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    A Take on Captaincy in The NHL and in Virtual Hockey (Part 2/2)

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    It's been a while to say the least, in October 2018 we released the first part of my analysis on captaincy in the NHL and its virtual counterpart and now I'm back with an updated second part and views from a one year older (smarter?) me.

    If you missed it or need a refresher, please take a look at the first part here.

    With that out of the way, welcome to the second part of our captaincy analysis. We'll start with the captains of Eastern Conference and after that discuss some thoughts about NHL20 captaincy and what EA could do to improve it.


    Eastern Conference:

    Atlantic Division:

    Boston Bruins – Zdeno Chara

    The Giant. Has a hulking presence in the Bruins defense. Is the longest reigning captain currently in NHL also the longest ongoing career in the NHL. Even though Chara is not getting any younger and he’s not that fast, he still has a solid contribution both on defense and offense. The slapshot of this monster of a man is still one of the hardest in the whole league. Has been training like a madman in the summer so I don’t expect his performance to deteriorate too much from the last few years. The question still remains: Does he still have juice left for one more year or is this his last? My guess is that next year the skipper could be Bergeron.

    Buffalo Sabres – Jack Eichel

    Last year was the first year for Eichel as captain and Buffalo did not make play-offs (again). It was more about the quality of the team than about Eichels ability to lead, though. It remains unknown if he is captain material and if he can lead Buffalo to greatness in the future, but he is currently the best chance that the Sabres have. With him, Dahlin and Mittelstadt, Buffalo has good set of future superstars and in the coming years we will see them in playoff contention.

    Detroit Red Wings – Vacant

    The reign of swedes ended with Zetterberg. Motor City is in turmoil for a second season straight. No light at the end of the tunnel and still no captain. The team has bigger problems than assigning their captaincy, but they should have one to lead them through these troubled waters. I would like to see Larkin appointed C and start the building from there. There is a long road ahead, but Larkin is young, dependable and has good point potential.

    Florida Panthers – Aleksander Barkov

    Let’s say it out loud, Mackenzie as a captain was a failure. It is good that Panthers saw and acknowledged that, set their sights to the future and appointed Barkov as captain in 18-19. Barkov is everything that captain should be, he puts up points but is no slouch in defense either, has a high work ethic and is an exceptional gentleman of a player. Those things are the definition of leading by example and I would not be surprised if Barkov is the captain in Florida for the next 10 seasons. Florida should easily be in the playoffs this year and I hope that they will finally be the serious cup contender with Barkov at the helm. 

    Montreal Canadiens – Shea Weber

    Montreal is no easy place to be captain as hockey is a way bigger sport in there than in most parts of USA and Canada. That influences many players too much as your performance on the ice reflects to your everyday life. If you are on a winning streak people will high-five you in the street and that surely gives boost, but there’s a big caveat here too a Montreal’s Captain cannot escape the responsibility that comes with poor performance at all. If you've lost a game, you will hear about it the next day during grocery shopping and you just have to deal with it. That role is not for everybody, but Weber has adapted to this role very well. Weber is a senior player and might have 3-4 good seasons left. He starts to slow down on the ice but his slapshot is still deadly. The Canadiens team itself is just mediocre and they must do their absolute best to reach playoffs. I am a bit surprised how well they have started the season but that is partially because of so many underperformers in the Atlantic division. The performances have started to even out as of late though.

    Ottawa Senators – Vacant

    The era of Karlsson has been over for a while now. Last season was a disaster as expected but there are signs of hope in the future. Jean-Gabriel Pageau needs to be appointed Captain as soon as possible and start building play-off team from there. Pageau is quite a small player but is a good scorer and has many good years ahead of him. Team around him is not of a great quality but you have to start from somewhere. Let’s check up on them in 2-3 seasons, before that I don’t see any chances of playoffs.

    Tampa Bay Lightning – Steven Stamkos

    Stammer - He might just be the best shooter in the whole NHL and we all know that, but this season and in 18-19 we have seen a new type of Stamkos as he has adapted a bit more to a playmaking style. That makes him even more of a threat to opponents. Stamkos if one those players who can win games all by himself, but as he has developed more into a team guy as he's gotten older that just might be the missing piece that leads him to greatness. 

