After an offseason of breathless speculation over who the Carolina Hurricanes would name as their sixth captain in team history, the big announcement came Thursday at high noon.
Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal, long speculated as two of the leading contenders, joined head coach Bill Peters and GM Ron Francis at the head table. So far, everything was going according to form.
And then, the Hurricanes made the announcement that the two would be co-captains. The air went out of the room. Social media responded with incredulity.
After all that, the Hurricanes effectively announced that they will enter their second full season without a captain. On one of the biggest decisions that a hockey team can make, the Canes punted from the opponent’s 35-yard line.
Sure, the spin says that when you have a multitude of logical and qualified choices, they couldn’t narrow it down to just one. But a pessimist could look at the same situation and say that the Hurricanes didn’t believe that they had one solitary player on the roster who was ready to be The Man. That’s far from a vote of confidence.
More to the point: can anyone see Rod Brind’Amour circa 2006 sharing the captaincy with anyone at all?
And it wasn’t just the decision itself that was troubling. The press conference raised some questions of its own. Chief among them: where was Jeff Skinner? He was named a permanent alternate captain, yet was nowhere to be found. If you hold a press conference saying that you will be naming the team’s captains, which admittedly had a different meaning than everyone thought it would, why wouldn’t you have the entire group there?
And while you’re at it, pour one out for poor Victor Rask, unceremoniously dumped after a single season as an alternate captain. Obviously few thought Rask was a candidate to be named captain, but why was he qualified for an A last season yet nothing this year?
This isn’t to disparage Staal or Faulk, both of whom would be well-chosen captains on their own. But that’s the operative phrase: would be. It’s a cliche, but it’s true: by naming two captains, the Hurricanes really named none.
The Canes could have gone in so many different directions, any of which would have led to second-guessing for maybe a few minutes but would have been immediately followed by unity and a shared excitement, ready to follow the new captain into the new season. Now, they’re faced with a situation - entirely of their own making - where you’re inviting factions to form, and undermining the whole operation.
If this is the way they wanted it to be, why not just go with rotating alternate captains again? It might prompt a bit of eye rolling from the fans, but at least it would avoid the forced uneasiness that today’s announcement will surely beget.
Naming a captain is one of the basic things every hockey team all the way down to pee-wee does. It takes effort to bungle something this elementary, yet the Canes did just that.
Rather than a day to celebrate a new corner being turned two days before the season, the Hurricanes instead made the most baffling decision at PNC Arena since the Guardians started chasing bad guys around at the 2011 All-Star Game.
But unlike that minor diversion, this one is permanent, and will leave people scratching their heads indefinitely.