Edmonton - July 12, 2013 - The moment the Edmonton Oilers decided to ship Shawn Horcoff to the Dallas Stars, the rumours started to swirl on who would become the fourteenth captain in franchise history.
While almost everyone would agree the answer to that question is Taylor Hall, there is absolutely no need for this organization to rush into handing over the leadership reigns to their soon-to-be twenty-two year old budding superstar.
From the moment the Oilers drafted Hall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, many expected the kid to not only become the face of the franchise but also grow into a leadership role on the club.
Through his first three seasons in the National Hockey League, he has done exactly that and become the undisputed leader of the core young group.
That being said, for a team going through yet another facelift, both on and off the ice, and with the pressure to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs having never being greater, naming Hall captain would frankly be a mistake. Can they not just allow the guy to simply focus on his game and do all that he can, to help get this team back to the post season?
Outside of the recently departed former captain, one could and some actually have, questioned the veteran leadership inside the Oilers dressing room for last number of years. Being the captain of an NHL team carries many responsibilities with it. Be it dealing with the media on a daily basis, leading by example both on and off the ice or being able to rally the troops and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Generally, it is a role handled by a veteran player, until the likes of a Taylor Hall are ready to take on the role...usually in their mid to late twenties. With the addition of former Boston Bruins alternate captain Andrew Ference into the mix, the trio of "A's" from 2013 all likely returning (Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nick Schultz) and a guy like Ladislav Smid more than deserving of having a letter already on his sweater, why the big rush to put it all on #4's shoulders?
Perhaps it is just me but does it not make perfect sense to use some sort of rotation that would include Eberle, Ference, Hall and Smid ? After all, was not one of the big reasons general manager Craig MacTavish decided to offer the thirteen year vet a multi-year deal, on the first day of unrestricted free agency, due to his winning pedigree and leadership abilities?
While the large majority of Oilers fans took to bashing Horcoff for the job he did while wearing the "C", the truth of the matter, is he did a fantastic job. He put up with a lot over his last three years in Edmonton and it wasn't all due to his massive contract. With the team struggling as much as they have in recent years, he was the one who had to repeatedly answer the questions as to why.
To their credit, both Eberle and Hall have rarely not faced the music following an Oilers loss but it fails in comparison to what Horcoff took on for his teammates. That is what a good captain does, which is exactly what I would expect the former Windsor Spitfires standout to eventually do...but again, why have him do it so soon?
Coming off a season in which he was a top ten NHL scorer and the second leading point getter in the Western Conference, one would think adding more to his plate wouldn't be the route go. At twenty-one year's of age, Hall has yet to get through a full 82 game schedule, without being bit by the injury bug. Having played just 171 career games, is he even ready to take on such a role?
In my opinion, it's safe to assume no current Edmonton Oilers player expects more from himself and his teammates than Taylor Hall. Everything about the former first overall pick screams captain. However, allowing him the opportunity to get one more season under his belt, before making him the fourteenth captain in franchise history, would do nothing but benefit both the player and organization over the long haul.