Almost every offseason there is at least one change in who wears the "C" for an NHL squad. Last season there were five newly-named captains in the league while this year there's three. Whether a change is made because of retirement, roster moves or any number of reasons, the decision to appoint one individual as team captain is a major one, although some teams choose to play with only alternate captains.
There are currently four squads without captains: Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and Vegas Golden Knights. The teams that announced new captains for 2019-20 were the San Jose Sharks (Logan Couture), Carolina Hurricanes (Jordan Staal), Toronto Maple Leafs (John Tavares) and Vancouver Canucks (Bo Horvat).
The Sharks and Hurricanes were the only teams who lost their captains this offseason. Carolina's Justin Williams is reportedly taking a break from the NHL and San Jose's former captain Joe Pavelski, signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Stars.
Although it is Jordan Staal's first time being a team captain, it is not the first time a Staal has captained the Carolina Hurricanes. His older brother, Eric, was the Hurricanes' captain from 2009-10 through 2015-16. In the West, Couture is entering his 11th season with the Sharks and his first as captain. Currently ranked fourth in goals (240) and points (507) in Sharks' history, he is four goals behind teammate Joe Thornton all the all-time list. Tavares becomes the 25th captain of the Maple Leafs following a three-year span with no "C" on the chest of a Maple Leafs' sweater. The Canucks played without a captain last season (following Henrik Sedin's retirement) and announced Horvat as team captain at their home opener this season.
So why do we need captains?
In the NHL, captains arguably have the most significant role of any major sport. They are the only ones permitted to talk to the referee about rule interpretations per Rule 6.1 of the 2018-19 NHL rulebook. It is also written that no team is permitted to have co-captains.
So what are alternate captains for?
Well first things first, the proper term is "alternate captain" contrary to the popular belief that the "A" stands for "assistant captain." Essentially the alternate captains are there to take over the responsibilities of the captain if he is not on the ice. In fact, according to Rule 6.1, if a player (captain, alternate or neither) leaves the bench and "makes any protest or intervention with the officials," they will be assessed a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. It is also clearly stated that disagreements over penalty calls are not considered rule interpretations.
There is a limit to the number of captains a team can put on the ice in a given contest. No team is allowed more than three letters, either a captain and two alternates or three alternates may take the ice in a given game. You might be asking yourself, "How then are there more than three names listed for some teams?" Great question. Teams work around this rule by assigning different players as alternate captains for home and away contests.
One more thing to note: goaltenders are not permitted to be captains or alternate captains. Sorry.
The longest-tenured captain in the NHL is Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, entering his 14th season wearing the "C" on his chest. Staal and Tavares are the only first-year captains in the Eastern Conference. The next-shortest-tenured captains are Buffalo's Jack Eichel, Florida's Aleksander Barkov, Montreal's Shea Weber and the New York Islanders' Anders Lee — who are all entering their second season as team captains. The Red Wings, Rangers and Senators were all without a captain for the first time last season and do not have one listed for this year.
Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci
Marcus Johansson, Jake McCabe
Jordan Martinook, Jaccob Slavin
Columbus Blue Jackets
Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner
Detroit Red Wings
Justin Abdelkader, Luke Glendening, Dylan Larkin, Frans Nielsen
Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Keith Yandle
Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher
New Jersey Devils
Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac
New York Islanders
Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck, Andrew Ladd
New York Rangers
Jesper Fast, Chris Kreider, Marc Staal, Mika Zibanejad
Mark Borowiecki, Ron Hainsey, Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin
Tampa Bay Lightning
Vegas Golden Knights
Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews
Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson
Tampa Bay Lightning Steven Stamkos Victor Hedman
Vegas Golden Knights Reilly Smith
The longest-tenured captain in the Western Conference is a tie between Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Minnesota's Mikko Koivu, each entering their 12th season as captain of their respective clubs. The newest captains entering the season in the West are Couture (San Jose) and Horvat (Vancouver). The Golden Knights have never had a team captain and now enter their third season in the NHL. The Canucks' previous captain was Henrik Sedin in the 2017-18 season.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan
Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk
Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
Erik Johnson, Nathan MacKinnon
John Klingberg, Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin
Adam Larsson, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Los Angeles Kings
Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty
Zach Parise, Ryan Suter
Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen
San Jose Sharks
Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl, Erik Karlsson, Joe Thornton
St. Louis Blues
Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Edler, Brandon Sutter, Christopher Tanev
Tampa Bay Lightning
Vegas Golden Knights
Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Scheifele, Josh Morrissey