Earlier today the Florida Panthers made a big announcement when they revealed that they would be stripping their current captain, Derek MacKenzie, of the "C" on his sweater. It was a move that did not come as too much of a surprise due to the fact that many felt that MacKenzie was merely a placeholder captain but it still surprised some if only due to the fact that franchises in the National Hockey League rarely remove a captain that remains on their roster.
That being said though the writing seemed to be on the wall for MacKenzie from the very moment that he was named captain and when he was asked about the situation on Monday he hinted that this was very much always the plan. To his credit though it sounds like MacKenzie leaped at the chance to be named captain in spite of the fact that he knew all along he was only a temporary band-aid type of solution for the organization.
"Their concern when we first kind of considered me being captain is that this day migjt come, but that was the least of my concerns. I said 'guys, if you're considering me or if I can wear the 'C' for two weeks, that would be the highlight of my career.' It's something I'll cherish. I don't think it's something a lot of fourth line guys in my position get to do. I think there's obviously a lot that deserve it but that's just the way it is. Two weeks, two years, or something in between, I'm proud that we got through it. I'm proud that we're a closer-knit team then we were at the start of it. I'd like to really think that we're in a lot better place, and that's not just me. From Dale and the ownership down through the new coaching staff, they've all worked and talked things out and always had the best intentions of this team in mind. I'm really looking forward to Game 1."
It's exactly the kind of response you would want from the 37 year old veteran defenseman, especially when you consider the fact that the player who will be replacing him is not known as a boisterous or vocal player per say. The Panthers named superstar forward Aleksander Barkov their new captain in MacKenzie's stead and Barkov strikes me much more as the kind of player who will lead by example on the ice and in the gym rather than the kind of player who leads in the locker room or on the bench. Having a former captain like MacKenzie around for at least this upcoming season will also likely make the transfer of leadership to Barkov much easier for the young Finnish superstar and will likely also provide him an extra shoulder to lean on if he ever needs advice or even help leading the team.
Fans have reacted very positively to the comments from MacKenzie today and although he is truly a class act if feels fair to say that this will also likely be his final year as a member of the Florida Panthers.