ST. LOUIS – A new St. Louis Blues season starts next month, and training camp begins in roughly two weeks, but there’s one big void the team has yet to address.
Entering September, the Blues have not yet named a captain for the 2023-24 season.
The Blues are one of just nine teams actively without a captain. They haven’t had one since trading Ryan O’Reilly in February, and it’s unclear how much longer that will be the case.
Although the NHL does not require every team to have one, the captain is oftentimes revered as the locker room leader, a franchise face, and a key voice to consult with coaches and referees.
Only two times throughout the Blues’ half-century-plus existence have they sailed the ship without a captain. Those two times would be the 2007-08 campaign, amid a lengthy post-lockout rebuild, and the 1996-97 campaign, the first after the departure of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky.
Generally speaking, the captain’s honor is one a team awards to a player with hopes they will lead for the long haul. The last three – O’Reilly, Alex Pietrangelo and David Backes – captained at least three seasons each and have kept the Blues largely competitive over the past decade. It also doesn’t usually go to goalies (Sorry, Jordan Binnington).
Who will wear the ‘C’ for the upcoming season? There are lots of possibilities on the table.
Could it be a veteran? Or a previous alternate captain? Maybe a young up-and-comer? Perhaps, no one?
The Blues have not yet announced if a captain calling is in the works for this season, and it seems naming one wasn’t the top offseason priority for general manager Doug Armstrong.
One strong candidate, if the Blues indeed name a captain for the 2023-24 season, is Brayden Schenn. He’s the longest-tenured Blues forward, one of few pieces remaining from the 2019 Stanley Cup run and has served as an alternate captain for the last three years.
With five years remaining on his long-term deal, Schenn has also evolved as one of the most vocal Blues and has shown a willingness to drop the gloves for his teammates. He embodies a lot of qualities of a leader, even if his standalone stats aren’t the best among team’s top leaders.
Last year, Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk and Robert Thomas also served as alternate captains in certain capacities. Like Schenn, the Blues have invested in long-term deals with all three. Parayko and Faulk dealt with some regression last year, while Thomas is still relatively young to the league at 24 years old.
All three are perhaps underdog candidates for a captain if the Blues name one in the upcoming weeks. The Blues website currently lists just Parayko and Schenn as “A” (alternate) captains at this point of the offseason.
When the Blues eventually make a captain decision, whether this year or at some other point in the future, the lucky leader will be the 24th captain in franchise history. Al Arbour was the first one in team history. Brian Sutter had the longest run at it from 1979-1988.
Training camp is set to begin Sept. 21. Whether the team has a captain or not, head coach Craig Berube says his squad is “ready to go” and expects lots of roster battles for the ucpoming year.