From reports surfacing throughout the league, it sounds like the Edmonton Oilers are close to naming their new captain, who will replace the somewhat-recently-departed Shawn Horcoff. If what we hear carries any truth to it, the choice could be a surprising one.
Earlier this summer, it seemed like Taylor Hall was the easy decision to be named the next captain of the Oilers. Names like Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could also be in the mix, and perhaps even Andrew Ference, the defensive free agent signed earlier this summer.
At this point, though, it doesn’t seem like it will be any of the four. Reports out of Edmonton are that the Oilers are set to name Sam Gagner as their next captain. A player that was looked at as potentially departing at some point this summer, this is quite a turnaround for Gagner.
Gagner had a breakout season in 2013, and it was one that the Oilers had been waiting for from him. He finished with what was, by far, the highest scoring rate of his career, notching 38 points (14 G, 24 A) in 48 games. It was 11 points short of his career high, in 31 games sooner than he had posted the career mark.
The potential of Gagner as captain of the Oilers is intriguing on a couple of different levels. First, he’s not a guy that you think of as the captain type. He hasn’t been mentioned as a real candidate, in addition to the fact that the other candidates (Hall, Eberle, Ference) have at least worn an ‘A’ in their career.
Second, the fact that new head coach Dallas Eakins is naming a captain at all is interesting. There isn’t a requirement to necessarily have a ‘C’ out there, and the Oilers have only been without Horcoff for a couple of months. Perhaps he already had an idea about the character of some of his guys coming in, but that might be unlikely.
It isn’t that Gagner is the wrong choice, he’s simply an unexpected one. If he’s named captain of the Oilers, it’d be an interesting move, there’s no doubt about that. One thing is for sure, though, and that’s the fact that Gagner has gone from a player whose future with the club was in doubt, to one who is a clear piece of the core group of this team.