The Calgary Flames are heading into a new era. With Mark Giordano lacing up for the Seattle Kraken, the Flames are left without their longtime captain. Entering the 2021–22 season, Calgary will either have a new captain by game one, or they’ll leave that role unnamed and to be earned over the season. Who should they consider to take the torch that’s been held for so long by Giordano? We asked, you answered.
Calgary’s captain candidates
Eight years ago, Giordano was named captain and has held that role all the way through until he was drafted by Seattle. His tenure was one of the longest in team history—second to only Jarome Iginla—and he held that role with no signs of wavering. Had he not been selected by Seattle, there’s little doubt that he’d still be the Flames’ captain for this season.
Now that there’s a vacant role, the Flames can turn towards their players and see who steps up to the plate as the definitive leader. They have several options to say the least. They could consider Mikael Backlund, someone who’s been with the team through several eras; Matthew Tkachuk, a high potential face-of-the-franchise player; Chris Tanev, a solid defencemen who earned the alternate captaincy in a few games while Sean Monahan was injured; or they could look at many other options on the roster.
Who makes sense right now as the Flames’ next captain?
Tkachuk was the runaway winner, garnering over 60% of the votes. He was definitely on the fast track into taking over the captaincy after Giordano and that likely hasn’t changed. The only question mark about this was his latest season where he took a step backwards and wasn’t as effective as many expected him to be.
Players go through things on and off the ice and Tkachuk isn’t an exception. He came into 2020–21 returning from a concussion sustained during the qualifying round of the playoffs against the Winnipeg Jets. Remove his less-than-stellar performance from the shortened season and there’s no reason whatsoever to think Tkachuk should be anything but captain for the Flames.
As a young player with his skill, he’ll lead the team into a new era as the game of hockey itself evolves. Being the highest paid Flame and at the front of the line for a big raise on a new contract, Tkachuk has beared the responsibility of being the Flames’ best player, and he definitely can—and should—handle the added responsibility of being the Flames’ next captain. He’s been an alternate for three seasons now and it’s time for the next step.
Backlund is now the Flames’ longest serving player. He made his debut in 2008–09 with one game played and no one else is remotely close to him in terms of games played as a Flame. Sean Monahan is the next longest serving Flame, who debuted full time in 2013–14, half a decade after Backlund’s first appearance in the Flaming C.
Like Tkachuk, Backlund was named an alternate captain three seasons ago. A player worthy of Selke contention year in and year out, Backlund has been underrated for most of his career. Should he be named their next captain, that could be what Backlund needs to cement his Flames legacy.
Backlund has been loyal to this team and has been integral in playing so many different roles, from being on effective shutdown lines, sparking offence from players who would otherwise be anchors, and more. The Flames could give Backlund the captaincy not just as a reward, but as a sincere thank you for all he’s done for the team. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Backlund was chosen for the role.
Tanev being considered on the poll was meant more as a surprise option—which he definitely is—but it wasn’t without merit. When Monahan was out midway through the season with an injury, Tanev was selected to be an alternate captain in those games sans Monahan. It was clear that his on-ice play was as good as it’s ever been as a premier shutdown defender, but his leadership qualities weren’t all too far behind.
What makes Tanev a consideration for captain is exactly that. There were other options on the Flames for the alternate captaincy when Monahan was out, but it went straight to Tanev with seemingly little hesitation. That carries a lot of weight in itself and it’s obvious the Flames hold Tanev in high regard.
Should he be chosen as the captain, it’d be surprising, but having him a part of the leadership group wouldn’t be at all.
Other options for the Flames captaincy
Monahan makes a case for himself due to his long tenure as an alternate—being in that position since the 2015–16 campaign. However, his play hasn’t been quite as game-changing as it used to be and it will take a strong rebound season from him for the Flames to seriously consider him for captain. His bread and butter is scoring goals but with his injury history, that makes it difficult for the forward to be as impactful as he should be.
Milan Lucic could be on the shortlist for being a fan favourite along with him being an alternate captain for three seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. Despite that, it really wouldn’t make sense for a palyer with his current impact to take on bigger duties. Similar to Tanev, Lucic could easily be an alternate captain, even on a rotating basis, but beyond that he really should be a longshot for the captaincy.
Make no mistake, if the Flames opt to push their top talent up as their leadership corps, then there are two names that should be considered in tandem: Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane. Both players are relentlessly reliable and been nothing short of tremendous for the Flames. Lindholm has been a first line player with consistent results while Mangiapane has been one of the best-in-league 5v5 players.
Either of these players would look natural being the Flames next captain, or they’d be excellent complements as alternates to whoever the Flames decide should lead the charge.
Captaining Calgary to Cup contention
Whether they like it or not, the Flames are in a make it or break it season, despite them not exactly being bona fide contenders for the Cup. Naming a captain isn’t just about the short term of whatever happens next, it’s also about the long term of everything that happens after.
The Flames will have a new sense of direction once a captain is named, and picking the right person for the job sets the tone for what to expect with the Flames for now and years down the road.
Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images
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