The question arose almost from the moment Eric Staal was traded by the Carolina Hurricanes in February:
With Staal gone, who replaces him as team captain and wears the C for the Canes?
No one did last season after Staal left. And the Canes will enter this season without a captain, instead using four alternate captains.
Canes coach Bill Peters said Jordan Staal, Justin Faulk, Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask would wear A’s this season. Skinner will be an alternate captain at home games and Rask on the road.
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Rask, 23, has played two seasons in the NHL, earning a six-year, $24 million contract extension in July. That was a major commitment to the Swedish center, and designating him as an alternate captain is another sign of trust from the coaches, who believe he’s ready to take on a bigger role.
“It’s a huge accomplishment for me,” Rask said. “I’m really honored to get that A.”
Rask said he was told Tuesday by Canes coach Bill Peters that he would be one of the alternate captains.
His reaction? “Totally honored,” Rask said. “It’s a good feeling for me and it’s a huge boost for myself.”
The guess had been that either Jordan Staal or Faulk would be chosen, if Peters went with a captain.
Jordan Staal, 28, was the Canes’ most valuable player last season and is a former Stanley Cup winner. The center had said replacing his older brother in wearing the “C” would not be problematic for him.
Faulk, 24, is a two-time NHL All-Star and a former U.S. Olympian. The defenseman was drafted by the Canes in 2010 and has become a leader on the ice and in the locker room the past five seasons.
“It’s something we spent some time on in the summer, talking about it, and what we don’t want to do is let that letter be a burden,” Peters said. “We’ve got some guys who are great leaders, more than the four who are wearing letters. We’ve probably got a leadership group that’s at least eight strong. We’ve talked to the guys who aren’t wearing the letters and they’re still part of the leadership group and they’ll do a fantastic job.”
Rask and Skinner, who is starting his seventh year with the Canes, will again be linemates. The two have a good feel for each other’s games – Rask a playmaker, Skinner a sniper – and were to be joined by veteran forward Lee Stempniak in Thursday’s opener against the Winnipeg Jets.
Skinner, 24, took over more of a leadership role last season after the trade deadline, playing some of the best hockey of his career. Now, he’s an alternate captain.
“It’s a young group of leaders that are emerging, and it’s time for them to take a step and take over,” Peters said.