When Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights at the expansion draft in June, it opened up a forward spot for the Philadelphia Flyers. To most of Flyers fans’ delight, that spot will likely go to a young player.
But it also created another opening in Philadelphia’s leadership group. Bellemare was named an alternate captain after defenseman Mark Streit was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline. Although the France native only kept that title for a couple months, a new alternate will need to be named.
Claude Giroux returns for his fifth season as captain of the Flyers and Wayne Simmonds is in his fourth season as alternate captain. Most teams have one captain and two alternates, meaning Philly has a decision to make in training camp.
The following are the most likely options for the open alternate captaincy:
If this was a betting game, Voracek would be the favorite. He’s tied for the second-longest tenured Flyer and from all accounts, is a leader in the locker room.
He’s also charismatic and is a part of the veteran core that includes Giroux and Simmonds. Most had him pegged to be the next alternate captain when Streit was traded.
The only issue is that every captain will be a forward in this case. For most teams, a defenseman is usually one of the captains. That may be to help distinguish a clear leader on the back end, but the Flyers had no problem with three forward captains when they nominated Bellemare as one.
Gudas may be known as a dirty player to people that don’t watch him regularly, but if you do, you’ll see the former Lightning as someone who leads by example and isn’t afraid to be vocal either.
The Flyers defense will be evolving into an even younger group of players next season and having a pointed leader may help things. Gudas has helped groomed Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov over the last two seasons even if he didn’t play with them.
At 27 years old, Gudas isn’t an aged veteran but he has five NHL seasons under his belt and over 250 games. Besides that, he also has three seasons left on his deal and doesn’t appear to be leaving Philly before then.
There was an immediate outburst from the Flyers fan base when Bellemare was named the alternate captain. Imagine if they name MacDonald one this season. He’s frequently lamented by fans for his porous play, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that his jersey has an extra “A” on it next season.
As mentioned with Gudas, most teams have a defenseman as captain and the Flyers have shown before that they trust the former New York Islander guiding rookies. He also easily leads blueliners in games-played with 473 on the Philly roster.
Judging from games and interviews, MacDonald doesn’t seem to be the most vocal person, but that may be different inside the locker room. Either way, the Flyers have trusted MacDonald with plenty of responsibility before and could do it again.
Provorov will be an alternate captain — and maybe more — one day with the Flyers. So why put off the inevitable?
He’s the darkhorse of this group, but there’s plenty of reasons why he should be considered. Provorov’s already the best rearguard in Philadelphia and will take an even bigger workload this upcoming season.
But that’s a great reason not to name him one quite yet. Provorov will have enough to deal with in 2017-18 without trying to be a leader thrust into that spotlight in his sophomore season.
The Russian defender’s time as some sort of captain with the Flyers will come. It just doesn’t have to come next season.