As we creep towards the opening of NHL training camps, the Seattle Kraken roster is essentially settled. The team has been picked, prospects have been drafted, and free agents have been signed. But one important piece of business remains; who’s going to lead this band of misfits?
When combing through the roster, the greenness of the Kraken lineup is immediately noticeable, with only 3 skaters eclipsing 30 years of age. Although the recent trend of younger players being entrusted with the captaincy (Toews, Crosby, McDavid) suggests, age is but a number, no one on the Kraken’s books has shown the same level of success at the same point in the careers.
All this means is that there is a provocative discussion to be had surrounding the core leadership group, yet you’ll come to see there’s one candidate that looks to be more plausible than the others.
Let’s dive in!
1. Jaden Schwartz
Although I am often not one to harp on about intangibles and “knowing how to win” when it comes to evaluating players, Schwartz’s recent success in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as well as his experience playing for Canada in junior competitions, should grant him heavy consideration to don the “C.”
Schwartz paces the Kraken roster in every playoff-related category, including total games played, goals scored, and overall points compiled and was St. Louis’s 2nd leading scoring during the Blues’ triumphant run to the Stanley Cup in 2019. Schwartz hasn’t been a passenger on successful teams and could impart his knowledge of the grind of playoff hockey onto his less seasoned peers.
Further, Schwartz was named to two of Canada’s IIHF World Junior Championship rosters, being named captain for the 2012 edition as one of the squad’s elder statesmen. Being chosen to lead such a contingent is nothing to scoff at on a team with a bevy of future NHL stars.
Even though Schwartz himself is still only 29 years old, he has had the opportunity to play under and learn from Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo at various points in his career. Their influence could only have rubbed off on him.
2. Jordan Eberle
When you think of an inspiring leader, you tend to picture an individual with a habit of living up to the moment, breaking through immense pressure, and delivering when his team needs a spark. With Eberle, you’ve got that in spades.
Most Canadians will never forget Gord Miller’s historic call of Eberle’s last-second goal against the Russians to send the World Juniors semifinal into overtime (“I can!”), a moment that firmly entrenched him in junior hockey lore. Even more impressive is that despite featuring for a country with a seemingly eternal supply line of NHL superstars, Eberle stands alone atop the all-time goal-scoring leaderboard, with his 26 points in two tournaments ranking second only to Eric Lindros.
This emphasis on Eberle’s junior exploits is not meant to diminish Eberle’s impressive NHL career. With almost 800 career games, Eberle is the second longest-tenured player (third in playoff appearances) under contract for the Kraken. He played an important role in the Islanders appearing in back-to-back conference finals for the first time since the franchise’s heyday in the 1980s.
The young Kraken core should find some comfort in Eberle’s transition from a junior superstar to a solid NHL forward. His propensity to contribute when the tension is cranked up only makes him an even more appealing candidate.
3. Mark Giordano
Giordano should be the logical choice and pre-eminent frontrunner, as the veteran defenseman possesses extensive experience operating as the de-facto leader of a locker room, carrying the mantle of the captaincy with the Flames since 2013.
The honor was bestowed upon Giordano after years of developing under the tutelage of one of the sport’s most hallowed captains in Jarome Iginla, whose selflessness and immeasurable work ethic imprinted upon Giordano’s own interpretation of how a captain should carry himself.
His resume is augmented by the accumulation of nearly 1000 games in the NHL. He departs the Flames organization as one of its franchise leaders in an array of statistical categories.
His off-ice community work further exemplifies his commitment to making a tangible difference in the lives of others, as his charitable endeavors include collaborating with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for the underprivileged and donating athletic equipment and school supplies to several schools in the Calgary area.
With only 2 other players (Jordan Eberle and Marcus Johansson) on the roster cracking age 30, an extremely young lineup should look to Giordano as an example of how to tirelessly work at your craft and leveraging your prestigious reputation to make a difference in one’s local community.
Eberle and Schwartz provide invaluable experience and success at the sport’s highest levels and have played alongside several exemplary leaders themselves, but this one should be a no-brainer.
However, I would not be surprised to see this trio form the core leadership group in the Kraken’s inaugural season, with Giordano being named captain and the other two flanking him in assistant captain roles.
When it comes to training a young group, you could do worse than these three veterans occupying prominent leadership positions.