When the Golden Knights launched their inaugural season in 2017, the team decided it would not have a captain.
The mantra from general manager George McPhee and coach Gerard Gallant was, “We have 23 captains.”
They pointed to the veterans in the locker room as the team’s “leadership group.” If anything needed to be said, if anyone stepped out of line, Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal, David Perron or Deryk Engelland would take care of it.
Sure enough, the room stayed together, the Knights had a historic first year and made it to the Stanley Cup Final.
But Neal and Perron left in July. Replacing them were Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. Both have been in leadership roles with Pacioretty having served as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, a prestigious honor given the history of that iconic franchise. Stastny was an assistant captain in Colorado.
Yet, you can’t help but wonder if something has been missing in the Vegas locker room this year. Yes, Fleury still commands everyone’s respect. Engelland is still with a voice among his teammates. I don’t know that either Stastny or Pacioretty are active in being leaders in Vegas since I’m not in the room on a daily basis. I would like to think they are.
But maybe the time has come to narrow the voices from 23 to one.
Mark Stone arrived Monday from Ottawa in the biggest trade on NHL deadline day and the 26-year-old who wore the “A” with the Senators would be the perfect person to be the Golden Knights’ first captain. Obviously not this season. But by September, the team should seriously consider giving Stone the “C.”
He has seen what dysfunction can do to a team, how it can tear it apart and lead to frustration. He tried to hold the room together in Ottawa and while you can argue he wasn’t successful given the Senators’ record, the fact he came to the rink every night, played hard, and set an example of doing things the right way as the team’s best player speaks volumes to his character.
His performance in Vegas will earn his teammates’ respect. They’ve all played against him and he’s a pain to go up against. Now he’s one of them and the Knights will benefit from Stone’s work ethic, his skill, his experience, and his competitiveness and daily commitment. As GMGM said Monday after acquiring him, it’s not every day a special player joins your organization.
I don’t know that he changes it because we have a terrific room, great leadership, real quality people. He certainly adds to it. He’s as fine of a person as you can find in this game. You like him off the ice, you like him on the ice. Kelly McCrimmon knows him very well, he had him as a young player. I worked with him at the World Championships a few years ago, we won the gold medal in Russia. So, he is the type of player that you will always look for and hope to be able to land. -McPhee
Ultimately, it’s the players who have to believe in the guy they decide to follow. He’ll do his talking on the ice for the time being.
Stone understandably doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes in the locker room. He chose his words carefully in meeting with the media for the first time prior to Tuesday’s game.
I can’t change too much, I just want to be myself and play my game. I’m not going to come in here and try to be ‘The guy.’ I want to fit in. I want to help these guys win, that’s why I’m here. -Stone
Stone shouldn’t be thinking about being the Golden Knights’ captain right now. He should focus on assimilating into the organization, get comfortable with his teammates and coaches and focus on hockey. He’s saying all the right things right now.
Tuesday, he debuted against Dallas and it was a solid performance. He logged just over 17 minutes of ice time, had six shots on goal and had a couple of quality scoring chances. In addition, Stone had three takeaways, two blocked shots, registered two hits and was a +1 for the evening.
And while he looked a little dead-legged at times, consider he traveled Monday to get to Las Vegas, he didn’t participate in the morning skate and didn’t get on the ice until pregame warmups. Nobody should be complaining.
I mean I haven’t been on the ice since Friday. So, my legs weren’t quite there to start the game, but I think as I got along in later stages of the game, I started feeling a lot better. I’m excited to get on the ice tomorrow and be ready for Thursday’s game. -Stone
I’m guessing he was nervous, excited and perhaps a bit overanxious trying to please the fans and his new teammates. So don’t judge him on one evening. He may not have scored but his presence definitely influenced the game. His body of work will speak for itself in due time.
I liked his game a lot. He got a lot of deflections tonight. The power play was unbelievable. Our guys kept it simple, which I was really happy about. Like I said, I think he makes players better around him and that line was really good. He played an excellent game. It’s probably tough because he hasn’t skated in three days, but I think he played great. -Gallant
Captains are grown organically. Leaders lead, wherever they go. In Stone’s case, the seeds have now been planted. He is here for the long haul. Let those seeds germinate and nurture and let the “C” grow come fall.
Sorry, enough of this “23 captains” stuff. It’s time to have one voice in the Golden Knights’ locker room.
And that voice is Mark Stone’s.
If we have to wait until September, so be it.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**