    Toronto Maple Leafs – John Tavares 

    The Leafs appointed Tavares expectedly as Captain for this season. So far it has not held any fruit, but that is not because of Tavares. Tavares is the best choice for the Leafs and I see them as potential cup contenders in coming years. This year has started with a crisis around Babcock and it escalated as Toronto sacked him. it remains to be seen if Tavares and coach Keefe can turn the ship around and sail towards playoffs. If not this season, then the next. The Stanley Cup is coming back to Toronto in the coming years that’s for sure, but is it this season, next season or the season after that?

    Metropolitan Division:

    Carolina Hurricanes – Jordan Staal

    After a double captaincy catastrophe 18-19 Hurricanes came to their senses and they appointed Williams as captain. Williams retired after the season and Carolina appointed Staal as Captain for this season. Staal has worn the Captain badge before and is a logical choice because of that, but I would have liked to see Aho as captain. Aho signed contract till 23/24 season with them and is their future Franchise player. Why not give him more responsibility and make him even more committed to Carolina? 

    Columbus Blue Jackets – Nick Foligno

    Who else for Columbus? Has grown as a leader in the last few seasons by big leaps. Big player on the ice, but HUGE player in the locker room, one of those players that you can’t judge by their point production because the overall impact of the player is much bigger for the team. Won the King Clancy trophy (Leadership/humanitarian award) and Mark Messier leadership award in 16/17. At 31 years old he can still play for quite some time and we shall see if he gets the crown for his career and maybe goes down in history as a true great captain. 

    New Jersey Devils – Andy Greene

    No thrills, no frills defender. Well liked player by fans and players around him. Will not set any scoring or passing records, but he is the definition of reliability on defense. Has played all of his NHL career for the Devils and I’m sure he won’t be going to any other team. There is one caveat with Greene as there is with many other captains, he has not won anything major as captain or as a player so when or at this late in his career we might say if the time comes to lead the team to victory is he ready for it and can he even do it?

    New York Islanders – Anders Lee 

    The Tavares era ended. Lee took the reins and he is the natural choice for the Islanders. Dependable player with good scoring sense. Has played all his NHL matches for the Islanders and knows the team and their mentality well. Islanders surprised us all last season as they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. They have started this season very well and if nothing drastic happens they will make playoffs for the second year in a row. It seems that the Islanders did not need Tavares at all, and they are playing way better without him.  

    New York Rangers – Vacant

    Marc Staal or Mika Zibanejad would have been the natural choices for the Rangers captaincy this season, but they have not appointed anyone yet. Rangers was a messy bunch last season, but they made an impact in the summer as they signed Artemi Panarin with a huge over 11 million AAV contract. The season so far has been mixed for them and they have not been able to be solid either away or at home. With Kaapo Kakko, Panarin and Zibanejad they now have the star players, now they need to settle with a captain and start chasing the playoff spot again.

    Philadelphia Flyers – Claude Giroux

    Fast on skates and fast with his hands, pretty small in size but big in attitude. Has already won the World Championship and World Cup so he sure knows how to win. His leadership skill are enough to lead quality team to the Finals and even a championship but I just don’t see that the 19/20 Flyers is that team. I hope he proves me wrong because he is just so entertaining to watch on the ice.

    Pittsburgh Penguins – Sidney Crosby

    Who else? Has won everything in his career. A top two player in the league, might even be the best depending on who you ask. Teammates and fans love him, and others hate him. Has a reputation of doing tricks on the grey area of the rulebook and that pisses lots of people off. Even the haters cannot deny Sids ability to lead the team from one win to another and even from one cup to another. I am 100% sure that he will still get more huge wins in his career as his fire for winning is next to none. Has had lots of concussions in his career so there is a bit of speculation that he might retire early, but I think that he is so driven to win that he will play for another decade.

