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O Captain! My Captain!: But Who Should It Be?

The Flames will have a captain for the 2023-24 season, but it remains to be seen who will receive that honor.

It’s pretty much been the most pressing question with the Flames since Mark Giordano was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft: who will be the next captain? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the Flames have been without a captain since the end of the 2021 season and it appears that this season that will come to an end. But it begs the question: who? We’re going to take a look at who are the most viable candidates and reasons for and against their chances of wearing the “C.”

Mikael Backlund

This is the first name that should come to mind when thinking of the next person to be named captain of the Flames. Backlund is the longest tenured Flame, having been drafted by Calgary in 2007. He’s served as an associate captain for the last two seasons and in fill in duty in the past. He’s one of Calgary’s better on and off ice leaders, he’s well known in the community and he just screams captain when you think of anyone in that locker room that should get the honor. The downside? Backlund’s contract is up at the end of the season and there’s no guarantee he even plays the full season in Calgary. It would be tough to slap the “C” on Mikael Backlund and then trade him or watch him walk in free agency and then have to do it all over again next offseason. In any event, he should be considered and it really shouldn’t be an issue as he should have been named captain after Mark Giordano left.

Jonathan Huberdeau

Huberdeau is an interesting choice here for the Flames captaincy. He’s a veteran of locker room leadership as he wore the “A” in Florida and did the same in his first season in Calgary. Another thing he has going for him is he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Huberdeau is under contract until 2031 (at $10.5 million per) and he has a NMC until the start of the 2029 season. So, if you want someone who’s going to be around for awhile, then Huberdeau is your man. Are there downsides? Maybe. He’s new to the team, vastly underperformed last year and kind of pouted throughout the year. His play and leadership really weren’t there in 2022-23 and are you just going to slap a “C” on someone just because you’re stuck with him for a good amount of time?

Nazem Kadri

This name has been tossed around a bit in the last few weeks, but much like Huberdeau, his initial voyage with the Flames was anything but spectacular. Sure, you don’t need to be a 100 pt. player to be captain, but you need to be a solid leader if you aren’t going to be all worldly. Does Kadri have the makeup to be captain? His past actions in games are certainly sketchy, but you have to remember that Flames fans were all in on Matthew Tkachuk being the next captain, so maybe Kadri is captain material. He wore an “A” during his time in Colorado.

Rasmus Andersson

Andersson, outside of Mikael Backlund, might be the best choice for a long term captaincy. He’s currently under contract until the end of the 2025-26 season and is clearly one of Calgary’s best defencemen. Unless there’s some sort of horrific fall off or fall out, Andersson is someone you would think would be part of Calgary’s plans even beyond 2026. He’s a top line pairing player, a leader on and off the ice and the kind of player that would would gladly hand the reigns over to if he was part of your squad. Besides what you’ve just read, he’s also worn the “A” for the Flames and is probably the most logical choice (outside of Backlund signing a new deal after this season) to become the first Flames captain since Mark Giordano.

Elias Lindholm

Lindholm is an interesting choice, but much like Mikael Backlund his future with the Flames is cloudy. He’s under contract for this season and after that it’s an absolute crapshoot. According to internet traffic he wants to stay, but the Flames are a little off on money. Who knows what’s really going on behind the scenes, but it would seem like giving Lindholm the “C” with a contract being up in the air and not Mikael Backlund would loom bad for all involved.

Chris Tanev

Tanev is always the player on the back burner who certainly fits into that leadership mold. No one leads more by example on the ice than Tanev and as the past has shown, he’s more than willing to put his health on the line for the team. But that’s just the issue with the veteran defenceman: he does spend a lot of time off the ice being injured. Yes, no player is injury-proof and these things happen, but you would like to have your captain available to you at all or most times. In this case, it’s probably better to keep Chris Tanev with an “A” on his sweater, but this is the Calgary Flames, so who knows.

What you will notice from the list above is that there really isn’t one player that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the group. Calgary doesn’t have a Connor McDavid, Patrice Bergeron (yes I know he’s retired), Sidney Crosby, Brady Tkachuk, etc. And maybe that’s been the problem all along. There just isn’t that one guy that the organization thinks is captain material. We all know Darryl Sutter didn’t want a captain last season (allegedly) and that will certainly be different this season with him gone and Craig Conroy and Jarome Iginla running things up top. Gun to my head? I name Mikael Backlund the Flames captain to start the 2023-24 season. He’s put in the time, he’s going to finish as one of the best Flames players in some statistical categories and he should already have been named captain by now. It’s the obvious choice. Which means there’ll be someone not on this list or radar that ends up getting the “C” because, well, Flames.