It lasted seven years, but to most Chicago Blackhawks fans, it felt like forever. Since 2008, the Blackhawks’ leadership core has consisted of the same three players: Jonathan Toews serving as the team captain, along with Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp as alternate captains.
But that will change now that Sharp has been traded to the Dallas Stars. This begs the question, who will assume the role of the second assistant captain for the Blackhawks? NHL rules stipulate that all teams have one captain and two assistant captains (or three assistant captains) in the lineup, so someone has to fill Sharp’s skates as Keith’s fellow A-bearer.
Until the team makes an announcement, here is a look at the leading candidates for this job opening.
Brent Seabrook (defense)
Odds: 2 to 1
Why Seabrook might be named assistant captain: Whenever one of the team captains was injured, it was always Seabrook who filled in, wearing an “A” on his sweater. He has been a member of the team since 2005, and is the longest-serving player on the ‘Hawks not wearing a letter.
Why Seabrook might not be named assistant captain: Seabrook will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2015-16 season. He will be 31 by then — still in the prime years for a defenseman — and might seek a bigger contract that the ‘Hawks can fit under the salary cap. So, the team might trade Seabrook before the season is over and decide to give the letter to someone who fits into their long-term plans.
Marian Hossa (right wing)
Odds: 3 to 1
Why Hossa might be named assistant captain: Hossa has been in the NHL since 1998 — before many Blackhawks fans were even born! That makes him the elder skatesman on the team, and truly worthy of donning the “A.” Plus, he is 36 and signed through the 2020-21 season with a cap hit of $5.275 million, so it is unlikely that Hossa is going anywhere else.
Why Hossa might not be named assistant captain: Other players are younger and might better represent the future of the Blackhawks.
Niklas Hjalmarsson (defense)
Odds: 5 to 1
Why Hjalmarsson might not be named assistant captain: Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville might not want to have two defenseman as captains, opting to go with a second forward instead. That, plus no one outside of Chicago can pronounce his name properly. (For the record, it’s YAL-mer-son, not CHAL-mer-son or JAL-mer-son.)
Patrick Kane (right wing)
Odds: 5 to 1
Why Kane might be named assistant captain: Like Toews, Kane is signed through the end of the 2022-23 season. Kaner is much more mature than he was in his first few years with the team, but still gives off the vibe of being the team’s free spirit. Giving him the “A” would go a long way in contributing to Kane’s continued maturation.
Why Kane might not be named assistant captain: Although Kane is on many nights the ‘Hawks best player, he just doesn’t seem to be leadership material in this era. If he was playing in the 1990s — when the most of the Cs and As were usually the best players on the team — then Kane would have been an alternate captain by now.
Bryan Bickell (left wing)
Odds: 10 to 1
Why Bickell might be named assistant captain: Bickell has been a regular on the Blackhawks for five years, and has ingrained himself as part of the community with his charitable work, including pit bull rescue. Plus, he’s 29, a forward and under contract for two more seasons. And he’s pretty confident that he isn’t leaving Chicago.
Why Bickell might not be named assistant captain: Considering his $4 million annual salary, it still seems very likely that Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman will unload Bickell soon to make salary cap room for restricted free agent Marcus Kruger — or for Seabrook if the ‘Hawks try to keep him past his current contract.
Andrew Desjardins (left wing)
Odds: 25 to 1
Why Desjardins might be named assistant captain: Desjardins is 31 and kicked around in three different minor leagues over four years — including a year in the Central Hockey League — before finally becoming an NHL regular. The determination to work hard and rise through the ranks makes for a good leader.
Why Desjardins might not be named assistant captain: He hasn’t been with the team very long, and seems to be more of a spare part than a core component.
Some New Veteran Player Signed Later This Summer
Odds: 100 to 1
Why Some New Veteran Player might be named assistant captain: Sometimes, when an aging and well-respected veteran moves to a different team, he is named as an assistant captain based on what he accomplished over his career. In the unlikely event that the Blackhawks acquire a long-tenured player, say like Jaromir Jagr, they would be remiss to not name him assistant captain.
Why Some New Veteran Player might not be named assistant captain: This one is a long shot, considering that there aren’t any future Hall of Famers in the free agent pool right now, and the ‘Hawks already seem to have enough veteran leadership from their current players. Plus, any of the Blackhawks named above would be more worthy than an interloper.
So, who do you think the Blackhawks will name as their second assistant captain for the 2015-16 season? Leave a comment below. ■