Oh Captains, My Captains! 5 Teams Name New Leaders Ahead for the 2023-24 Season 

Pro players
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Jordan Dunn
Pro players
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If you only have a few minutes to spare, here's what you should know:
Not every team selects a captain, some choose to lead by committee and open the locker room up to more voices.
A number of different factors go into making the decision, such as community involvement, on-ice play, and locker room presence.
The Bruins, Canucks, Blues, Jets, and Flames have all named new captains ahead of the 2023-24 season.

Oh Captains, My Captains!

A title not handed out lightly, several factors go into the decision to either put the “C” on a player's jersey or lead the team by committee instead.

Some players do immediately impact a franchise that they earn the captain’s title young, such as Gabriel Landeskog with the Avalanche and Sidney Crosby with the Penguins. Over the last few years, there have been a lot more exemples like those two.

For others, the journey is longer, often spending some time as an alternate captain behind other franchise greats – think Patrice Bergeron with the Bruins and Anze Kopitar with the Kings.

A handful of teams (Kraken, Coyotes, Blackhawks, Ducks, Flyers) are still opting to lead by committee,  while five new captains have been named heading into the 2023-2024 NHL season.

Here’s a closer look at the new captains, why they were chosen, and what their leadership means to their respective teams.

Boston Bruins
Picture of Brad Marchand, behind the Boston Bruins' logo, when he was named captain.

The Captains:

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

Following the retirement of his longtime linemate and close friend Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins needed someone to step into the role of forward-facing team leader and decided Brad Marchand was the man for the job.

Marchand has been an embodiment of “Bruins Hockey” for years and is the team’s longest-tenured member, with seniority over other potential leaders like Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak.

His on-ice behavior has irked opponents’ fans for most of his career, but the 35-year-old has taken a turn towards maturity in recent years and is a vocal leader in the locker room.

He’s also represented the team positively in the Boston community for years, and recently supported a fundraiser for ALS, along with many other notable Boston athletes.

On top of this, he is the Bruins’ “You Can Play” ambassador, going viral in 2017 for using his Twitter account to shut down homophobic trolls.

It turns out the “Little Ball of Hate” is pretty good at combatting it.

He leads by example both on and off the ice and inspires fierce loyalty from his teammates.

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues

Longtime Blues forward Brayden Schenn succeeded former captain Ryan O’Reilly, following the latter’s trade to the Maple Leafs. Schenn has served as an alternate captain since the 2021-22 season, after having been acquired from Philadelphia in 2017.

The decision to name Schenn the franchise’s 24th captain came as no surprise.

The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford went as far as to say it’d have been no shock if Schenn had been named captain over O’Reilly back in 2020, due to his integral role in keeping the locker room together.

For an idea of what he means to his teammates: when Schenn got married last year in Banff National Park, located in the wilderness of Alberta, current and former teammates from all over the world made the difficult trip to be a part of the special day.

Current teammate Robert Bortuzzo said, “He’s a guy who keeps these bonds long-lasting –– He’s a true glue guy.”

At the press conference announcing his new role, Schenn applauded the examples set by leaders and captains before him, saying,

“For me personally, I’ve played with a ton of great captains and even guys that weren’t captains but were still leaders – You learn from those people, and over time you learn the most from the teammates that were closest to you. I got to play with two great captains here in Alex Pietrangelo and Ryan O’Reilly. Just how they tried to carry the Blues culture forward and how selfless they were and how much they cared about their teammates, it taught me a lot.”

Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks

Only the third franchise defender to hold the title, 23-year-old Quinn Hughes replaces previous captain Bo Horvat, who served for four seasons prior to being traded to the Islanders.

Hughes isn’t necessarily viewed as the loudest of leaders in the locker room, instead leading by example and being unafraid to take a stand when needed.

During the controversy last season over a small number of players refusing to wear Pride-themed warm-up jerseys, Hughes spoke out about the importance of wearing the jerseys;

“It’s about just, you know, feeling welcomed and enjoying the game. If someone enjoys the game … You should be able to find the same joy from it as anyone else. We preach hockey is for everyone and I certainly believe that it is. And if you say you believe in that, then you should be able to put the jersey on.”

Though he is still young, Hughes’ on-ice play and off-ice values make him the obvious pick as the 15th captain in Canucks history.

Jimmy Jeong
Quinn Hughes, middle, wears his new captain jersey with Vancouver Canucks' gm, Patrik Allvin, left, and head coach Rick Tocchet, right.

Adam Lowry, Winnipeg Jets

Heading into last season, the Jets stripped long-time captain Blake Wheeler of his “C” in an attempt to open the locker room up to more voices.

It was expected that Wheeler would move on (he signed as a free agent with the Rangers following a buyout in Winnipeg), and the team was looking toward who would take the role moving forward.

That season was Adam Lowry’s first as an alternate captain, alongside Josh Morrisey and Mark Scheifele.

Lowry will be the new captain of the Jets, just the third player to hold the title since the franchise relocated from Atlanta. The 30-year-old center is the first “homegrown” drafted and developed captain, selected in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft.

The team feels he displays incredible leadership, looking after his teammates with a willingness to stand up for them, if necessary.

He is also involved locally with the Toba Centre, an organization that works to restore the health and wellbeing of children and youth affected by child abuse through a coordinated, community response.

Lowry has also been involved in larger charity drives for a number of organizations, alongside current and former NHL players Mike Vernon, Josh Morrisey, Mackenzie Weegar, and Stuart Skinner.

When asked about what kind of leader he’d be, Lowry cited examples set by the captains who came before him: “I look at those guys [Ladd, Wheeler], they all had different styles of how they led. I think when you put it all together, that inclusivity, making sure everyone feels they belong. That’s going to be really important, that team cohesiveness. I’ll try and take pieces from everyone.”

The Jets hope Lowry will stabilize the locker room and establish a culture to build on in the years ahead.

Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames

After last season, it wasn’t clear if Mikael Backlund, currently the longest-tenured Flames player, would return to the only NHL team he’s ever known.

Heading into this season, he will captain that same franchise and have a chance to become just the second-ever player to skate in 1000 games with the Flames – the legendary Jarome Iginla being the first.

On top of displaying the on-ice talent and locker-room leadership needed for the position, he is an exemplary leader in the Calgary community, as well.

At the end of last season, Backlund won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his contributions to the ALS Society of Alberta, Kids Cancer Care, and the Special Olympics Calgary organizations.

His work with the ALS Society feels especially poignant after the recent and tragic death of Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow, who battled the disease.

The Flames have gone through a tumultuous off-season and new general manager Craig Conroy hopes that naming 34-year-old Backlund captain will add some stability to the team’s situation, as well as potentially entice pending free agents Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm into re-signing.

For a team that’s experiencing changes at just about every level, including a new head coach in Ryan Huska, having an established and trusted leader like Backlund locked up and in a leadership role is a good step toward getting things sorted and stable in Calgary.

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