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Captain or not, Ladd plans on being exactly the same

by John Manasso
ATLANTA -- First-year Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay was very careful about whom he wanted to name as the captain of his team.

Ramsay has spoken about the dangers of making a player the captain for the wrong reasons, and while he never mentioned it specifically, the memory of the Philadelphia Flyers stripping Eric Lindros of his captaincy during Ramsay's tenure there as interim coach could not be far from his memory.

On Thursday, one day after Ramsay accused his team of quitting during a particularly ugly stretch of defensive-zone play during a 2-1 loss to Florida on Wednesday, the Thrashers named two-time Stanley Cup winner Andrew Ladd their captain.

In typical Ramsay fashion, the announcement was made without much fanfare. The coach said he had pondered the move for a week or two and Ladd said associate coach John Torchetti approached him about it a few days ago. However, rather than telling Ladd in a one-on-one meeting, Ramsay informed the entire team of the decision during a meeting Thursday.

"I don't think it changes a thing. I think there's a reason I've been chosen and I don't think it would be good if I changed anything up. I think just going out and approaching things the same way, trying to lead by example, things will take care of itself." -- Andrew Ladd

Ladd leads the Thrashers in scoring with 18 points, leads the team's forwards in ice time per game and his minus-1 rating also ranks among the team's best. He plays on the power play and kills penalties.

"I think he's played hard every night," Ramsay said. "We've used him in every situation and he's responded. ... I think he wants to do it. I think he really cares about the team. He doesn't have to be so vocal. It has to be someone everyone respects. He's really a good person."

Prior to taking the "C," Ladd was one of three alternates; Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom were named alternate captains Thursday, though Ramsay said those will continue to rotate. Ladd said he was honored by the decision, but he also said he doesn't think it will change much.

"I don't think it changes a thing," he said. "I think there's a reason I've been chosen and I don't think it would be good if I changed anything up. I think just going out and approaching things the same way, trying to lead by example, things will take care of itself."

As a young player breaking into the League, Ladd learned under a great captain in Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour, who guided the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup. For the last few seasons, he played under Jonathan Toews, another strong captain who led his team to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

Ladd is only 24, the youngest captain in Thrashers history, but Toews was only 22 when he captained the Blackhawks to their Cup and Sidney Crosby was only 21 when he captained Pittsburgh to the 2009 Cup.

"Any time you win, you gain experience," said the Thrashers' Rich Peverley. "It doesn't matter how old you are. ... Any time you gain that experience you can help other guys."

Ramsay said Wednesday's loss -- in which he also questioned the team's commitment, heart and courage -- might have moved up his timetable on naming Ladd.

"Maybe it was time to move it forward," Ramsay said. "I had to learn the team myself. So it was about finding out what goes on, what ticks on our hockey team, what he brings to the table. I said I was probably going to do it any way, but it doesn't hurt that I think that this is what I thought was a good time."

Ladd said he doesn't think it adds any pressure to take over at a time when the Thrashers are struggling. They have lost three straight, are 1-5-1 in their last seven and Friday host Washington (7:30 p.m., NHLN-US), owner of the League's best record.

"I mean, I don't think it changes much," Ladd said. "We're still trying to do the same thing here. We're still trying to correct those little mistakes we're making. I don't know if I'd put any more pressure on myself. Our leadership group in here, it's more than me. It's Buff and Toby. It's a big group of guys. We've got to step up and lead the way. That's the most important thing for us."

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