Calgary Flames

Evaluating the options for the Calgary Flames’ next captain

After eight years of a Mark Giordano captaincy, the Calgary Flames are left without their fearless leader on the ice. Fans were left heartbroken when Giordano was picked up during the Seattle Kraken expansion draft earlier this summer. With the momentum shifting toward preparing for the future, everyone is eager to find out who the next Flames captain will be.

There is no lack of candidates on the Flames roster, but naming a new captain is a big deal. Captains essentially become the face of the team and will tackle challenges their teammates won’t. A huge amount of thought will go into this decision. As fans, we can make our best prediction but it all depends on which direction the team is wanting to move in.

Before we can look at the potential future captains, it is important to understand what being a captain really means.

Roles of NHL captains

In the NHL, the captain is the only player on the team allowed to speak with the referees about rule interpretation. Therefore communicating between referees and coaches is the main responsibility of captains. Because of this, the NHL specifies that goaltenders can not be captains as it would be difficult to maneuver across the ice to communicate regularly.

However, there have been goaltenders named captains in the history of the NHL. Most recently, Roberto Luongo was named the Vancouver Canucks captain in 2008. He did not officially wear a letter on his jersey, and did not partake in the regular on-ice captain duties.

While tending to on-ice communications is the only role defined by the league, captains undertake other unofficial responsibilities. These include being a dressing room leader and a representative for the players. They often mediate between players and management within a team, and offer support wherever needed. Captains could also be required to represent the team in community events or ceremonies, making them an important figure in their respective cities.

With all these responsibilities on deck, captains are typically chosen based on natural leadership qualities. It is important that captains embrace the values of the team and work to maintain standards. This adds a lot of weight to the “C,” and means teams have to strongly consider all aspects of the role before naming a new captain. 

History of Calgary Flames captains

In the 41 seasons the Flames have been in Calgary, 14 players have worn the “C.” Giordano held the title for the previous eight seasons, leaving behind very big shoes to fill as the Flames enter their 42nd season. The Flames have only been captain-less once in their history when the team rotated captains during the 1990-91 season.

With the exception of Dave Lowry who was stripped of his title, Flames captains tend to retain their title until they part with the organization. Whoever is chosen as the next captain will likely follow this tradition.

2013–21Mark Giordano
2003–13Jarome Iginla
2002–03Craig Conroy
2001–02*, 2000–01Dave Lowry
2001–02*Bob Boughner
1999–00Steve Smith
1997–99Todd Simpson
1995–97Theoren Fleury
1991–95Joe Nieuwendyk
1989–90*Brad McCrimmon
1984–90*Jim Peplinski
1984–90*, 1983–84Lanny McDonald
1982–82, 1981–82*Phil Russell
1981–82*, 1980–81Brad Marsh

* indicates a season with co-captains

Existing Flames leadership

The obvious choice for the Flames would be to choose from the existing pool of alternate captains. Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, and Matthew Tkachuk all currently wear the “A” for the Flames, while Chris Tanev also held the responsibilities in parts of the 2020–21 season. There is no doubt that the Flames management believes in and values the leadership that each of these players brings. It is easy to assume all three of these players are already in consideration for captain. The big question is who can take the responsibility long-term.

Matthew Tkachuk

If I had to put money on who the next captain will be, Tkachuk is my choice. He seems like the obvious pick, well, because he is. The forward has shown incredible growth over the past few seasons and has been able to step up as a leader at only 23 years old. While he is an emotional player, his emotions often come from a place of motivation. The kid wants to win. A quality which certainly couldn’t hurt a struggling Calgary team.

Tkachuk’s name has been circled in rumours for years and that is unlikely to change. Regardless, the Flames would benefit from keeping Tkachuk around long term making him a strong choice for captain.

Mikael Backlund

The longest career Flame currently serving as an alternate captain is Backlund. If anyone on the team has the seniority vote, it’s him. While Backlund is certainly no standout player, he is consistent. It seems likely that he will be in Calgary for the foreseeable future, making him a low-risk pick. My gut tells me that Backlund is not the direction the Flames will go, however, he is certainly a strong option. 

Chris Tanev

Another valued Flames veteran is Tanev. Naturally the defenceman would make an easy transition following Giordano. They play similar roles on the ice, bringing a lot of experience to the blue line. There is no doubt in my mind that Tanev will wear a letter this season, it is just a matter of which one.

He brings a certain energy to the team that the Flames have been lacking. He has a natural leadership ability and backs it up with his talent on the ice. The Flames could do worse than have a captain who is willing to block anything and everything.

Wildcard picks

Johnny Gaudreau

To be clear, Johnny Gaudreau is only included on this list thanks to his status as a fan favourite. While Gaudreau’s name has been thrown around on social media as a potential choice, it seems more like a pipe dream. Players can absolutely be the most skilled without having additional leadership qualities. Johnny hockey seems to be one of those players. Gaudreau has not done much in his career with the Flames to justify being named captain.

There is nothing wrong with not having exceptional leadership qualities. Gaudreau is still able to contribute a lot to the team and there is certainly no shame in not taking a leadership role.

Milan Lucic

Another name being thrown around on social media is Milan Lucic. Unlike Gaudreau, this pick does not seem completely out of contention. Lucic is undoubtedly a protector among the team both on and off the ice. He represents the organization extremely well in interviews and community events, displaying a lot of the qualities a captain should have. Lucic is not only a veteran in the league, but also a Stanley Cup champion. His experience could bring a lot to a struggling team.

While Lucic has a lot of positives, I can’t see this actually playing out. However, Lucic is definitely someone to consider as an alternate captain should a position open up.

Sean Monahan

Even though Monahan has worn a letter for the Flames consistently, being named captain seems unlikely. The 26-year-old has struggled the past two seasons and certainly is no longer living up to his potential. Monahan’s name has been mentioned in many trade rumours suggesting he won’t be with Calgary long-term.

Andrew Mangiapane

A rising star within the organization, Andrew Mangiapane could be in consideration for the team’s next captain. His growth in the organization has been phenomenal, and with his grit, tenacity, and work ethic, he clearly embodies the values of the organization. The problem with him is simply he is too new. While he did wear an “A” with the Barrie Colts in junior, it is more likely that the Flames give the “C” to someone who has been around the team and the league a little longer.


Ahead of the 2021–22 season, the Flames have a big decision to make. With a handful of good candidates for captain, there is no real reason that the Flames will hold off on the decision. Tkachuk is coming in as the obvious choice with Backlund and Tanev not far behind. Monahan and Lucic also offer wildcard choices making the decision a little blurry.

In my imaginary world where everything I say goes, the Flames remain captain-less this season, and name Tkachuk captain for the 2022–23 season. I would love Tkachuk to have a strong rebound season, and leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is ready for the role.

Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

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