KRAKEN

Seattle Kraken need a captain, and Jordan Eberle is the best bet

May 25, 2022, 3:07 PM | Updated: Jul 18, 2022, 3:31 pm
Seattle Kraken Jordan Eberle...
Seattle Kraken forward Jordan Eberle is congratulated by teammates after his goal on April 20. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Changes are coming to the Seattle Kraken this summer. General manager Ron Francis says he plans on being aggressive in free agency, he has draft capital to make trades, and with a slew of draft picks he is looking to stock the pipeline. Safe to say the roster will look different, and that includes the naming of a new team captain.

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The captain of a hockey team carries some extra weight. At times, we may over-romanticize the importance of the role, but they play a big part in team success. The captain is who the younger players look to for advice, is a conduit between the coach and players, and is the guy who will step up and motivate the team.

Captains are often players who will be there for the long haul – unless you can get a couple of second-round picks for them in a trade, as the Kraken did with last season’s captain, Mark Giordano.

There are several strong candidates to step into Giordano’s skates, and the new Seattle Kraken captain could come from the group of alternate captains that made up the leadership group in season one. That includes Adam Larsson, Yanni Gourde, and Jordan Eberle. While they wore the letters, head coach Dave Hakstol often talked about leadership being more of a collective.

At his season-ending press conference, Hakstol said they had yet to discuss naming a new captain, and don’t be surprised if that process carried into training camp as it did last season.

When Hakstol does come to a conclusion, he should choose Eberle to wear the ‘C’ on his jersey next season.

Why Jordan Eberle as Seattle Kraken captain?

A veteran of 858 NHL games, Eberle has seen it all. He was originally a first-round pick, 22nd overall, of the Edmonton Oilers in 2008, and he’s experienced the pressure that comes with breaking into the NHL as a high draft pick.

Eberle played in a market with high expectations and constant scrutiny with the Oilers. He’s been a consistent scorer, as his 21 goals with the Kraken was the seventh time he hit or passed the 20-goal mark in his career. A captain doesn’t have to necessarily be the team’s best player but must be a guy who is contributing on the ice, and Eberle sure is that.

He scored the first hat trick in team history and was its lone representative at the NHL All-Star game. Eberle has the credentials.

What he says matters, and Eberle gives straight answers and never pulled punches during Seattle’s struggles this season. While we don’t get access to how that translates behind the closed door of the dressing room or even on the bench, you can imagine that when Eberle talks, his mates listen.

He knows the game and can assess what’s working, what’s not, and where the team needs to go next. Eberle sounds like a coach at times, but he has the experience and respect of his teammates for them to follow.

Take, for example, what Eberle said the day after the Kraken blew a 3-1 lead against the Winnipeg Jets and lost 4-3 in the season finale on May 1:

“I think if you look at the last 10 games, you look at some of the periods we played and you’re up two or three to nothing and then all sudden you take your foot off the gas, you sit back and that’s all teams need to get into games. It’s almost a learning thing. You learn how to win, you learn how to play in those situations, but the only way to learn that is to get into those situations. We were, so that’s the positive, and the negative obviously is sitting back and letting things come at us.”

That sounds like a leader talking.

Working with younger players

Prior to joining the Kraken in last summer’s NHL Expansion Draft, Eberle played on New York Islanders teams that had advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals two years in a row. He knows what it takes for a team to win and win consistently.

That’s key when it comes to a team that is young and may get younger in the coming season. Players like Morgan Geekie, Kole Lind, and Matty Beniers are still getting their NHL feet wet, and Eberle can help.

He’s been where they are as young players with high expectations, and he’s already bonded with Beniers. After signing his entry-level contract in April, Beniers played on a line with Eberle to end the season and was a big help.

“Just little things on the ice that people don’t really see,” Beniers said about the help he got, “but it goes a long way in making the game easier for me. Little things on the ice and then off the ice, the aspect of having games in a few days, so little recovery things and things like that.”

Other captain candidates

If it’s not Eberle with the ‘C’ on his sweater, he’ll still be a big player in the leadership group, as will others.

Jared McCann didn’t wear an ‘A’ this season as an alternate captain, but he has leadership qualities that seemed to grow as the season went on and will be in the mix.

Gourde is a fan and player favorite, and while he’s always smiling, he’s a fierce competitor. He thinks the game well, has a championship pedigree, and has earned respect from his teammates.

Larsson, while maybe not the most vocal player publicly, is a guy who has a ton to offer as a leader with the Kraken.

“He’s a rock, he shows up, he does his job, he works,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said of Larsson after the season. “I believe he grew even a little bit more as we came down the stretch here in terms of what he brought to the rest of the group in terms of energy and confidence. Those are some of the little things that you look for in the different guys in and around the room… He’s part of our leadership group.”

While Eberle may be the most qualified to be the captain, he’s not the only one that could do it, and do it well. Hakstol is in a good position here. He has strong leaders, and that was one of the keys to the way the Kraken played hard all season. Now they just need to turn that hard work into wins.

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Seattle Kraken need a captain, and Jordan Eberle is the best bet