Since the Tampa Bay Lightning showed Vincent Lecavalier the door in the summer in order to open up some cap space, there has been much speculation as to who might be the next captain (which isn't expected to be revealed until after the conclusion of the team's pre-season schedule). The sentimental favorite, from what I've seen of the discussion through social media, is Martin St. Louis who, in my opinion, would likely be an outstanding captain.
However, I disagree that he'll be named the next one.
General Manager Steve Yzerman is a competitive person, as we all know from his playing days, so the fact that the Bolts haven't made playoffs since 2010-11, the first season he was in charge of hockey operations, has probably been very frustrating for him - especially since he's the one responsible for the on-ice product. I believe that he's come up with a way to remedy this: The Lightning are in the process of going younger.
He seems to be bringing up the core of their highly successful AHL affiliate, who's now been to the Calder Cup Finals two years in a row, to move things along in a playoff sort of direction at the NHL level.
Who can blame him, right? Most of those players have integrated seamlessly into the Tampa Bay lineup when they were brought up last season. They all know each other, they have chemistry together, and they know what it takes to go deep into playoffs. On top of that, the man that orchestrated much of their success - Jon Cooper - is now the Lightning's head coach. So it's easy to see why Yzerman would want to go in that direction.
I realize that the team is still in somewhat of a transition phase. At this point, there are still a number of veterans who are expected to keep their roster spots. But that doesn't invalidate the direction the team seems to be heading.
Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, and Radko Gudas are all 23. Victor Hedman is 22, Keith Aulie 24, and Anders Lindback is 25. Then there are at least three forward and one defenseman roster spots open - that will probably be filled by Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik, and Mark Barberio who are all also under 25 years old. That age group will likely make up nearly half of the team by the start of the NHL season.
So, with that in mind, I just don't see St. Louis becoming captain.
Instead, I think that the captaincy will likely end up with Steven Stamkos. He's now the uncontested face of the Lightning with Vinny gone, and he's around the same age as the players coming in from Syracuse. Not to mention the trend of NHL captains these days of favoring marketability over character.
This isn't to say that Stamkos doesn't have character; it's that his marketability overrides his on-ice reputation. He's often mentioned with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin these days, and for good reason. However, name recognition trumps most things in many areas of life, and especially in professional sports.
Think about it; if you were to ask general NHL fans around the league to start spouting off players from Tampa Bay, who would be the first one to roll off their lips? Chances are, it's Stamkos first and foremost.
Stamkos also has his NHL career still ahead of him, while St. Louis is at the tail end of his. Sure, Marty could play for another five years or more, but will he? At this point, he's only signed through the end of the 2014-2015 season. It's hard to say, at this point. Regardless, the safer bet is going with Stamkos over St. Louis, in that regard.
On top of that, Yzerman runs this team and will almost certainly have some input over who should be named captain. He himself was one of the youngest captains named in NHL history. So it's doubtful that he'd look upon Stamkos as not being ready, if only for Yzerman's own personal experience.
Certainly, St. Louis is the logical solution, but since when has sports ever been logical? Does he deserve the captaincy? Yes, I think so. And as I've said before, I think he'd be a great captain.
But if anyone other than Steven Stamkos is named captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, including St. Louis, I will be very surprised.