I know that my posts are usually a bit more introspective than this one is going to be, but it's the middle of August, a period during the NHL offseason where yesterday's Evgeni Artyukin for Drew Miller trade was the top hockey story. Mid-August is when the hockey fan reaches the point where anything that even mentions the word hockey piques their interest. And so, with that in mind, I pose this question to the Devils Legion: With the departure of John Madden, who would you give the vacant 'A' to?
I want to start my answer by clarifying that Jamie Langenbrunner will retain his status as captain. Because of this, there should be no doubt from any executive, coach, player, or fan that Patrik Elias will and should keep his 'A'. I know that Jacques Lemaire and Elias were not here together for very long, but I would hope it's safe to say that Lemaire would not think about taking the letter away from the franchise's all-time leading scorer.
So with those two set, who gets Madden's 'A'? My original answer was Brian Rolston. Rolston is
supposed to be one of our high profile players, and though he had a self-admitted down year, perhaps Lemaire's return will lead to a Rolston Renaissance. Rolston has called Lemaire the best coach he's ever had, and so I think it's safe to expect a good season out of Rolston. I liked my choice, until I realized that Rolston is most likely going to be playing on a line with Elias. The point behind assigning letters is to determine which players are allowed to discuss situations with the referees, therefore both Elias and Rolston having one doesn't make a lot of sense.
With that in mind, I'd like to amend my vote and give it to Paul Martin. Other than Colin White, Martin is the longest-tenured Devil defenseman, and is undoubtedly the leader of our defense corps. He has a great deal of skill, is a good leader, and at age 28, is in the prime of his career. But besides that, he's up for free agency at the end of this upcoming season. It may not seem like much, but letters are all about symbolism, and any effort, no matter how small it may seem, that will help Paul Martin decide to remain a New Jersey Devil after this season should be done in my opinion. We've lost way too many quality defensemen over the years. Keeping Johnny Oduya was a great step in the right direction, but to keep the momentum going with Paul Martin is critical.
There are a few good choices out there to take over alternate captain duties, enough that even though I'm personally against it, the Devils may end up rotating the designation. Considering the high likelihood that Rolston and Elias will spend the entire season on a line together, I stand by my decision to give the vacant 'A' to Paul Martin. But like I said before, I want to know what you all think, so please vote in the attached poll.