to the likes of Jarome Iginla, when he was captain of the Calgary Flames, or Mark Messier, who is the only player to captain two different teams to the Stanley Cup. Given that and it’s possible that the current Blue Jackets brass wants to avoid the prior mistake of naming a captain in haste and to keep the current fiery locker room in-tact.
No matter the reason as to why a captain has yet to be named, the Blue Jackets are in the thick of a Stanley Cup playoff berth chase and, to the players and the team brass, it’s not an issue whatsoever.
So, until the need arises or when someone emerges as its bona fide leader, the Blue Jackets are perfectly content to continue on without a team captain.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.