Looking for Leadership
|STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR|
|"Big Blue" seeks leader. But there are no candidates on board right now.|
Tomas Kaberle may be coming back to at least start the season with the Maple Leafs, but despite speculation in some corners, it won't be to become the next Leaf captain.
Ditto for newcomers Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin. In fact, GM Brian Burke is setting the bar awfully high in terms of finding the player who will next wear the "C" in Toronto, making it a virtual certainty the club will again not have a captain this season.
"Look, we're Big Blue," he said yesterday. "We're not naming a captain until we have someone who can rank with the captains that have come before."
And we're not talking Rob Ramage quality players. Ramage ended the last captain-less period in Leaf history (1987-89) by succeeding Rick Vaive, but clearly Burke is looking for something more along the lines of Ted (Teeder) Kennedy, who was Leaf captain from 1948-55 and again in 1956-57 and passed away last week.
Its going to take a while to find such a player.
Interestingly, the search for leadership with Toronto is the same process Burke is beginning with the United States Olympic program today on the ice at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodbridge, Illinois. Burke is to the U.S. what Steve Yzerman is to Canada, but while the 2010 Canadian team is widely regarded as Sidney Crosby's team, these Olympics are a transition year for the Americans from the generation of stars that included Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte, Brian Leetch and Bill Guerin. Only Mike Modano - who coincidentally, ripped USA Hockey at the conclusion of the Torino Olympics, remains.
"We had some real warriors represent us for a generation," said Burke yesterday from the U.S. camp. "This is a new generation, and we'll have to see which guys emerge in the leadership role."
Zach Parise looks like an obvious candidate, as does L.A. Kings captain Dustin Brown.
Before that happens, the Americans will begin their 34-man orientation session today by dealing with a controversy, just as Team Canada will have to deal with the Dany Heatley issue next Monday in Calgary.
For the U.S., the status of Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane will obviously attract media inquiries after Kane and his cousin were charged with assaulting a cab driver in Buffalo last week. The plan is for Kane and Burke to address the issue today - they won't have much to say - and then ban all further questions.
Will Canada do the same with Heatley? The Ottawa forward has steadfastedly refused to shed much light on his situation after first demanding a trade earlier this summer, then using his trade veto to block a move to Edmonton.
Is it the job of Yzerman, Mike Babcock and Canadian Olympic organizers to protect Heatley at the team's camp next week, or should Heatley be forced to fend for himself given that he created the mess himself?
I say let the man explain himself. But no doubt it will be the story of the Canadian camp next week.