It’s now been almost a year since longtime captain of the Calgary Flames Mark Giordano was taken by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, which also means it’s been almost an entire year since the Flames had an official captain.
While the lack of captain over the last year seemed to allow many players to rise up as leaders, it’s time the team really starts to look at who should get a “C” on the front of their jersey. After all, no team has won the Stanley Cup without a captain since 1972 (though the captainless New York Rangers got as far as the Eastern Conference final this year).
In 42 years, the Flames have only had 14 captains including the esteemed likes of the aforementioned Giordano, Jarome Iginla, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Lanny McDonald to name a few. Throughout the team’s history there has also only been one other season aside from the most recent one where the team didn’t have a captain. This was during the 1990–91 season. That makes it seem even more likely the Flames will finally pick their 15th captain this summer.
The Flames have also traditionally had long-tenured captains. Recently Giordano was captain for eight seasons, and before him Iginla captained the team for ten seasons. Because of this, we can expect that the next captain of the Flames is someone who will likely be with the team for a number of years to come.
Calgary’s top captain candidates
Long thought to be the frontrunner for the captaincy following Giordano, Matthew Tkachuk has been an alternate captain since the 2018–19 season. A year ago, he was a strong contender as most likely to become the captain and after the career season he just had, there is very little reason to think that’s changed. Tkachuk’s brother Brady was named captain of the Ottawa Senators this last season, and it’s safe to assume that might have encouraged Matthew to want this role on the Flames even more.
Tkachuk has long been a respected leader on the team, and while he does sometimes get himself into trouble with other teams, he did manage to keep his cool this past season more than he had in the past.
If Tkachuk chooses to sign a long-term extension with the Flames this summer, it’s a pretty safe bet to say a captaincy announcement will quickly follow up his extension announcement.
Here’s a good option: the longest tenured Flame. Mikael Backlund, like Tkachuk, has been apart of the Flames leadership group as an alternate captain since the 2018–19 season. Backlund has also recently been the Flames representative for the NHLPA, which shows that the players on the team respect him enough to represent them in the trenches—a big part of what he would be doing as captain.
Additionally, he had an amazing playoff performance this season, which truly highlighted how important he is to the organization not only in the locker room but also on the ice. Backlund would be a great choice for the role and if anyone has seniority over the position, it’s definitively him.
Chris Tanev also has a lot of NHL experience like Backlund. After Sean Monahan left the roster for a season-ending surgery, Tanev was named the team’s third alternate captain earlier this year. While it’s harder to see Tanev get the promotion to wearing the “C” due to his lack of time on the roster, it’s not impossible to imagine. Plus it wouldn’t be to out of the ordinary for a top pairing defenceman to hold this honour as we’ve seen with Giordano.
While a bit of a dark horse, Gaudreau could surprise as a possible candidate for the captaincy. During the playoffs he wore an “A” on his jersey for the first time following Chris Tanev’s injury in the first round against Dallas. Gaudreau is one of the longest-tenured Flames like Backlund, and is also without a doubt the most important player on the Flames. It is common in the NHL that the best player on a team gets rewarded with the “C” so why couldn’t that apply to Gaudreau, especially if he’s now officially a part of the leadership group on the team.
Like Tkachuk, Gaudreau will need to sign a long term extension with the team for this to be at all possible. Should he re-sign this offseason I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s given a full time “A” alongside his next contract in Calgary.
Honourable mentions for the captain’s patch
While it seems pretty clear that the next captain of the Flames will be one of the four players previously mentioned. It wouldn’t be surprising to see players like Monahan (pending his offseason status), Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Tyler Toffoli or Milan Lucic (also pending his status) considered for official leadership roles on the team going forward. Plus with Darryl Sutter behind the bench you can never really ignore Trevor Lewis either.
It’s time for the Flames to select a path forward
The Flames have no shortage of options for who might next get the honour of wearing the “C” on their jersey, and no matter who they choose, every single player worthy of consideration will have a pretty solid case for earning it.
Let us know though in the comments who you think will be the next captain of the Calgary Flames, and if you think that an official captain will be named this offseason!
Photo by Lukian Demchuk