As far as we know, there is no such thing as an NHL captains training school.
The only real way to get a quality “education’’ is to play the game awhile, learn from veteran players and, as the years go by, try to lead by example.
All this could be of interest to the Flyers because they might be in the market for a new captain sometime over the next month or so.
It’s the NHL’s worst-kept secret current captain Claude Giroux might be heeding those famous words, “Go west, young man’’ if all the trade rumors about him heading to the Colorado Avalanche are true.
If that turns out to be the case, who would be the next in line to continue the proud tradition set by such great past captains as Bob Clarke, Dave Poulin, Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau?
Considering Sean Couturier just had season-ending back surgery, that probably eliminates him from the list of candidates. Kevin Hayes also has the qualifications but he’s been hurt most of the year, too. A veteran such as Keith Yandle might work but he’s only on a one-year contract.
In our opinion, Scott Laughton is the best candidate for the position.
He’s been a member of the organization since 2012, was captain of Canada’s 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships team and re-signed with the Flyers a couple years back when he could have tested free agency.
Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo recently put an alternate captain’s “A’’ on Laughton’s jersey and for good reason. Laughton responded with a personal record-tying six-game point streak and three-game goal streak. The success comes as no surprise.
“I think a lot of it is Coots (Couturier) has been out the whole time, with Hayes out there’s obviously been an opportunity for someone to step up in a leadership role,’’ Yeo said of Laughton’s recent success. “And we put that ‘A’ on his jersey and I feel he’s taken a huge step in that regard. He’s so vocal on the bench right now. Doesn’t matter if we’re up a goal or down a goal. And his leadership goes far more than what they’re saying. He’s the guy that’s doing things the right way, shift after shift. He’s doing things right in the D-zone. It allows him to get to his game, it allows him to generate that speed to get on the attack and create offense.’’
In addition to serving as captain of Canada’s 2014 World Juniors team, Laughton (whose nickname was “Captain Canada’’) won gold with Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team at the 2011 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and bronze with Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Brno, Czech Republic.
Also, Laughton served as an alternate captain with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals.
Flyers/TNT television analyst Keith Jones says Laughton has made big strides in the leadership department.
“He’s at the point in his career where he looks like he’s starting to take the next step as far as his individual play,’’ Jones said. “I think to lead in the National Hockey League you have to put up the numbers as well. You have to be able to play the game with confidence. And that confidence has to be something you can pass along to the guys you’re playing with. I know that’s something Claude Giroux has done a very good job of throughout his career. Laughton has those capabilities. He’s fallen into a more prominent role, not just in the checking game but also offensively in the absence of some of the Flyers’ top players. I think that’s just another side of how Scott can lead by example, not just by verbally communicating things but showing guys what needs to be done on the ice and that’s important.’’
A former (2012) first-round draft pick, Laughton’s pro career got off to a slow start. He had a brief five-game trial with the Flyers in the 2012-13 season, then, after playing 102 games with Philadelphia between 2014-16, was sent back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for all but two games of the 2016-17 campaign.
He responded with 19 goals with the Allentown team, returned to Philadelphia and has been a third- or fourth-line center mainstay ever since.
Other players notice that resilience and have to be impressed. Does that count when sizing up a player’s credentials for a captaincy?
“It does,’’ Jones said, “and I think that’s kind of been the story for Laughton throughout his career. He’s continued to improve and get better. Those are also great examples of things you can share with other players. Especially with where the Flyers are with their evolution right now in the absence of guys who were expected to be key contributors. Other players are getting opportunities to show what they can do, some have not excelled. Laughton has and I think that bodes well for him moving forward.’’
Laughton acknowledges he’s made progress in the area of leadership.
“I try to be vocal and bring energy,’’ he said. “That’s all you can do every night, try to be consistent. Work as hard as you can and show that.’’
Jones said he would endorse Laughton for the “C’’ if a vacancy appeared.
“I like the qualities that Laughton brings to the table as far as leadership goes,’’ Jones said. “I like the fact he’s been in the city for awhile and realizes what it’s like here. I think experience does matter. Being a captain coming in from somewhere else can be a little bit intimidating. For the guys who have been here and around this team for a long time, Laughton has all the qualities you would want in a captain.’’