The Atlanta Thrashers entered into the 2010-11 NHL season without a team captain, instead opting to rotate alternates while they decided just who should wear the C. They’ve gone 19 games that way and, given their 7-9-3 record, many had started to wonder if part of the problem was due to a shortage of leadership.
After all, how can you expect to win when the effort level isn’t there night in and night out?
And how can you expect effort when there’s no accountability?
How can there be accountability with no leadership?
How can you have leadership with a captain?
How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?
OK, while maybe that last question hasn’t been raised here in Thrasherville, I do have news for you Sunshine. Finally there has been a player picked to fill the empty spaces of team leadership… Andrew Ladd, who at the age of 24 will become the youngest to captain this team.
Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom were selected as alternates.
Coach Craig Ramsay said Ladd “earned” the right to wear the C by way of his play and his commitment to the team. “It’s an enormous responsibility”, Ramsay said. “But he is well respected. He has stepped up his commitment to himself to make sure he’s ready to play every night and his commitment to the team has been so evident”.
Ladd, the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, came to the Thrashers last summer as part of the trade with the Blackhawks that sent defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and a second round pick to Chicago. Vishnevskiy, as you’ll recall, became Thrashers property when Kari Lehtonen was sent to the Dallas Stars last February.
So in essence… where there was once frustration with an oft-injured keeper chosen with the second overall pick in 2002, there is now a forward who has not only proven his worth as a player, but also is regarded high enough by the players, coaches and management to be the on-ice leader of the team.
Laddy has already been through the trail of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and has lifted the Cup triumphantly over his head twice already. As such, he falls right into that “been there, done that” category of players that Rick Dudley and Craig Ramsay seek to have on their roster.
Now whether or not having a captain or not will directly affect the play of the team has been debated recently in this online forum. But I hardly think that this is merely a ceremonial coronation meant to simply provide a popular player an honorary title. Certainly it’s not intended as a bribe to convince the player to sign a lengthy contract extension, and it’s not being handed out to someone who is happy simply being just another brick in the wall of this team…filling a spot on the roster and biding his time until his contractual obligations are fulfilled.
Instead, I believe Ladd’s presence in the locker room and play on the ice has won over the respect and trust of not only his teammates, but he’s also done so with the coaching staff of this Thrashers team. As captain, they will look to him to quell any personal conflicts that may arise within the ranks and provide the occasional application of a boot to butt when a teammate is playing as if they were comfortably numb…saying, “This will not do”.
But they also know he can be counted on to help them to carry the load and implement their system of play. A liaison, if you will, between those behind the bench and the players who put the system into action.
One other thing I’m firmly convinced of is that the timing of this announcement could not have come at a better time. The Thrashers have lost three straight and five of there last six and are skating on the thin ice of falling into a deep hole considering their upcoming schedule. They face the likes of Washington, Dallas, Montreal, Boston, Colorado and Pittsburgh in the coming days after netting but 5 of a possible 16 points in the month of November thus far.
And after their most recent loss…a 2-1 defeat at home to the Florida Panthers…their head coach flat out and directly accused them of quitting.
So, if there is ever a time when a team captain was needed to help bring the boys back home to playing a solid sixty minutes of hard-nosed, high-energy hockey in which they again run, or shall I say, skate like hell…well, certainly this might just be that time. These birds of Thrasherville need to be given a renewed strong urge to fly.
With that said, I’d like to congratulate Andrew Ladd as he now takes his place alongside of Kelly Buchberger, Steve Staios, Ray Ferraro, Shawn McEachern, Scott Mellanby, Bobby Holik and Ilya Kovalchuk as players who have sported the C on a Thrashers jersey. Maybe…hopefully…prayerfully…Laddy can help lead this team to levels the previous captains did not, or could not, and he can skate the Cup a third time in his career while a Thrasher.
If so, that would surely be among the happiest day of our lives.