New Calgary Flames general manager Craig Conroy has made it abundantly clear that next season the team will have a new captain at the helm. The team has gone captainless the last two season since Mark Giordano was selected in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft.
The 2021–22 NHL season went swimmingly for the Flames, where no one really noticed that there wasn’t a captain named. As was reported, Matthew Tkachuk appeared to be the heir apparent to the captaincy, but Darryl Sutter refused to name a captain without a contract and that likely led to a wealth of conflict between Tkachuk and Sutter.
This past season did not go swimmingly, and as a result many players on the team felt like not having a captain to be that buffer between coach and players led to much of the frustrations within the room.
So, it’s a welcome sign to hear that at least someone will be donning two Cs on their jersey next season. Over the next few weeks we will be taking a look at a number of candidates who could fill this role, but we wanted to start off with one player that should be at the top of most people’s lists but isn’t right now: MacKenzie Weegar.
What makes Weegar an enticing captain candidate
Acquired in last summer’s blockbuster trade with the Florida Panthers, Weegar joined the team as a pending unrestricted free agent. This of course casted doubt on his future with the team. Luckily, that was quickly put to rest as Weegar signed an eight-year, $50M contract with the team prior to the start of the season—making him the team’s highest paid defender. He is one of only two defencemen that are under contract with the Flames after this season, the other being Rasmus Andersson.
Consistency is key when naming a captain, especially in the Flames organization. Jarome Iginla held the position for nine seasons while Mark Giordano had the C for eight. Craig Conroy even knew this well when he was named captain for a season, when he relinquished the title to Iginla knowing he would be the voice the team needed. Weegar being under contract for seven more seasons would give the role some much needed consistency.
More importantly though, over the last few months Weegar has become one of the most prominent voices coming out of the Flames locker room. A captain doesn’t necessarily have to be the most outspoken person on the team, but Weegar has stepped up and been the voice for his teammates when they didn’t feel comfortable enough to speak out.
He was the first player to come out and state that the team needed a coaching change, he took time during his exit interview to vouch for a new arena, and has been one of the first Flames players to openly discuss his pleasure in Conroy’s hiring. Sure, he is facing more media right now being at the World Hockey Championship with Team Canada, but the fact that it is consistently Weegar being the voice for this team highlights his leadership within the team.
Although he has not formally been named either a captain or an alternate captain during his time in the NHL, he is currently serving as an alternate for Team Canada at the Worlds. The coaching staff for Canada includes potential Flames head coaching candidate Alex Tanguay. Clearly that staff sees something in him leadership wise that could easily translate to next season.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention his role on the ice. With the uncertainty around the status of Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin moving forward since both are pending UFAs, Weegar very well could be this team’s number one defensemen moving forward, and for the foreseeable future. No disrespect at all to Andersson who is neck and neck for that title, but Weegar, if given the opportunity, could be that guy. Under Sutter he was not given the offensive freedom to let loose a little, but with Team Canada he is showing why the team needs to lean on his play more and more. Currently, Weegar leads the entire Canadian team in scoring with 10 points in eight games.
There is no doubt he should at least be in the running for first unit power play quarterback next season, but making him the quarterback of this team could also be a wise decision.
Oh Captain, my Captain
Weegar is the absolute dark horse candidate when it comes to the captaincy. Although there are others that we will discuss in the coming weeks, Weegar could end up being a long-tenured and well-respected captain. The team has clearly invested in his future, which shows their faith in him long-term.
It would be a feel good story for a player taken in the seventh round that had to fight in the minors for an NHL role to become the team’s next captain. Sound familiar?