A leader is the standard bearer and serves as the general compass for those under him on the direction and attitude to implement on their efforts. In the essence of hockey, that comes down to play on ice and character and demeanor in the locker room and professionally off-ice, away from the game. He sets the standard and shows the way that other players should imitate in their careers and their lives. He's a peer, but commands respect and admiration of his teammates as well as from his opponents and on-ice officials. Coaching knows that he's the go-to guy for issues and messages that need to be sent to players and the team in general.
In the best circumstances, the guy has "been there", a veteran, and had been versed in how to act under the stewardship of other great captains in the past.
These are just some of the reasons why I can't see anyone but Martin St. Louis as the next team captain for the Lightning. Regardless of where the Lightning are going with their roster - younger hands taking over roles - there's still a standard, a pedigree if you will, that you want instilled on the likes of the up-and-coming players. And while the pedigree of a high standard is with 23 year old Steven Stamkos, who has been assistant captain under Vincent Lecavalier and assistant captain Marty St. Louis, there's an element still missing. Rocket Richard trophies and ability is there, but one thing Steven lacks is something that many of his peers on the roster and in the system already have: Playing for and winning a championship.
Rookie Jonathan Drouin won the Memorial Cup with Halifax last spring; Alex Killorn, Radko Gudas, Tyler Johnson, Mark Barberio, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat? They all won the Calder Cup in the AHL (and went to the AHL finals again this past season). Johnson especially has that "been there" label that he can wear on his shoulder - he won the Memorial Cup too with Spokane of the WHL, he's also won an MVP award in the AHL.
Steven Stamkos has been to the playoffs once in his NHL career, and played a total of 13 playoff games in two seasons with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL when he was still in juniors.
The one holdover from the 2003-04 Lightning, the Stanley Cup Champions that they were, is Marty. Many on the roster or vying for a roster spot can boast playoff experience at the NHL level, but we're going above that. The pedigree of a champion is grabbing that brass ring and drinking from Lord Stanley's chalice in victory. A Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies, and years as assistant captain... Before that, he spent years being led by versed NHL veterans and great captains in Dave Andreychuk and Tim Taylor. Those are two men who had vied for and won the grandest trophy of them all, and who held themselves and their teammates to a standard of excellence.
The Lightning are moving forward, that became abundantly clear with Vinny Lecavalier's departure. It does not mean that the franchise should immediately pass the baton entirely toward the future, as if there is nothing that can be gained from the leadership of an aging star. For Stamkos, he'll be team captain in time. He's been brought along with just that intention. Right now, it's time for his tutor and mentor, the guy he looks up to and admires, to lead this club.
How would Stamkos personally react if he were given the team captaincy over St. Louis? Hell, how would the roster - the NHL veterans and the prospects -- react? That would be demoralizing in some ways: you're your tail off and hold yourself to a high standard, be part of team leadership for years - and be skipped over for the sake of what will happen to the team after you've finally decided to retire.
"We all know what kind of guy Marty is and the leader that he is," Stamkos said, and added, "No matter who gets it, it's not going to change the way anyone looks at anyone in this room." ...
He also said his money is on Marty being named captain.
While the national media wouldn't bat an eyelash over Stamkos being named team captain over St. Louis, I can't say the local fans would be all that thrilled. They wouldn't be left aghast (which would happen if someone like Eric Brewer, who was an NHL captain in the past, were named), but there would be a grumbling at the perceived slight.
Besides the notion of the youth movement for the Bolts and the peer aspect of naming a young captain, the only reason to name Stamkos captain is to follow a trend of big names being given the team captaincy. This was cited in the pro-Stamkos captaincy piece that ran on Raw Charge... It should also be noted that Cassie wrote an article a few years ago vehemently against that standard in the league while asking where it started:
...a leader is one who leads - i.e., tells people what to do and where to go. In some cases, it's by setting an example. And in others, it's teaching and guiding verbally.
But where does goal scoring fit into that? I guess you could consider that leading by example, but how does that help the team? Other than winning, of course. Do they teach everyone else how to score a goal? Do they tell others how to score a goal? This is why I don't understand this concept of goal scorers being named captain because of their ability - goal scoring is something they do; it's not a character attribute.
By that statement alone, St. Louis - who has worked with and instructed Stamkos - is the leader here.
(Editor Note: That was really a good larger article on team captaincies and I highly encourage you to check it out.)
In a situation where a team hasn't done anything for a while and they're trying to find a new course toward excellence, you'll see young captains named - John Tavares being named captain of the New York Islanders this week is an example - but I don't think that new-standard is necessary here. Not when there's an old-standard of excellence that shines brilliantly on-ice and in the locker room.
While continued discussion is to be had regarding the team captaincy this pre-season, I don't think the focus on the future should skip one of the most decorated leaders on the roster at current.