Andrew Ference is no longer the captain of the Edmonton Oilers. The decision to remove the “C” from Ference’s jersey was announced jointly by GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan with Ference present Wednesday. He will now be one of four rotating alternate captains.
This is a similar setup as the one McLellan had with the San Jose Sharks last year. The difference is that they stripped the C from Joe Thornton, who was still one of the team’s most important players. Ference is not expected to be an everyday player for the team as his spot on the defensive depth chart keeps sinking.
It’s probably the right call because you don’t want your captain to be a healthy scratch a lot of nights. That said, the rotating alternates will be interesting.
It’s probably not the most fun thing to deal with for a popular veteran like Ference, but this is a team that is going through a transition. Putting players like Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins in those leadership positions now will help them when they’re in those same roles and Edmonton is presumably a much more competitive team.
The Oilers are leaving the C open for now though. Maybe they’re saving it for Connor McDavid? Even though he’s just 18 years old, McDavid is going to be the long-term face of this franchise. He needs to prove himself at the NHL level, but he still looks like a prime candidate to earn the letter as he helps usher in a new era of Oilers hockey.
In years past, the Chicago Blackhawks inserted a 20-year-old Jonathan Toews as captain when they were just about to take the next step as a franchise. Sidney Crosby got the C in Pittsburgh when he was 19 years old. They're expecting McDavid to have that kind of impact on the franchise, so it makes plenty of sense to wait for him.
Brighter days are ahead in Edmonton and a move like this is reflective of their anticipation. It should be an interesting few seasons for the Oilers as they attempt to break through as an organization.