    Washington Capitals – Alexander Ovechkin

    The greatest goal scorer of his generation and some might say greatest scorer of all-time. As a younger player had some problems with his defensive mentality but has improved his defensive efforts and as of now, he is a very well-rounded player. Has a plethora of medals from World Championships, World Cup and now even Stanley Cup. The biggest problem with Alexander the Great though is that although he plays with passion, that fire gets the best of him sometimes. He lives and dies by the game and sometimes it makes him do great things and miraculous goals that look impossible but the downside is that the team sometimes suffers. In 18/19 Alexander proved that he can be the leader that team needs and finally grabbed the Cup to his Capitals. That seals the deal of the speculation if he can or cannot win Stanley Cup. The Cup win boosted to Alexander the Great and he scored over 50 goals last season and Capitals are one of the strongest favorites to win the Cup this year. 


    Captains in NHL 20

    How do the captains influence the game when you are playing NHL 20 and how much of an impact does that give? The answer is easy: none, nada zilch, zero! 

    It does not matter if its HUT, Franchise mode, Threes, online versus or shootout, captains on the ice do not have any effect on the game and they are just like any other player. I think that it should not be like that. Captains make all the difference in real life why they cannot do that in game also? 

    EASHL is kind of a breed of its own though. There the assigned Captains do matter because when you are playing with human players on your team, communication is one of the key parts of the game and captains do it in EASHL kind of like real hockey captains communicate in the NHL, making sure that a plan is followed and everybody does their part.

    I still remember that in HUT there were meaningful ”A” and ”C” cards a couple of years ago.The ”A” card gave +1 to all stats to a maximum of two players in your team. The ”C” card gave +2 to all stats to one player in your team. That way you could boost your favorite players and they made kind of a difference and captains meant something. I really think that it was a good feature and I don’t have a clue why it was changed so that “A” and “C” cards are now purely cosmetic. I really would like to see it make return in future NHL. But that does not solve the problem that in another modes the captain doesn’t have any impact. Communication with referees is a key part of a captain in real hockey but I think that cannot be implemented meaningfully to a NHL game. Yes, referees can be improved but that is a discussion for a different article 😉

    I have been thinking about this quite a lot lately because I think that captains play such a crucial role in a teams success or failure in the real world, so I think that they have to have a bigger impact in NHL games too. I watch hockey passionately and I also passionately play NHL on consoles so it’s natural for me to compare the two and think about things to improve or change. The solution that I came up with is really quite simple, it does not change the fundamental gameplay a lot but captains would have straight and noticeable ”impact” on a game. So my idea is a ”momentum”. It has been debated for years now that NHL games have invisible momentum and ”ice tilt” features, but let’s not go into those too much now. On my model whenever ”A” does something significant for example a big clean hit, assist, goal, successful deke, or a blocked shot your whole team gets a 5-30 second boost to the whole teams overall stats. I was thinking about +2 to all stats or something similar. When ”C” does the same thing the boost would be more, for example +3 to all stats. On both cases there would be a visible difference like the overhead player indicator chances to upwards pointing triangle for the duration of the momentum. When the assistant captains or the captains does something hurting your team like takes a penalty or accidentally scores an own goal the team would take a similar negative momentums -2 overall for ”A” or -3 overall for ”C”. The duration would be affected by the length of the penalty or severity of the mistake, but I would make it equal length as the boost so 5-30 seconds, this would be indicated by downwards pointing triangle as the player indicator. 

    I really think that this would work in all play modes and it would encourage a bit different playstyles and bring it a bit closer to real hockey. It would not make or break a match but potentially this feature would make captains relevant and knowing when you are controlling one might affect your play style. Potentially this brings one extra strategical element to the game and makes manual line changes mean more and besides timeouts gives you more of a “control” on your teams momentum and I think that when you have visible momentums that you can affect yourself the game becomes more enjoyable for everybody.


    What do you guys think? Are my analyses spot on or did I miss something? What about captains in NHL games? Is this a feature we should see in future games? Let me hear your opinions in the comment section I am eagerly awaiting your input!

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