After the New Jersey Devils traded then Captain Jamie Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars in early January the position remained vacant for the remainder of the season. But, despite the fact that no one Devil was actually given the title of “captain” one player stood out as a true leader on and off the ice, Patrik Elias.
Elias has been down this road before. After the 2006-07, just one season with the “C” on his chest, Elias relinquished his captaincy to Langenbrunner. Prior to that Elias had only played under two captains, Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer. Stevens was a fearless competitor that spoke loudly on the ice with his ferocious defensive play and intimidating presence. Niedermayer was a cerebral leader that skated effortlessly and always seemed to know where his teammates were on the ice. Both very different leaders but both very effective. It’s possible Patrik felt that he couldn’t fill the shoes of his Hall of Fame predecessors. Once the two-time Stanley Cup winner was given the chance to take over the Devils he never seemed to be comfortable in the role of the go-to guy and Langenbrunner took over the following season, a position he held until the trade. But, that was then and Elias appears ready to fill the void.
This past season this became even more clear as the veteran Elias emerged as role model for many of the young players during an emotionally exhausting season for his teammates. He remained steadfast in his belief in the team and their ability to be a successful hockey club. At the conclusion of the year, his teammates acknowledged his efforts by voting him as the teams MVP.
St. Patrik, an alternate captain, turned 35 this past April (he and I share the same birthday) but still remains a productive piece of New Jerseys offensive puzzle. His ability to play both wing and center makes his a versatile and valuable asset to the Devils coaching staff (Whomever that may be). He plays in all situations but remains most effective playing 5 on 5.
The dependable Czech is the organizations All-Time leading scorer with 816 points (335g 481a) with an incredible +/- rating of +194 in 961 career games. His career playoff numbers are just as impressive. In his 138 career post season games Elias has accumulated 117 points (40g 77a) including one of the biggest assists in Devils playoff history. His no look pass in the second overtime of the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals found Jason Arnott to clinch the series and the Devils second Cup title.
Barring an injury he will eclipse 1000 career games with one club by next season. Only 44 other players in NHL history can make that claim. Elias finished the 2010-11 campaign a minus (-4) player for the first time in his career while still managing to lead the team in scoring. His 62 points (21g 41a) were two better than the $100 million dollar man, Ilya Kovalchuk (31g 29a). But, it was his presence that made the difference for a team struggling to find itself halfway through the season.
Elias is currently an alternate captain for the Czech team at the IIHF World Hockey Championships. He currently leads all Czech players in scoring at the Championships being held in Slovakia. The Devil veteran has scored four goals and seven points in five games. His ability to see the ice in all situations is proving invaluable for the Czechs as it did for the offensively starved Devils.
Elias is playing out what could be his last NHL contract. He’s signed for the next two seasons with a cap hit of $6-million per year. Even with the cap expected to rise, that type of money almost guarantees he’ll finish his career in Newark. While the consensus is that Zach Parise in penciled in as the teams next captain, a consideration should be given to Elias. His contributions to the community and organization have afforded his a chance to retire as the teams ninth captain in franchise history. If the future is Parise then Elias shouldn’t be honored now.
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Should Elias Be Named Devils Next Captain?
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