O Captain! My Captain! – Who Wears the Flames’ “C” Next?

When Jarome Iginla was traded from the Calgary Flames in 2013, a hole was left both on and off the ice. He wore the “C” for over 10 years, was firmly integrated into the greater Calgary community, and was the quintessential embodiment of a leader. Besides being a highly accomplished hockey player, he was a fan favourite and the face of the franchise. The organization did not assign the captaincy to anyone after Iginla was traded, instead opting to wait until the following year to hand the reigns to a successor. With no surprise, Mark Giordano assumed the role of Captain at the start of the 2013-14 NHL season.

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Giordano was known as one of the hardest workers on the team. He fought his way from undrafted status, to being considered for a spot on Team Canada at various levels including the Olympic Games, to the Norris Trophy conversation the past few years. Giordano has been actively involved in the community, and was recognized for his charitable work with the inaugural ESPN Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award in 2017 for work done by the Team Giordano Project. The Flames could not have asked for a better person to take over after Iginla’s departure, and are truly lucky to have Giordano wear the flaming C night in and night out.

Giordano is now 34 years old and though his contract does not expire until the end of the 2021-22 season, it’s never a bad time to start thinking about who his successor should be. When he does leave the team, whether by retirement or trade, Giordano will leave behind a massive set of shoes for the player destined to be the 20th captain of the franchise to fill.

The Flames are a team lucky enough to boast several players who could assume the role of Captain in the future. Calgary draft selections from eight separate drafts are represented on the current roster and with several more promising prospects on the verge of graduating to the NHL, it would be excellent for a homegrown player to become the next captain.

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Recently, Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) of Sportsnet and FlamesNation discussed the possibility of Matthew Tkachuk potentially donning a letter for the Flames in the near future. Steinberg said:

Whenever Mark Giordano’s time with the Flames comes to an end, I think Tkachuk needs to be in the conversation as the team’s next captain.

Tkachuk may not be the prototypical squeaky clean leader that teams normally turn to for leadership. However, Steinberg goes on to explain that at the age of 20, Tkachuk is one of the more predominant voices in the locker room and is quickly becoming one of the biggest leaders on the team.

In addition to Tkachuk, a few more names come to mind as candidates for captaincy: Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, and TJ Brodie.

 


Sean Monahan

Drafted 6th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Monahan is one of the clear leading candidates. His leadership abilities have been well documented and recognized throughout his hockey career already. He wore the “C” for the Ottawa 67s during his time in the OHL, and has served as one of the Flames’ Alternate Captains since his sophomore season. As a centre, Monahan has a higher level of defensive responsibility compared to other forwards, a possible reason why 13 current NHL captains are centres.

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Since his draft day, Monahan has been involved in the community on various levels. He’s an ambassador for the Southern Alberta Ronald McDonald House and works with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary. He was recently the recipient of the Ralph T. Scurfield Humanitarian Award, given to the player who exemplifies perseverance, determination and leadership on the ice, combined with dedication to community service off the ice. Many believe that Mohanan is the next in line for Flames captaincy and has been groomed for this role for quite some time. He is under contract as the team’s top centre until 2023 and it would not be a surprise if he was Giordano’s successor.


Mikael Backlund

Another homegrown centre, Backlund has evolved into the Flames’ best two way player. While it took a while for him to become a mainstay impact player on the team, he is now one of the most valuable assets on the team and is slowly rising to the ranks of perennial Selke favourites Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar. The slow burn to start Backlund’s career was similar to that of Giordano’s, with their NHL careers initially clouded by doubt. Thankfully, the Flames stayed patient and are now greatly rewarded.

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Off of the ice, Backlund and his fiance, Frida Engström, play a huge role in the battle against ALS. In addition to charitable donations, Backlund and Engström host a family affected by ALS after each home game. While not always in the spotlight, their work behind the scenes has earned the respect of his teammates, the organization, and fans alike. He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, but it has been reported that contract extension negotiations are well underway. Backlund has worn an “A” in the past, and his importance to the team is only growing. The perfect embodiment of a responsible hockey player, Backlund is a fantastic candidate to lead the team.


Matthew Tkachuk

The centerpiece of the aforementioned FlamesNation article, the “friendly” agitator may be on his way to captaincy. In just over one season with the team, Tkachuk has become one of, if not the most impactful player on the team. He is among the league leaders in penalties drawn, has an ongoing feud with Drew Doughty, and has enamoured himself with fans. He is also the youngest member of the incredible 3M line and is relied upon by the coaching staff to perform in the most difficult situations.

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Tkachuk’s community involvement resume isn’t as extensive as the other candidates being discussed; he has only been in the league for one full season. He has participated in multiple Flames Foundations outreach events and helped several minor hockey teams at their practices. There is one certainty with Tkachuk: he is going to be on this team for a long time. He will have many years to continue his work with the community and continue to develop his leadership in the locker room. The sky’s the limit.


TJ Brodie

Brodie could follow in his former defense partner’s footsteps. An alternate captain in the past, Brodie has become a dynamic, well rounded defenceman and is currently the team’s average shifts and TOI leader. He may not be as outspoken as Tkachuk, but Brodie leads by example with his on ice play and off ice demeanour.

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In his time with the Flames, most of Brodie’s charitable endeavors have been in conjunction with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Canada. Since its inception, proceeds from his Skate in Strides program are given to CF Canada. Last year, Brodie’s initiative raised over $75,000 dollars for the cause. Brodie exemplifies the qualities of leadership both on and off the ice, and is one of the more veteran players on the roster. He is signed until 2020.


Honorable Mentions

There are quite a few others that could also earn the “C” down the road. Picking players from the current roster, other candidates could be Sam Bennett, Travis Hamonic, and Mark Jankowski. Even further down the depth chart, players like Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane could also wear a letter. The Flames have a plethora of potential candidates, which speaks volume to the type of players the organization has been acquiring.


Conclusion

Giordano will likely be a Flame for many years. This conversation may be a bit premature, but having the ability to look up and down the roster and see so many key players who are already tremendous leaders is a luxury that many teams simply don’t have. No player is truly a frontrunner in this discussion, but the Flames boast so many homegrown talents that look to be fixtures on the team for years to come. Having a captain who leads by example and has a positive impact in the community is not easy to find. Calgary is lucky to boast one of the best captains in the league at the moment and it will be a difficult day when Giordano’s no longer wearing the “C”. That being said, the Flames will be in good hands no matter who is appointed to follow in the footsteps of so many great Calgary captains.

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