There are only 27 full-time captains employed in the 30-team NHL. But there are countless leaders throughout the League, and their leadership can be recognized in numerous ways, some not always easy to quantify.
The Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award presented by Bridgestone has been awarded since 2006-07 and is presented "to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualitites to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season."
The honor is named after Mark Messier, one of the finest leaders in NHL history who was a six-time Stanley Cup champion and is one of three players to have captained three different teams.
Suggestions for nominees are solicited from fans, clubs and NHL personnel, but the selection of the three finalists and the ultimate winner is made by Mark Messier himself.
From now through April 4, NHL.com readers can vote weekly
among three players and attempt to sway Messier's decision on who will be the finalists for the 2009-10 Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award presented by Bridgestone. Voting for Week 5 is currently underway and runs through April 4.
Starting April 5, the five weekly winners will be pitted against each other in the final reader poll.
Previous winners of the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award presented by Bridgestone are Chris Chelios of Detroit (2006-07), Mats Sundin of Toronto (2007-08) and Jarome Iginla of Calgary (2008-09).
The Week 5 candidates are…Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey Devils
After years of being under the tutelage of future Hall of Famers Mike Modano and Scott Stevens, Devils veteran Jamie Langenbrunner has emerged as one of the NHL's most respected leaders. He was named captain of New Jersey on Dec. 5, 2008.
In the midst of a 40-win, playoff-bound season with the Devils, Langenbrunner became part of an even smaller fraternity of captain, those who have worn the "C" for their country at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He was named to the post on Jan. 11.
"As far as individual accomplishments, if you'd call it that, it's got to be right up there," Langenbrunner said. "I've never really prided myself on individual accomplishments for the most part. I think it's kind of always been about the team. The greatest thing in my career has been winning two Stanley Cups and being a part of those great teams. As far as individual things, I don't have anything to compare (this) to."
"He's been a model of consistency, of versatility, and he's a guy that does just about everything well on an ice surface, and lots of things well in the dressing room," U.S. GM Brian Burke said. "There were lots of tough decisions for Team USA going into this Olympic Games, but picking our captain wasn't one of them. It was easy to do."
Off the ice, Langenbrunner serves as the Devils' Hockey Fights Cancer All-Star Captain.Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers
A solid two-way game and unrelenting work ethic make Callahan, only 25 and in his fourth season, one of the leaders on the Rangers, serving as an alternate captain.
"I think that Ryan Callahan has shown the capabilities for that role and that he deserves that role," coach John Tortorella said. "It's in the way he handles himself on the ice, the way he prepares, the way he practices, the way he conducts himself. It's about being a pro."
Though he's unlikely to be a high scorer or a leader in any offensive statistical category, Callahan gives maximum effort and is working on recording a second consecutive 20-goal season. He's also shown the ability to check high scoring opponents, and last season he ranked fourth in the NHL with 265 hits. Callahan was honored with the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, voted by fans as the player who performs "above and beyond the call of duty."
Before breaking into the NHL, Callahan served two seasons as captain of Guelph in the Ontario Hockey League.Adam Foote, Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are enjoying a revitalization with an emerging young nucleus, the result of years of smart drafting. But defenseman Adam Foote is the veteran leading the way, showing the young pups the way to NHL success.
Foote, who is in his 18th season in the NHL, and 16th with the Avalanche/Nordiques franchise, was named captain prior to this season. It was a tall order to replace Joe Sakic as captain, but Foote has made filling the role look easy.
"Adam, to me, was the right choice," rookie coach Joe Sacco said. "He certainly deserves the opportunity for what he's done, not only for the franchise, but for what he's done throughout his career. He's such a fierce competitor and he plays the game the right way.
"I think the guys in the room really respect him. They respect him as a player and for what he does off the ice. I don't want to say it was an easy decision, but certainly it was the right decision."
Foote also served as captain for most of his nearly three full seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He's won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996 and 2001, and an Olympic gold medal for Canada in 2002.
His charity organization, the Foote Foundation, supports numerous charities, including breast cancer awarenessContact Rocky Bonannno at firstname.lastname@example.orgAuthor: Rocky Bonanno | NHL.com Staff Writer