The Tampa Bay Lightning ought to have a well-run dressing room this season as the team is sporting three former captains in addition to current captain Steven Stamkos.
Each of the four—Brenden Morrow (Stars), Eric Brewer (Blues), Ryan Callahan (Rangers) and Stamkos (Bolts)—have a certain leadership style thought ought to pull up the fresh-faced players and rookies like Jonathan Drouin. You’d have to think those guys who haven’t had the C stitched on their sweater on the team now, like Brian Boyle, Jason Garrison, alternate captain Matthew Carle and Evgeni Nabokov, who can only add to the accountability on the bench and behind closed doors.
For now, let’s look at the four leadership styles of the carry-over captains on the Bolts:
Eric Brewer | St. Louis Blues 2008-2011
Brewer was an active captain in the midst of being traded to the Lightning, much like Callahan on this list. He didn’t have the warmest welcome in St. Louis being traded for Chris Pronger, sending Pronger and his wife to Edmonton. And some fans in Tampa still give the guy the cold shoulder.
He was frequently injured in St. Louis, which also included a nerve injury, but made it through his four years on a bad team.
Brewer told Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he enjoyed his time as captain:
“I was very, very proud to be named captain of the Blues,” Brewer said. “It was one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever gotten. It’s a position I really truly loved … just being a guy that’s relied upon for a variety of different things. It was really quite enjoyable and got a view from the coaches side of things, which helps you understand why things are done a certain way. But at the end of the day, you’re there for the guys, and the guys were wonderful for me. I think for the most part, they thought that I was a guy that was there for them.”
In the same interview, he said he would have loved to have a coffee or beer with fans, the media or other people who held a grudge for him for no reason. I’d love to take him up on that, but it looks like a Starbucks barista is already aware of it.
And in Tampa, without a letter on his chest, Damiam Cristodero, now retired from the Tampa Bay Times, keyed in on his leadership just as Brewer scored his first goal of the season…deep into March:
Brewer is not a rah-rah type but is not afraid to speak up when something needs to be said in the locker room or on the bench. So when Steven Stamkos was elevated to captain after Marty St. Louis was traded to the Rangers at the deadline this month, Brewer, 34, was the natural choice to wear the alternate’s “A” that had been Stamkos’.
“He’s been such an unbelievable leader without (a letter),” coach Jon Cooper said of Brewer, “we would have been remiss not to give him one.”
Ryan Callahan | New York Rangers 2011-2014
Captain Cally was flipped for our captain Martin St. Louis in probably the most polarizing trade in franchise history.
Callahan stepped into the captaincy in an awkward role, taking over for respected but fading Chris Drury, who was bought out by the Rangers.
In what is somewhat of a surreal interview with Dan Rosen in 2011, John Tortorella and Brad Richards talked about how it was grooming Callahan as captain and getting a feel for it. Here’s Callahan via NHL.com:
Callahan described himself as the type of captain that will lead by example and get vocal when he needs to.
“If something needs to be said, then it will be,” Callahan said.
He doesn’t plan on changing anything about his personality or his game, and the Rangers don’t want him to. After all, he earned the captaincy because of who he is now, not who they think he might one day become.
Even the added responsibility of being the captain isn’t all that new to Callahan.
With ex-captain Chris Drury out for most of last season, Tortorella leaned heavily on Callahan and Staal to gauge the pulse of the team. He would ask them their opinion on practice times in order to understand best how the team is feeling, if they needed a rest or if it was the right time to push.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post penned that Callahan was a “perfect captain for first place Rangers” just at the mid-season of Callahan’s first year of captaincy:
“The big thing for me is that I need to have the feel of the team and to make certain that as a group we don’t get too high or too low,” Callahan said. “My preparation is a little bit different in that regard.
“I try to get the feeling in the room on a daily basis of how to approach things. I’m not an especially vocal guy, but if there’s something that needs to be said, I’ll say it. I’ve been comfortable in the role, in interacting with my teammates. It hasn’t at all been a burden.”
Brenden Morrow | Dallas Stars 2006-2013
First of all, having to accept the captaincy to shake things up in Dallas by taking it away from Mike Modano speaks volumes of how much the coaching staff and team thought of Morrow.
The guy is honest, by the accounts of his leadership online. In an interview with Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Morrow told how he adjusted his leadership style a month in with a new team and facing some scoring troubles:
“There’s been some games when I felt more comfortable and been rewarded with more ice time and then there’s been some games when you’re not contributing.
“You want to say the right things, but you kind of got to back it up and some games you’re not backing it up. The more comfortable you feel with your own game, the easier it is to voice that opinion. I haven’t been as vocal here yet. I’m just still trying to find my way a little bit.”
Blackout Dallas said in 2012 he’s a quiet leader, but I don’t believe it, especially considering the evidence the blog listed of Morrow being clear in the media about his team’s performance. A captain like that will be telling the locker room even more than what they tell the cameras (Guys, you all played like shit tonight.). Here’s an anecdote of Morrow not backing down from the cameras, courtesy of Blackout Dallas:
Also, when the Stars played against the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs Morrow publicly challenged his teammates, saying too many of them refused to sacrifice their bodies and go to the tough areas of the ice to get the puck or score a goal. He then scored a power play goal in overtime off a deflected shot to beat Vancouver 1-0, extending the series. The Stars lost the series in seven games but Morrow proved he wasn’t afraid to embrace the moment and handle the pressure that accompanies the playoffs. That’s what type of player Morrow is and why he’s captain of the Dallas Stars.
Steven Stamkos | March 2014-Present
Stammer was nearly named captain at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, but with Martin St. Louis playing
best man bridesmaid to Vinny Lecavalier over the years, the organization and fans thought it was the best thing to do to give the C to St. Louis. At the time it seemed like a good idea.
The trade happened, ahem, the trade, and Stamkos came back from his leg injury just in time to take over the captaincy from his diminutive leader. Stamkos admitted that the strength wasn’t where it should be but the leg was structurally OK to play. That ought to show that he can carry this team, if that 60-goal season didn’t do it for you.
Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times checked in with the team to see how Stamkos was in a locker room already filled with Brewer, St. Louis, Sami Salo and others who’ve had a long career and it seemed like according to coach Jon Cooper, it’ was and is time for Stamkos to speak up as the de facto leader saying that Stammer “took a backseat to other players that were here” out of respect.
What’s neat about reading about Stammer’s captaincy was that there was a clear evolution of maturity and not the cliche “the captaincy will never change him” line. Here’s Nate Thompson and Victor Hedman telling Smith how Stamkos has changed from a youngster, to an alternate captain to the captain:
Center Nate Thompson, who has played with Stamkos since the 2008 top overall draft pick was 19, said his style has evolved.
“His whole demeanor has changed,” Thompson said. “He holds guys accountable. He plays an all-around game. He’s playing like the man, and he is. There’s a reason why he’s the captain.
“When Stammer speaks, everybody listens.”
Defenseman Victor Hedman said Stamkos is vocal both in the locker room and on the bench and he backs up his talk on the ice. Stamkos has been accountable to the media, almost always sitting at his stall when the locker room opens after big wins and bad losses.
So while Cooper wants fans and media to simmer down now on the expectations, it’s clear that the Bolts locker room have the right voices, brains and brashness to keep the boys in check over a long season.