The Philadelphia Flyers have been without a team captain since Claude Giroux was traded away last spring. Since that time, there has been no official team captain, although rumors have swirled around many. When John Tortorella took over as head coach, he did not name a captain as he wanted to get a firm evaluation of the team before he committed to a leader in the locker room.
Then the season started. Two potential choices, Cam Atkinson and Sean Couturier were hurt right from the start and have yet to play this year. Atkinson had previous experience with Tortorella and could’ve been a great bridge between the team and their new coach. Couturier has been an alternate captain before and seems to have a major leadership role on this team. Considering how the team has played this year, you wonder how much better the Flyers would be if they had had one or both of them on the ice this season. It is yet to be seen if they will return at all next year.
Scott Laughton is the only Flyer with a letter on his sweater. He does a lot of the little fundamental things right and is the closest thing the team has to a captain right now. He is the Philadelphia version of Jordan Staal for the Hurricanes…maybe he doesn’t put up monster numbers, but he is too valuable to give up as well.
After Laughton, things get kinda murky. On the defensive side, there really is no clear leader. Nobody is consistent enough in their play and nobody has that “Follow Me!” mentality. Cam York could develop into that, but he is just a rookie still. Justin Braun was a quiet leader and Tortorella praised him in the fall for all the things he does, but he has been healthy scratched too many times to really make an impact. And with him most likely departing in free agency or retirement this summer, he is not an option.
Carter Hart is definitely a leader on the ice. However, teams rarely look to goalies as a leader. Sure, they rally behind them when they are playing hot. They do what they can to defend them. But it is rare to see the team’s goalie as the vocal rallying point in the locker room.
As for the forwards, a lot of it depends on who sticks around. Kevin Hayes could easily be a team leader, but has never fully seemed to embrace his opportunity. Travis Konecny also seems as if he could do it, but isn’t quite the team leader. One of the biggest problems that James van Riemsdyk had is that he never seemed to take the younger guys under his wing and show them the ropes with all of his experiences. He could’ve been a great mentor to the guys on the team and helped them further develop and improve their game.
It will be interesting to see if there is any big shake up this offseason. That will determine a lot of what happens next. The Flyers are still not in any position to acquire any major free agents as the salary cap is strangling them. The uncertain future of the injured stars, Ryan Ellis included, also puts the Flyers in a bind for now.