The Chicago Blackhawks don’t currently have a captain after long-time captain Jonathan Toews wasn’t re-signed this summer. Toews was Chicago’s captain from July of 2008 until April of this year when the season ended. During his time the Blackhawks had an unparalleled run of success on the ice winning three Stanley Cups.
Now with the captaincy vacant, defenseman Seth Jones has expressed an interest in the role telling Tracey Myers of NHL.com that he always wanted to be a captain after learning from great leaders such as Toews, Shea Weber, and Nick Foligno. Jones added that he understands his role in the room and will be a leader whether he has a letter on his jersey or not.
It’s an interesting statement from the 28-year-old rearguard as the Blackhawks are early in a big rebuild, but that process has certainly been accelerated with the team’s draft lottery win that allowed them to pick Connor Bedard first overall. It’s also unlikely to happen given that the Blackhawks will probably keep the captaincy vacant until Bedard is ready to take the reins in a few years.
Chicago’s captaincy may ultimately play out the same way it did with the Pittsburgh Penguins 18 years ago when Sidney Crosby began his career. At the time Mario Lemieux was the Penguins captain, but he didn’t make it through the 2005-06 season as he retired midseason. The Penguins then left the captaincy vacant until they gave it to Crosby in May 2007 after his second NHL season.
The other complications with Jones when it comes to the captaincy could be his contract status coupled with his play on the ice. Jones has long had the reputation as an elite, minute-eating defenseman, and while the latter is true, the former is much more complicated. Jones had a disastrous end to his time in Columbus and was dealt to Chicago. He quickly signed an eight-year $76MM contract with the Blackhawks that was panned by some and praised by others. There is no doubt that Jones provides a good amount of offensive punch, but his defensive play has been problematic as evidenced by his -75 the past two seasons.
Jones is entering the second year of his deal and it has already started to feel like he could become a buyout candidate before the end of the contract. It felt like an overpayment when it was signed and it really looks like one now. And with Jones pushing 30 his play is more likely to get worse before it gets better. Putting the captaincy on him now could become a PR nightmare in a few years if his play were to drop off and lead to a buyout.