blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: A Wild Tale of Rotating Captains

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Wild Tale of Rotating Captains

Rule 6 of the NHL Official Rules provides that each team must appoint a captain. His official role is to discuss, not complain about, issues "relating to the interpretation of rules." Up to two alternate captains may administer this task when the captain is off the ice, three when the captain is not in uniform. Gretzky, Yzerman, and Sakic are names that come to mind when you think of modern day NHL captains. Tenured players with cup-worthy on-ice talents and leadership skills. In today's NHL, fewer teams are finding such talent in their ranks and appointment practices have varied accordingly.

Joining an already bloated league with increased player mobility through relaxed free agency rules, in 2000 the Minnesota Wild adopted a unique approach to captaincy. Each month the honor is up for grabs. While rotating the role may devalue the honor and alienate fans, it's hard to argue with the pedigree of the architects and the subsequent results.

With 16 Stanley Cup wins between them, including four together as teammates on the Montreal Canadiens, GM Doug Risebrough and Coach Jacques Lemaire have known success everywhere they've been. In their seven completed seasons running the Wild since inception, they've made three post-season appearances, including a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2003. Not bad for an expansion team in the highly competitive North West division. Meanwhile, their expansion siblings the Columbus Blue Jackets have yet to participate in the playoffs.

Coming off a miserable 4-9-1 December, last month's captain Kim Johnsson will relinquish the 'C' to Mikko Koivu for the month of January. Mikko is the 22nd different player to captain the team, previously serving as captain in October and November of 2008. His duties resume this Saturday against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings, who have had two captains over the past 22 years, Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom. O captain, my captain.