Talking Captains

Talking Captains

St. Louis Blues Keith Tkachuk (L) and Eric Brewer share a laugh during pre-game warmups at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on October 31, 2009. St. Louis played the Florida Panthers and lost 4-0. UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom

One little message on Twitter ignited a flurry of hockey talk from the St. Louis hockey faithful. That being said, let’s talk captains.

Andy Strickland tweeted: “Doug Armstrong said today that Eric Brewer is our Captain. He went on to say Brewer is a good Captain and well repsected in dressing room.”

Cue the debate on Twitter.

Personally, I am of the belief that last season should have been Brewer’s last as captain of the St. Louis Blues. Personally, I also believe last season should have been his last season in general with the Blues. To have a decent discussion on the matter, it is important to make my biases clear right from the start.

Brewer came over to St. Louis with Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch in the now infamous Chris Pronger trade following the lockout back in 2005. Moving Pronger and getting some spare parts in return didn’t sit well for the fan base nor did it make anyone have any warm and fuzzy feelings for Brewer before he even skated for the team.

I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

Eric Brewer’s Stats with St. Louis
2005-06: (32 games) 6 goals, 3 assists – 9 points. (-17)
2006-07: (82 games) 6 goals, 23 assists – 29 points. (-10)
2007-08: (77 games) 1 goal, 21 assists – 22 points. (-18)
2008-09: (28 games) 1 goal, 5 assists – 6 points. (-14)
2009-10: (59 games) 8 goals, 7 assists – 15 points. (-17)

Captaincy shouldn’t be based on stats, but I couldn’t resist having an opportunity to post a few numbers in which I feel make a pretty good argument against him wearing the “C”. That plus/minus. It isn’t really a very fair stat to judge by, but Brewer’s plus/minus during his time with the Blues (-76) is tough to ignore and is frankly hideous. The plus/minus stat certainly can be fluky, so I am still willing to overlook it for some of Brewer’s intangibles.

Strong. Powerful. Leader. Teacher to the youngsters. All of these are words I’d love to use when referring to the team’s captain … and sadly all of these are words you rarely hear used when speaking about the defenseman. Brewer’s demeanor on the ice is quiet. At times it almost appears as if he would rather hide in the corner or join the kids that scrape up the ice with a shovel than make noise and take control of situations.

The word from Doug Armstrong via Strickland’s tweet refers to Brewer’s actions and the “respect for him in the locker room”. I’m not in the locker room. A few reporters are but I believe the players won’t be completely honest with the press around, itching for a hot story or some controversy. Brewer may very well be a fantastic guy behind the scenes and perfectly capable of leading a team. This area of the discussion I can’t judge or really have an opinion on since I have never experienced it personally. Only a few people have and that’s the players.

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 20: David Backes #42 of the St. Louis Blues skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 20, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. The Blues defeated the Devils 1-0. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Brewer held the “C” last season, but if you would have asked me who the true leader of the team was I would have said Keith Tkachuk with a helping of Darryl Sydor. With Sydor coming into the mix late, he wouldn’t have been a suitable captain, but he did appear to have a big impact on this team in a very short period of time – especially in his teaching and shaping of the youngsters. Meanwhile Tkachuk was well … Tkachuk. Everything about him screamed veteran and leader. I wish I could say the same about Brewer.

With Walt retired, there really isn’t an easy answer as to which skater should rightfully be the captain.

David Backes appears to be the clear favorite and my own personal choice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is the right option. This article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers Armstrong’s and Payne’s view on the situation and the simplified version is you can forget about it – for now.

Giving the title to an emerging leader and youngster seems to make logical sense, right? Backes is under contract through this season, but the team will need to negotiate a new deal if they hope to keep him for the future. Aside from the issue of contract, there really is no clear sign why Backes shouldn’t be the next leader of the team aside from the fact the current captain is still with the team and changing things up might make things a bit awkward. My guess is the organization believes it is easy to go with what you know rather to go with what’s new – giving the “C” to an emerging younger skater.

I do expect the team to recognize Backes and give him an “A” for assistant captain, but it might as well be for effort considering his rock-em-sock-em ways from last season. This could be his path to the captaincy assuming there are no hiccups in 2010-11.

Until then, let’s just hope all those reports of how great Brewer is in the locker room eventually carry over to his play on the ice. This team will need a few skaters to step up, be more vocal, and take an active role in leading this team through each and every game now that Walt has skated for the last time.