The Columbus Blue Jackets played last season without a captain following the offseason trade that sent Rick Nash to the New York Rangers. They might do so again in 2013-14.
"I'm coming into camp with my eyes wide open, watching," coach Todd Richards told the Columbus Dispatch when asked about naming a captain. "I want to see if we have somebody ready for that."
Asked if the team might go captain-less for a second straight season, Richards said, "I'm not saying yes or no to that. But I'm not going to pick a captain just because every team has to have a captain. For me, it has to be the right guy, or you don't do it."
President of hockey operations John Davidson agreed that finding the right player was more important than merely having a captain.
"It's a very unique decision, and there's no handbook out there for it," Davidson told the Dispatch. "Even if there is, you don't have to follow it unless somebody really pops out at you."
The 2012-13 season was one of transition in Columbus. In addition to the trade that sent Nash, holder of most of the franchise's scoring records, to New York, there were major changes at the top of the organization. Davidson was hired, and Jarmo Kekalainen replaced Scott Howson as general manager.
The lockout-shortened 48-game season didn't start until January, and the Blue Jackets barely missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a strong late-season run, losing out to the Minnesota Wild on a tiebreaker in the race for the eighth berth in the Western Conference.
"I liked what we did last year, not rushing into naming [a captain]," Richards said. "It brought more guys into the mix as far as taking ownership and leading the team.
"For me, it's no different right now than last year. My whole thing is, I'm approaching it like it's a huge decision, making sure you have the right guy, that he's capable and ready of doing the things that are necessary of a captain. It's not a small or easy decision to make."
Defenseman Jack Johnson and forward Brandon Dubinsky are regarded as the most likely candidates to get the "C."
"This is the first time I've ever played on a team that didn't have [a captain]," Johnson said. "Obviously, they're going to take their time with it, and it's up to them. But at some point, I feel like you do have to put a stake in the ground."