New York Islanders captaincy is locked down with superstar John Tavares, but after losing Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen to free agency, the alternate captains are left unassigned. We’ll take a look at who could wear the A’s in 2016-17.
In hockey, a captain and the alternate captains are the players designated by the team to be authorized to speak with officials regarding rule interpretations. They must be on the ice to have these conversations, which is why you have alternate captains in the event that your captain is not on the ice during a call.
With 21 and 51 going to Buffalo and Detroit respectively in free agency, the Islanders coaching staff is now tasked with assigning two players with alternate captain duties.
Capuano and Co. can choose more than two A’s, but only two players can wear the A each night. In recent history, (see Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers) teams will choose more than two alternates and rotate who wears the A based on home games, away games, and who knows which other stipulations.
But which New York Islanders will be awarded the A’s? What’s good to keep in mind, is that leadership, skill, and experience will all be factors in deciding the alternates.
Cal Clutterbuck served as an alternate for the New York Islanders when Kyle Okposo missed time due to an eye injury in 2014-15.
A vocal member of the locker room, Clutterbuck has 572 games of NHL experience and is one of the team’s best penalty killers.
He played an average of 1:58 per game on the penalty kill, and added two shorthanded goals.
A member of the now disbanded best fourth line in hockey, Clutterbuck will be reunited with Casey Cizikas in both even strength and penalty kill shifts.
Clutterbuck also has an offensive touch, and he scored a huge goal to change the team’s momentum at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Cal is aware of the necessity of stepping up when it matters, having tied John Tavares for a team-leading five game-winning goals. A third of his season total of 15, he also set a career high 18.8% shooting percentage.
Having a great relationship with Tavares from their time spent as teammates in junior, Clutterbuck should be a no-brainer for wearing an A in 2016-17.
Travis Hamonic has played for the New York Islanders for his entire pro career, 395 games over six seasons.
The 25-year-old defender is active in the Long Island and Brooklyn communities, hosting and spending time with a child that has lost a parent at every home game.
Hamonic gains respect from his teammates with his willingness to drop the gloves and stand up for them, having done so eight times in his career. This assumed respect is confirmed, when after rescinding his trade request at the close of the 2016 playoffs, his teammates did not seem perturbed whatsoever by his request in their exit interviews.
Travis also spends a lot of time on the ice. A whole lot. In 2015-16 he averaged 23:49 per game which was the most among Islanders skaters.
Hamonic spent an average of 2:16 time on ice whilst a member of the league’s fourth best penalty kill, which was second only to Johnny Boychuk. Travis saw 0:49 power play minutes per game, fourth among Islanders defensemen who played more than 15 games.
Being on the ice this often gives him superior knowledge of the execution of the systems the coaching staff develops. This gives Hamonic an advantage towards alternate captaincy, as the staff knows he will hold his teammates accountable for playing the way they need to play.
He also scored this incredible end to end goal while serving as an alternate captain in the 2013-14 season. This was the game I went to for my birthday, so he’s got an A in my book.
If head coach Jack Capuano wants to send a message to his locker room, newcomer Andrew Ladd could see an A stitched onto his sweater come opening night.
A bold move, a new face in the locker room could add a new voice of accountability to help the team give their best every game, every shift.
Ladd has won two Stanley Cups, and has prevailed in ten playoff series.
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He has a great deal of leadership experience having served seven seasons as captain of the Winnipeg Jets franchise.
He also wore an A for the Calgary Hitmen during his juniors career.
Having been an NHL captain for that many seasons, Ladd has got to have established relationships with officials, which can assist his teammates and coaches better understand why and when calls are being made.
Ladd averaged 19:27 with the Jets in 2015-16, and in his 19 games with the Blackhawks he averaged 17:14. Likely to draw into the first line with John Tavares, Ladd will see his ice time increase, and therefore will be able to convey the opposition’s strengths to his teammates.
The New York Islanders will most definitely have two new alternate captains in 2016-17. I will be bold and presumptuous to assume these two will be Cal Clutterbuck and Travis Hamonic. However, I would not be surprised if newcomer Andrew Ladd joins the leadership group.