Who Should Be The Blackhawks' Next Captain?
Jonathan Toews has been a core player for the Blackhawks ever since he was drafted third overall in 2006.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, hockey has always been in the Canadian’s blood. Toews has notched over 850 points–and counting–in a Blackhawks jersey and led the team to three Stanley Cups. It is safe to say that Toews is a beloved icon in the city of Chicago. Prior to the 2008-09 season, Toews was named the captain of the Hawks, becoming the second-youngest player in NHL history to be named permanent captain of their team. Currently, Toews is fifth on that list, but that still does not invalidate the significance of the achievement. Prior to being named captain, Toews was dubbed “Captain Serious” by teammates, as confirmed in an interview between the captain and Blackhawks’ insider Charlie Roumeliotis. The nickname attests to his dedication and commitment to the team, and has since been adopted by fans. Time marches on for Captain Serious and his duration in Chicago has become uncertain. With the upcoming season marking the final season of the captain’s eight-year contract, the 19 & 88 era is nearly over. Soon, there will be a vacant captain position in Chicago for the first time since 2008. And with that, here are my candidates for the next captain of the Hawks, as well as candidates for future captains.
The Next Captain:
A favorite to be named an alternate captain this coming season, Jones has shown instances of leadership throughout his career. Jones served as an alternate captain for the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to his arrival in Chicago. He was also named captain of the 2022 Men’s World Hockey Championship team that played in the IIHF tournament in Finland this past May. Jones is also locked up until 2030, holding the longest contract on the Blackhawks roster. It would be an acceptable choice, even though many Hawks fans dislike Jones for his contract and poor performance in his first season. There is some under-appreciated upside to Jones: he is a sizable defenseman, a shot-blocking beast, and he logs a large sum of minutes. All are qualities of a captain, and he likely would have succeeded Nick Foligno—as the captain of the Blue Jackets—if he was not dealt to the Hawks in the summer of 2021. Personally, I believe Jones is the best candidate for the next captain of the Blackhawks.
While never donning any sort of letter for an NHL team in his 10-year career so far, Johnson served as an alternate captain for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League when he was in juniors. One of three skaters on the team over the age of 30, Johnson certainly has veteran experience, with two stanley cups under his belt and over 600 games played. I don’t believe Johnson would be suitable as a long-term captain, however, he could play a role similar to Adrian Aucoin. Aucoin served as captain for the Blackhawks in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. The team was atrocious, mustering a measly 57 wins in two seasons; Toews and Kane were not on the roster yet, so there was no dominant offense. Back to Aucoin, he was in a similar situation as Tyler Johnson is now: early 30’s, a former member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and a well-respected player. The parallels between Johnson and Aucoin is the reason why I think Johnson could be a suitable, temporary captain of the Blackhawks.
As absurd as it sounds, Connor Murphy will be the longest-tenured Blackhawk once Toews and Kane are gone. Murphy is a safe choice, he has a decent amount of NHL experience, and is a solid shutdown defenseman. On top of his defensive prowess, Murphy has served as an alternate captain for the Hawks since the 2021 season, demonstrating his potential to be a leader. Murphy’s extension runs until 2026, and contains a “Modified No-Trade-Clause,” so there is security when it comes to his future on the Hawks. Whether he is a captain or an alternate captain in the near future, Murphy is a sophisticated leader.
Like the Flyers, Sabres, Coyotes, and five other rebuilding and former-rebuilding teams, it may not be in a team’s interest to name a captain. It is common–especially for a rebuilding franchise–for a team to leave its captaincy vacant. Sometimes, there may not be a captain-worthy player on a rebuilding team's roster. Conversely, for a team like the Rangers who have captain-worthy players, it may be a nuisance to the team’s morale to name a captain. Nonetheless, I believe Seth Jones, Connor Murphy, and Tyler Johnson could be suitable captains for this current Blackhawks team. All three players are experienced and have some sort of history as a leader for a hockey team. But, again, it may not be in the Blackhawks management’s interest to immediately name a captain during the rebuild, since an emerging player has the potential to prove worthy of captaincy over some of the current veterans.
As of right now, Reichel should definitely not be the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks. Reichel has only played 11 games in the National Hockey League. There are 100% better and more experienced options than Reichel (like the ones I previously named). But, if Reichel continues to develop and becomes a long-time Blackhawk, there is a possibility for him to wear the C. It is important for the fans of Chicago to not put immense pressure on a young forward like Reichel, as he could experience a fate similar to Kirby Dach. Dach was a prospective captain, being a third-overall selection with high expectations. Unfortunately for Dach, the incredibly high standards drowned his confidence, and ultimately led to him being traded to the Montreal Canadiens. This is why I am not labeling Reichel as an immediate option to succeed Toews. Rather, a player that could become a captain in the later years of the rebuild.
Like Reichel, I do not expect Vlasic to become the captain in the next few years. This may be a shot in the dark, but, later on in his career, Vlasic could be a very capable captain or alternate captain. Standing at an intimidating 6’6” and playing a shut-down defensive game, Vlasic has a future in the NHL–a future that can potentially contain him serving as the leader for the Blackhawks. In a scouting report on the website “Last Word On Sports," author Ben Kerr compared Vlasic’s game to that of current-NHLer, Brandon Carlo. Carlo, is a six-foot-five-defenseman for the Boston Bruins with a solid defensive game, as well as a steady sense of offense. Not only does Carlo see top-four minutes, but he is an alternate captain for the Bruins. If Vlasic develops like Carlo, there can be a firm argument for Vlasic to receive the honor of alternate captain–or even captain–in coming years.