After Vegas acquired Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators in the final minutes of the trade deadline, nearly every fan of the Knights was excited to add yet another super star to the lineup — enough that after one game, they want to give him the honor no other Knight has. The C on his chest. The captain badge.
While I am not a hall-of-famer, I respectfully disagree with local scribes like SinBin’s Steve Carp and those who agree with him. To be fair, Carp argues that Stone should get it next season, not right after his first appearance, but I stand by the team’s mentality of 23 captains. They didn’t need a captain to get them to the Stanley Cup Finals, and they don’t need one now.
There are undoubtedly leaders in the locker room, especially those players with the A on their chest, but there really isn’t a need for a captain. However, should the Knights choose amongst themselves to bestow the C to someone, it should be someone who is an original misfit who was there during the inaugural season. I love Stastny, Stone and Pacioretty as much as anyone, but I don’t think it’s right they walk onto the team and take it from someone who has built the foundation of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Besides the obvious leader of the team, Marc-Andre Fleury, there isn’t a clear cut player who above and beyond plays and acts like a captain. Since goalies are never captains, Flower is out of the race, leaving a conundrum of who truly should be the captain. Of the players that belong to the original Misfits, these are the ones that deserve the “C.”
Reilly Smith is an obvious contender for the first captain’s badge. He is a great player in all aspects and currently is on a hot streak with three goals in three games after only scoring one other goal in 2019. While the captain of a team isn’t necessarily the best player on the team, Smith is considered the best player by his teammates, according to The Athletic. The captain has to be selected and respected by his teammates, and clearly, Smith has that in the locker room. Should Smith continue his career with the Golden Knights, he could eventually get the C when and if the team decides they need that infrastructure.
Nate Schmidt is another leader and big personality in the Vegas locker room. During his 20-game suspension, the Golden Knights went 8-12 to open their season and went 13-7 in their next 20 games with him in the lineup. He is a leader on the team and helped the Knights jump-start their season. Schmidt is highly regarded as the Knight’s best defenseman and should be in the running for that captain’s badge.
Deryk Engelland is on this list because of everything he has done for the community since joining the Knights, including the leader who stepped up after the October 1 shooting to tell the city the team would be there for them and we are all “Vegas Strong”. That kind of leadership comes from his experience playing the game. While he may not be in his prime, there is no doubt he is a leader and respected as such in the locker room. If the team were to select a captain for their first two years of existence, you can bet Engelland would be on the shortlist for that position. It is likely he is no longer with the Knights next season, which is why he probably won’t see that C.
Jonny Marchy might be too much of a hot head for this position, but there is no question the guy cares for his teammates. During the Knights’ last game with the Panthers, enforcer, “spider-monkey” Marchy cross-checked and took down a player much larger than him for touching Fleury. Marchy has been known for his protectiveness, and if what the guys want out of their captain is fire, he would be that guy. If it was measured by heart, Marchy would be marChy.
Erik Haula might seem like a weird option for the C, but let’s not forget he was a top-6 forward during the Knight’s inaugural year. He has missed the majority of the season due to an undisclosed lower-body injury, and his presence and positive attitude have been missed in the locker room during the team’s most recent slump, according to Schmidt. Anyone who makes that kind of impact when they are not with the team day-in and day-out is the type of guy who can lead them through even the worst of times.
Knights of their own ’round table’
Because there isn’t a clear, singular leader on the roster, it is not the time to name a captain. This is not to say that the team will not name a captain eventually, but I don’t foresee it for years down the road. This team has a good core of players and until this core leaves or retires, they will not need a captain. There are two situations down the road where I could see the Knights naming their first captain.
The first is if the Knights win a Stanley Cup and someone consistently leads the team through the season, the playoffs and the final series. He is the first person to raise the cup. However, he has to be an established, consistent player with a legacy in the organization.
The second is if the team is going through a rebuilding phase and they need someone with authority in the organization to pick the new players up and lead them through what being a Knight means and their style of play. Realistically, this could be Alex Tuch should he stay in Vegas through his career and see the team off to a new era.
Currently, things are working fine without a designated captain. Two years, two playoff appearances. Why change a thing?