When you think of the kind of man you want as your captain in the National Hockey League, your thoughts almost always go to iconic players, who are not only leaders on their team, but among the truly elite crop of NHL talent.
In an incredible piece of the Canadien Press this week, writer Jonas Siegel touched on one of the more unknown captains in the NHL, Derek MacKenzie, a name that isn't likely to resonate among casual hockey fans.
Most of the 28 captains in the NHL this season are former all-stars, scoring champs, MVPs, Conn Smythe, Rocket Richard and Norris Trophy winners, some of the best and brightest in the game. And then there's Derek MacKenzie from the Florida Panthers, the NHL's most anonymous captain.
MacKenzie, 35, has never been an NHL all-star, never won a major award, never even scored 10 goals in a season. His career-high for points is 23.
MacKenzie is the captain of the Florida Panthers, but you wouldn't know it unless you follow the league or the team very closely, in fact MacKenzie is so unknown that at the time of this writing, a google search for "Florida Panthers captain" will try and convince you that Willie Mitchell still holds that title.
That's because Mackenzie is far from your prototypical captain in the NHL, he is by no means a star, in fact words like grinder, and journeyman are far better suited to describing him than words like talent or elite. But despite that the Florida Panthers organization as well as their players never had any doubt as to who would be chosen as the man to lead when it came time to pass on the "C." With some players even going so far as to label him the voice of reason inside the locker room.
"Everyone expected him to be the captain," said Panthers' defenseman Steven Kampfer as per the Canadian Press. "You look outside the room and people aren't going to think that, but everyone in this room knew it was probably going to be him."
The Panthers wanted a veteran who could lead by example for their young core of players, and despite the fact that MacKenzie averages just 12 minutes a night, and most of those are on the fourth line, they felt he was the man who could be that role model. It's also no surprise that they made Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad alternate captains, so their young stars could learn from him in the hopes of ascending to that role in the future.
MacKenzie may be unknown to most around the league, but that certainly is not the case within his own organization, and at the end of the day that is what matters, as those are the men who believe he is the man to lead them.