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McPhee Speaks On What He'll Value In Team Captain

The Golden Knights' GM also shared why he feels veteran players are critical to success

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

One of the most significant changes in hockey over the past several seasons has been the manner in which the sport is being taken over by young talent.

This isn't just Connor McDavid, the 20-year-old wunderkind leading the NHL in scoring as a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

Throughout the league, at all positions, the age at which players reach their prime has become distinctly younger than it was even a decade ago.

This season alone, the top seven scorers in the NHL entering Thursday are under the age of 30. Last year, three of the top four scorers were under 30, while as recently as 2003-04, five of the NHL's top nine scorers were over 30. Ten years before that, in 1993-94, three of four were 30 or older, as well.

As the league continues to transition even younger, the reasons for this change are pretty clear: the league now emphasizes speed.

Where years ago, players with muscle and toughness were able to easily impose their will on the quicker, at many times smaller and absolutely younger players, the NHL has substantially changed its rules to faze these attributes out of the game in the name of player safety.

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Which, in itself, is a worthy and necessary cause.

But as the league's player safety movement has produced a preferred style of play that favors younger players, the impetus to dress a youth-filled lineup has become appealing to NHL teams.

The Golden Knights are expected to fall in line with this philosophy. Especially as the team embarks on building its squad from scratch, with a focus on acquiring its elite players via the Entry Draft.

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In a recent phone conversation with season ticket holders, Golden Knights general manager George McPhee said that he doesn't believe building a roster is as simple as exclusively lining the cupboard with all young players.

 

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McPhee feels it'll be important for the Golden Knights to strike a balance between youth and veterans, even if it's the younger players that eventually dictate how much success the team has.

"There aren't many young players that turn professional that know how to be professional," McPhee said. "Someone has to teach them, and that comes from the veterans, it comes from the coaches, it comes from management. But it mostly comes from the veterans that are with them all the time.

"So we will, we would like to have a young, dynamic team. But we're also going to have the right veteran leadership with them."

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While stating that the Golden Knights will ice a fair amount of veteran talent, McPhee said that he isn't sure if he will choose a veteran or a younger player to be the team's captain.

Traditionally, veterans have been the ones to lead most teams and wear letters, although NHL culture has become increasingly accepting of younger captains as younger players have begun dominating statistical categories.

"It really depends on who you have, and what your personnel's like," McPhee said. "If there's a young guy that's capable of being a captain and can be a captain for a long time, well of course we would do that. No problem putting it on a veteran, either."

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Notable younger captains in the NHL in recent years are Sidney Crosby, who, in many ways, started this philisophical change by captaining the Pittsburgh Penguins to the 2008-09 Stanley Cup at age 21.

 

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Jonathan Toews, appointed Chicago Blackhawks captain at age 20 in 2008, subsequently led his team to titles in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche) and Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) are other active captains to receive their Cs at age 19.

"What you have to do is really find the right person that can lead the team, mostly by example," McPhee said. "But certainly there are other ways to do it, talking to people. It's got to be the right person.

"If you don't have the right person to be a captain, then don't put a 'C' on anyone. The Boston Bruins won a couple of Stanley Cups (1969-70 &1971-72) way back in the '70s.

"But if we have that person that's capable of handling the job, handling the media, handling extra responsibilities with the coaches, handling that extra responsibility with teammates and still being able to play well and perform well, then certainly we'd be happy to pin the 'C' on him."

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