The captaincy of a hockey team is a very interesting aspect of the game that isn't seen in any of the other major sports. Unlike football, or baseball or basketball -- in hockey, the leader of the team is clearly defined and has a very specific duty in that role, specifically when it comes to on-ice issues and discussions with the league officials.
For some, the captain of a hockey team receives too much attention, too much credit or blame for the success or failure of his team; others feel that a captain is one of the most important pieces of any successful organization.
The Stars have only had three captains since 1995 and each has come to define that era in hockey for the franchise. Derian Hatcher (1996-2003) was the leader of the rough, physical and defensively-minded championship teams, a hard nosed captain who provided quiet but intense leadership on and off the ice.
Mike Modano's (2003-2006) time came when the Stars were looking to become more skilled and his uneasy leadership was met with frustration and a lack of confidence when the playoffs hit.
Brenden Morrow (2006-2013) was seen as one of the best captains in the NHL for a long while, leading his team with a mixture of grit, determination and pure bullish hard work that carried the Stars during the 2008 postseason.
How the Stars will be defined as a team moving forward will be due in large part to who is wearing the "C" on their chest for the next five or ten years. There's a possibility that someone like Ray Whitney or Stephane Robidas would temporarily be captain until one of the younger players are ready, but all indications point to the team finding a long-term solution for the position.
"I am going to sit down with Lindy when we get into training camp and we'll make that call then," Stars GM Jim Nill told Stars Inside Edge. "I want Lindy to get a feel for the team a little bit first. It will happen sometime during training camp or the exhibition season."
Which player best defines the team what the Dallas Stars strive to be, that reaches for the ideals that Nill has set forth for the organization? Which player could best inspire confidence in his teammates and lead them forward in a new beginning for the franchise? A player that would be a leader on and off the ice, a role model for the franchise and one capable of being a top player in the NHL for the next decade or so...
Brenden Dillon, of course.
A defenseman that seemingly came out of nowhere just two years ago is now a rising star in the NHL, one who received consideration for the Calder Trophy and who was easily the best overall blueliner on the team last season. Dillon is the face of the bright young future of this team and, more importantly, is the perfect example of how hard work and determination -- and some lucky genetics -- can lead to great things.
Dillon was an undersized defenseman coming up in junior hockey in British Columbia and went undrafted in both the WHL and NHL draft, before finally enjoying one heck of a breakout year his fourth season with the Seattle Thunderbirds. His big year earned him the attention of several NHL teams, with Dillon signing with the Stars in the spring of 2011.
Dillon's signing went largely unnoticed at the time; a long-term project the team had taken a chance on, until he showed up in Austin at the end of the season in 2011 and impressed with his combination of skill and size. Dillon was a standout at development camp that summer and it became increasingly clear the Stars had likely found a player that could become a significant contributor at the NHL level.
Continuing to improve the next season with the Texas Stars, Dillon made his NHL debut in the final game of the season at home in 2012 against St. Louis. Despite the loss, Dillon's play in the game left many Stars fans hopeful he could be not just a borderline NHL player but a very good one and likely soon.
That summer, Dillon was once again at development camp but clearly did not belong. On the ice he stood out significantly compared to the other defensemen, appearing to be an NHL player taking some reps on the ice with the young prospects. I don't think anyone anticipated what he would accomplish in his first full season in the NHL, however, boosted by another half-season of experience in the AHL.
Off the ice, Dillon is one of the more approachable and professional hockey players you could ever hope to meet. His background as a young hockey player and his struggles to overcome his lack of size instilled a work ethic and determination that never left once he started to put on the inches, leaving him a humble and gracious player thankful for every chance he's received on his journey to the NHL.
Once the game starts, Dillon is more than willing to deliver crushing hits and has fully stepped into his role as a tone-setting defenseman capable of strong play in his own zone while also smartly moving the puck up the ice. Dillon at times is a good combination of Derian Hatcher and Daryl Sydor, a physical defenseman with offensive upside who proved to be one of the better young defensemen in the league last season.
Dillon is a natural leader, both in the locker room and on the ice, and is part of the long-term plan for this franchise moving forward. He's the sort of player perfectly suited to grow with the team he's leading forward, and is the sort of hockey player you want as the defining element of the team you're hoping to build.
The issue with naming Dillon the captain of the team this season is that he's still a young and inexperienced player with just 49 NHL games under his belt. While it's not unheard of for teams to name a young and promising player as team captain, it's rare that one with so little NHL experience is given the "C."
An ideal scenario would have a player like Ray Whitney or Stephane Robidas be named captain for this next season, with Dillon (or Benn) being eyed as the eventual captain a year down the road. Dillon appears perfectly groomed to eventually be a captain in the NHL, but likely needs another season or so before he's fully suited for the job.
A tough situation, especially with the Stars set to name a captain before the start of this next season. Do they play the long game with Dillon, or go with a player with more experience who has already been tabbed as the face of the franchise? We'll find out in less than two months.