14 September 2011
Ha look at that guy's face in the first row.
Now down to business.
There's no debating that Chris Pronger will be captain of the Philadelphia Flyers for the next X years. Anyone who is even pretending that the Flyers captaincy is up for grabs is just douching you.
And without a doubt, either Kimmo Timonen or Danny Briere should wear one of the A's (our vote's for KT).
But Scott Hartnell needs to wear the other. And here's why.
First off, we can't have any more of this John-Stevens-everyone's-a-captain shit. It's confusing and it doesn't set clear roles among the team. The guys need to know who's in charge and who that guy's lieutenants are. People perform better when they understand their roles. And for both the team and Scott Hartnell to best understand their roles, and to perform, Hartnell needs to have an A stitched above his titty.
Scott Hartnell is now 29, almost a veteran. As a 29 year old and one of the longest tenured Flyers, he's in the perfect position to broker the relationship between the team's young stars and old guard - something that has seemingly been a point of tension in the past. While this team will be led by its veterans its success will have just as much to do with the play of Claude Giroux, JVR, Braydon Schenn, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Carle, and Braydon Coburn.
Hartnell, while certifiably a goofball and a guy who has trouble staying on his skates, is a leader on the ice. He 'goes to the difficult spots', he plays a physical brand, he puts up a respectable point total, and he sticks up for his teammates.
And here's the thing - Hartnell will grow with the A. He'll expand like one of those things you add water to when he's put in the Alternate/Assistant Captain role. They said it all last year, and though they may have been using it to hide something at the time, there is some truth to it. Real veterans like Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen don't need a letter sewn to their sweater to lead. A younger guy in that locker room does need the A like a hall pass, like a license to unlock the leadership he might have been holding back out of deference to the vets. Or a captain who was struggling for control.
It's not just an age thing but Hartnell is the 4th oldest Flyer forward behind Jagr(weird), Betts, and Briere. He splits the defense. He's been a Flyer longer than every forward, save Briere, and every defenseman except Kimmo and Coburn. He's in the right spot for this and he's ready.
Twitter is a great analogy for where Hartnell is in his life and with this team. He's young enough to know what it is but old enough to know he'd get himself in trouble on it. He could explain it to a veteran and then partake in the "kids these days talk." He could talk to a rookie about Biznasty's latest tweet with an honest interest.
Like it or not, ready or not, afraid or not, Scott Hartnell is the gate keeper of this Flyers team. He is the bridge between old and new, young and old. And when you peel back the clown layer he's the kind of hockey player you want representing your team, and a leader in his own right and way.
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