It’s hardly a secret who the Detroit Red Wings will eventually have as their next captain. There is the matter, however, of when it will happen, and what happens until then. As usual, I’m predicting who I think are the best three options, but the recent announcement that longtime Red Wings blueliner Niklas Kronwall has retired definitely limits the options here.
The next Red Wings captain has a lot of history to stack up against. Centre Steve Yzerman spent an all-time record 20 years as captain, 1986/87-2005/06, tallying 1537 points (609G, 928A) in 1303 games, winning a Conn Smythe Trophy (1998), Selke Trophy (2000), Lester B. Pearson Award (1989; now Ted Linsday Award), Bill Masterton Trophy (2003), and Lester Patrick Trophy (2006), as well as three Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2002), nine All-Star Games (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2000), and one postseason First Team All-Star honour (2000). After he retired in, defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom spent the last six seasons of his career as captain, 2006/07-2011/12, scoring 336 points (75G, 261A) in 468 games and winning three Norris Trophies (2007, 2008, 2011), three postseason First-Team All-Star honours (2007, 2008, 2011), two postseason Second Team All-Star honours (2009, 2010), and of course a Stanley Cup (2008). Following Lidstrom’s retirement, left winger Henrik Zetterberg was named captain. In 414 games, Zetterberg scored 336 points (85G, 251A), won an NHL Foundation Player Award (2013) and King Clancy Trophy (2015), and oversaw the extension of the Red Wings’ playoff appearances streak to 25 years up to 2016, for better or worse, before hanging the skates up in 2018 due to back issues.
With the exception of Dylan Larkin, the best candidates for the captaincy all have their declining contribution to the team and/or the strong possibility of being traded for prospects and draft picks as knocks against them for getting the “C.” In the case of Larkin, there’s always the consideration that you don’t want to throw off a young star by piling on off-ice responsibility.
Even though Abdelkader is several years removed from several 20-goal and 40-point seasons and finished with his worst non-lockout points total since 2010, Abdelkader is the kind of player one can easily see a rebuilding team naming captain. A physical player, with a reputation for being able to chip in offensively, who has been around for a while and has experience.
At this point in his career, Green’s 30-goal season and back-to-back 70-point finishes seem like distant memories. Even so, Green has finished with at least 30 points in each of his seasons for Detroit, with the exception of the 2018/19 season, in which he was limited to 43 games due to injuries. Prorated for 82 games, Green finished his seasons with Detroit scoring at a 38-, 41-, 41-, and 49-point pace, respectively, averaging at least 20:00 minutes per night with the exception of 2016. With a contribution and experience like that, Green would make a good pick for captain if Detroit decides to hold off on naming Dylan Larkin captain and pick a veteran to bridge the gap. Green’s worsening injury history and the fact the soon-to-be-34-year-old is a regular fixture in trade talks hurts his case.
All of the above assumes that the Red Wings just don’t go ahead and name Larkin captain. Larkin has the distinction of being one of the fastest draft picks in recent franchise history to graduate to NHL time. He has skill and speed making him easily the best player on the Red Wings roster. He is coming off a 32-goal and 73-point season. He has everyone expecting him to be named captain eventually, and at age 23, can’t exactly be considered too young to be named captain.
Obviously, I think Larkin is going to be named captain. I’m holding myself to a three-player rule for each part of this series, but I don’t see anyone but Larkin being named captain. I think there’s roughly as good a chance he gets named captain this season as there is of him getting named captain next season.