For now the Arizona Coyotes have decided to forego naming a new captain to step in to the role that was held by Shane Doan for 14 years. Instead the team has named five players that will serve as alternate captains: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brad Richardson, Alex Goligoski and Derek Stepan.
"After numerous discussions and thorough evaluation during training camp, Rick and I have decided that it's best to go with five alternate captains to start the season," General Manager John Chayka said. "With a new head coach and several new players joining the organization, this will be a transition year as far as leadership is concerned. Fortunately, we have a very strong leadership group in our dressing room and collectively, we're confident that these players will do an excellent job leading our team on and off the ice."
In the announcement it was noted that Ekman-Larsson and Hjalmarsson will wear the “A” for every game and the third position will be rotated on a game-by-game basis between Richardson, Goligoski and Stepan. Throughout the preseason Head Coach Rick Tocchet has maintained that having a strong leadership group is more important than naming a captain. He has even said that players don’t have to have a letter to be a leader. In a recent Arizona Sports article Tocchet told Craig Morgan that he wants the team to focus on hockey and allow the captain to emerge, whether it takes weeks or months.
"This is a great opportunity for Oliver, Nik, Derek, Brad and Alex to step up and demonstrate their leadership abilities," said Coyotes Head Coach Rick Tocchet. "We need everyone in our room to lead but these five players are all great people and have the necessary NHL experience to collectively guide our team. I'm excited for them and the challenge ahead."
Ekman-Larsson, 26, is now the longest serving member of the Coyotes having played 494 games with the team for seven seasons. Raised in Tingsryds, Sweden, earlier this year he won a gold medal as a member of Team Sweden for the IIHF Men’s World Championship. Ekman-Larsson holds the NHL record for most game-winning goals in a season by a defender scoring eight during the 2015-16 campaign.
Hjalmarsson, 30, is new to the team and also a three-time Stanley Cup Champion having been acquired this summer in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. A native of Eksjo, Sweden he earned an Olympic Silver Medal with Team Sweden at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Richardson, 32, won a Stanley Cup with the 2012 Los Angeles Kings the team that broke the hearts of every Coyotes fan in the Western Conference Final. (We forgive you Brad...kinda.) Originally from Belleville, Ontario, Richardson has appeared in 50 playoffs games and also holds the distinct honor of being the oldest guy on the team. This will be his third season with the Coyotes and fans are relieved to see him return from his season ending injury.
Goligoski, 32, is now in his second season with the team, and his 11th in the league. In 2009 he lifted the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and has previously served as an alternate captain with the Dallas Stars. Originally from Grand Rapids, Minnesota he was beat out as the oldest guy on the team by being a few months younger than Richardson.
Stepan, 27, has never played a season in the NHL without making the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Coyotes new first line center was acquired this summer in a trade with the New York Rangers. A native of Hastings, Minnesota he served as an Alternate Captain with the Rangers since 2014. Stepan also served as the captain of Team USA at the 2010 IIHF World U20 Championships