Sans Bjorkstrand, The Blue Jackets Have An Opening For An Alternate Captain Spot

By Ed Francis on September 12, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Is Patrik Laine next in line to add a letter to his sweater?
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Boone Jenner wasn't the only Columbus Blue Jacket sporting a new letter on his sweater at the beginning of last season.

When the team named Oliver Bjorkstrand, Zach Werenski, and Gustav Nyquist as alternate captains last summer, it marked the first time in the careers of all three players that they were given the extra letter on the front of their jersey. For Jenner, the 2021-22 season was his first as captain after six seasons of wearing the "A". 

The surprise signing of Johnny Gaudreau meant that the Blue Jackets were forced to shed some cap space, which ultimately led to the club trading Bjorkstrand to the Seattle Kraken. The move was a bittersweet moment for the franchise; Bjorkstrand was a fan-favorite who was tied for the team lead in goals last season and had been with the Blue Jackets his entire professional career. 

But the trade does present at least one new opportunity: for a new skater to be named as an alternate captain. 

It's not a requirement that they do so. In fact, a club can only have three players wearing an extra letter during a single game. Typically, that would be a team's captain and two alternates. However, NHL rule 6.2 states that that "when the captain is not in uniform (or if there is no captain), the coach shall have the right to designate three alternate captains."

For that reason, many teams have three (or four, in a few cases) skaters tabbed as alternate captains. It's also not uncommon, for a variety of reasons, for alternates to rotate — though injuries to the captain or alternates are the main reason for said rotation.

With that in mind, here are some names to keep in mind as the season draws near. 

Top Contenders

Johnny Gaudreau: While in Calgary, Johnny Hockey only was given alternate status as a result of an injury, and it was only for the postseason. The Flames had the same rotation of alternates — Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, and Mikael Backlund — since the start of the 2018-19 season. They went without a captain this past season following the departure of Mark Giordano to the Kraken. Had he chose to stay a Flame, it seems that Gaudreau would have been given alternate status on a permanent basis this coming season. So why not do that in Columbus? Gaudreau, 29, has more than 600 games of NHL experience and won the 2016-17 Lady Byng trophy for the player who best showed sportsmanship during the season. Veteran status and gentlemanly conduct aren't requirements for captain status, but are certainly pluses. With Gaudreau locked up for the next seven seasons, his captaincy status would be one for the long-term.

Patrik Laine: Another prolific goal-scorer who is yet to don an "A" (or "C"), Laine wearing the "A" would show that the Blue Jackets have belief in him to become a vocal leader for the franchise. Signed to a four-year extension over the summer, the question with Laine is whether or not he can grow into role. At 24, he's the youngest of the options on this list. 

Jakub Voracek: The only player on the roster not wearing a letter who has in the past, Voracek was an alternate for the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2019-20 season following their trade of Wayne Simmonds. No one on the team has more than Jake's 1,047 career NHL games. The veteran presence is one thing, but doesn't it just feel like Voracek would be a good fit?

Dark Horses Candidates

Jack Roslovic: At some point, the Blue Jackets are going to have a home-grown player sporting at least the "A". Is that player Roslovic? General manager Jarmo Kekalainen has made it clear that he thinks Roslovic has long-term, top-six potential. There is still some work to be done with his two-way game, but his trajectory while in Columbus at least puts this in the realm of possible. 

Sean Kuraly: If Roslovic isn't the first home-grown, what about Kuraly? Coming off a career year with highs in goals, points, and time on ice, Kuraly is a tough, Columbus-born forward who stands up for his teammates and proved himself as an on-ice leader in his first season in Columbus. 

Vladislav Gavrikov: Gavrikov has become a mainstay on the Columbus defense, a player that can be trusted in any situation on the ice, and a guy who (like Kuraly), is willing to go to bat for those around him. The 27-year-old becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of this coming season; would the Blue Jackets promote him if he's gone in less than a year?

Cole Sillinger: ...It's too early, right? It feels like he'll wear it one day, but giving it to a 19-year-old would be the stuff of Connor McDavid. 

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