April 7, 2012- That was the last day the Blue Jackets played a game with a Captain. Since dropping the interim tag after the 2011-12 season, Jackets coach Todd Richards and the front office have decided against naming a captain and instead have chosen leadership by committee. While it’s not uncommon for a team to finish a season with no designated captain, it’s highly unusual that it could last 2 seasons if there isn’t a captain announced.
The Blue Jackets have had 5 captains since coming into the league in the 2000-01 season. Lyle Odelein(00-02), Ray Whitney(02-03), Luke Richardson(03-05), Adam Foote(05-08) and Rick Nash(08-12). While the first 3 captains conjure up sentimental feelings, the last 2 were the faces of the franchise and known league wide. They both departed under scrutiny and many hurt feelings for long suffering Columbus fans. There was a sense of embarrassment especially when Adam Foote left Columbus after forcing a trade back to Colorado. Foote’s contract was expiring at the end of the season and the front office was trying to resign him. Many reports say that Foote said he would play bad or not play hard at all if the Jackets didn’t give him the contract he wanted. It forced the hand of GM Scott Howson and a trade was completed before the trade deadline in 2008.
Say the name Rick Nash in Columbus, and you’ll probably get 100 different opinions on the former Blue Jacket captain. He was named captain after the Foote trade, 3 months before he turned 24 and in only his fifth NHL season. He clearly wasn’t ready to be forced into that role at such a young age, but as the only face of the franchise he did it with dignity under intense scrutiny. I was bitter when it was released that Nash wanted out of Columbus, but in hindsight it was the best move that could have happened for the organization. As a fan, Nash will always have a soft spot in my heart because of the class he displayed everyday. He was a great citizen of the community and did more charity work with less fanfare than most superstars do. In short, Nash loved the city and the city loved him back. Years from now most people will have a different feeling on what kind of player and more importantly the person he is.
Fast forward eighteen months and Rick Nash seems like a distant memory. While I agree that they shouldn’t rush naming a captain, it’s very clear that one player stands out as the leader of this group. Ironically, Brandon Dubinsky was a part of the Nash trade and has proven as fierce a competitor in Columbus as he was with the Rangers. Dubinsky plays the game with a passion and energy that is unequaled by most players on the ice every night. There are 2 players that really come to mind when I think of what the identity of this franchise should be: Vinny Prospal(who clearly won’t be back) and Brandon Dubinsky. His stats aren’t pretty and he won’t be winning The Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals, but at times it looks like he would sell his soul for the Jackets to get 2 points on a nightly basis. Memo to Todd Richards: THE TIME IS NOW to name Brandon Dubinsky the captain.