It's a question that has come up again and again - "When will the Blue Jackets name a captain?"
During the truncated 2013 season, leaving the position vacant made a lot of sense - with over half the players on the roster turned over, it would have been imposing a decision - particularly with the lack of training camp time to get players on the same page.
As the team found success (and eventually a playoff berth) last season, the questions about a captain were generally shrugged off by both players and management - after all, they clearly had begun to form a leadership group, and things were going well.
This season, however, the questions grew in volume as the team suffered setback after setback - and this time, there were rumblings from Aaron Portzline in his Dispatch chats that even some of the players felt it was time to take that step.
With the season at an end, that rumble has become a thunderclap - nearly every player who spoke to the media yesterday made it clear that they felt the time had come, and GM Jarmo Kekalainen has said he will address the subject in his season wrap up press conference later this afternoon.
It's not clear if the team intends to announce a captain at the press conference, or if they will simply acknowledge that they will have one for next season, but the buzz has been growing steadily on Twitter and Facebook among fans, with debates and informal polls popping up everywhere.
The qualities that the players have brought up are someone who brings a consistent effort night in and night out, who will be a strong voice for the team on and off ice, and a player that the team can look to during adversity for inspiration. I also believe that a player who establishes strong ties to the community through charity work and outreach is also important, and I suspect the front office will agree on that point.
There are several possible candidates, but I think there are a handful that stand out as the most likely.
- Scott Hartnell - Though Hartnell is new to the room, he's got a wealth of veteran experience, and has shown he's not afraid to step up on or off the ice. He's been invaluable in helping with the development of Marko Dano and Alexander Wennberg as professional hockey players, and brings a history of charity work through his #HartnellDown program. It's clear he's earned the trust and respect of his teammates, and is likely to be a "core player" through the next several seasons.
- Boone Jenner - For better or worse, the organization has made it clear that they saw Jenner as "future captain material" almost from the day he was drafted. Jenner's certainly shown that he has the work ethic, and did hold the position for Oshawa before going pro, but he's still a young guy, and because of his injuries, hasn't been able to get as much NHL experience as the organization had hoped. I don't know how the team would feel about Jenner getting the captaincy at this point - but I don't think it would be a bad thing to give him a regular assistant's role, with the possibility of taking over in the future.
- Brandon Dubinsky - Since his arrival in Columbus, you don't get much more "heart and soul" than Dubi. He's literally bled for the club, and been an impact player on almost every night - particularly in "big game" situations. There has been some deserved criticism of his temper and a problem with taking "bad" penalties, but over the last two seasons it's clear that he's been making the effort to reign that in. Was it enough to give management the confidence to put him in that role? Hard to say - but he's certainly been recognized as part of the leadership group, having consistently been one of the assistant captains over the past year.
- Nick Foligno - I'll be honest - this is my personal choice for who I would like to see get the "C" in Columbus. Since arriving, Foligno has grown on and off the ice, becoming a core piece of the club. He served as an excellent ambassador for Columbus during the ASG, and was recognized by the team with their community service award this season. What really sealed the deal for me, though, was the way he spoke to the fans at the home finale last Friday. It was an emotional moment, for sure, but the fact that he was the one giving his thanks to the fans, and speaking for the team as a whole? That's our captain. That's been our captain - probably since halfway through last season, and I hope the front office agrees.
So, as we wait to see what will come out of Nationwide Arena later today - what do you think about the possiblity of seeing a Captain named today? Who do you think should be the "face" of the Blue Jackets? Let us know!