(Photo credits, L-R–Umberger: Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE; Prospal: Russell LaBounty-US PRESSWIRE; Johnson: Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE)
Aside from the fact that he was the face of the franchise since his NHL debut in 2002, Nash had been the team’s captain since 2006. His departure now puts a “Vacancy” sign on the position. While the team won’t focus on picking a new captain until training camp in September at the earliest, it’s more than likely that the thought has crossed players’ minds as they continue their offseason training.
Leadership is important to the Blue Jackets players. “We’re a young group of guys, and hopefully we can stick together for a long period of time and form into a good, solid winning organization and move forward,” defenseman James Wisniewski said in an interview with Blue Jackets TV. “We have a good group of young guys, and that goes a long way. That’s how great organizations are built, from the ground up. It takes one leader to carve a path and a bunch of followers to widen it.”
While fans wait for the Blue Jackets to begin deciding who should be the next to wear the C, here are three guys on the roster who could be on the short list:
R.J. Umberger: Alternate captain Umberger posted 20-20-40 in the 2011-12 season, and his five-year contract assures that he’ll be here for quite a while. It’s possible that he’ll be on a line with Brandon Dubinsky, who came to the team via the Nash trade, and their similar styles could be a big boost for the Blue Jackets offensively.
Vinny Prospal: Prospal came to the Blue Jackets in 2011, was named alternate captain alongside Umberger and recorded 16-39-55 for the 2011-12 season. His experience in the league, coupled with his teammates describing him as playing like a young man, bear well for the 37 year old.
Jack Johnson: He’s only been with the team since February, but Johnson has made a great impression on the blue line, especially when paired with Wisniewski in what’s known as “Controlled Chaos”. As for his leadership experience, he was captain of the U.S. hockey team in both the 2010 and 2012 IIHF World Championships.
In what could be seen as a bit of foreshadowing, Blue Jackets TV asked Johnson about the role of being a leader. “When something like that is given to you, it’s a huge honor, but you also have to remember to be yourself. A lot of people kind of change because they feel like they have to be someone else. I think it’s important to just be who you are because they’ve named you captain or assistant captain or just put you in a leadership role of any kind because of who you are. I think that all the guys on this team do a great job of just being themselves and bringing out the best in everyone.”
Whomever the team chooses, the next captain will not only have to lead them into battle, but he’ll have the daunting task of filling some very big shoes.