The Ottawa Senators had no shortage of talented hockey players they could have chosen for their leadership group in 2022-23.
In different circumstances, Tim Stützle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson or Alex DeBrincat would all have made fine choices to join captain Brady Tkachuk and alternate Thomas Chabot, who’d both been wearing letters for each of the past two seasons.
But the only real option for the Sens was the one they rolled with today – newcomer Claude Giroux.
Giroux’s 14 seasons of NHL experience, including the last 10 as Philadelphia’s captain, will be invaluable to Ottawa’s youthful group. He’ll wear an “A” but it might as well read “CC” for co-captain. He takes over from Connor Brown (traded to Washington), Nick Paul (traded to Tampa) and Nikita Zaitsev, who each wore that third “A” at various times last season.
At 34, Giroux still has plenty of game and just committed to Ottawa for the next three seasons – almost the perfect amount of time to help mentor the 23 year old Tkachuk and even help him avoid mistakes he made as an NHL captain when he was Tkachuk’s age.
“When you’ve been in the league for a long time, you kind of learn from past situations you’ve been in,” Giroux told Faces last month. “A lot of situations where I’ve acted as a captain, I’d like to take it back and do it differently. At the end of the day, I’m just going to go out there, be myself, and enjoy the game everyday.
“I’ve heard a lot of great things about Brady as a captain. Just from playing against him, he just looks like a guy you want to follow. To be a leader, you don’t really have to say much or push guys, you just have to be yourself. That’s one of the reasons somebody is a leader. Just the way they are every day.”
Tkachuk has been the club’s top scorer for three years running and owns all the intangibles to be a truly great captain. He’s popular and supportive; outgoing and boisterous; and ready to either defend teammates or drag them into the fight. But he can also be an emotional player, who’ll now be dealing for the first time with the pressure of much heavier expectations. Adversity is a lot harder to absorb when you’re captaining a team with playoff hopes.
In contrast, Giroux has seen it all.
And as the Sens prepare to open their main training camp this week, there’s every reason to believe Giroux can help expedite Tkachuk’s growth as a truly elite NHL captain.
By Steve Warne