For three years the Golden Knights have declined to name a captain.
They used the “23 captains” rallying cry in their first season, and plenty of worn an “A” on their jersey as alternate captain over the years.
Now, Vegas has decided it is time for a designated leader.
The Golden Knights named forward Mark Stone the first captain in team history today, one day before the franchise’s fourth campaign begins.
Stone has been part of Vegas’ leadership core virtually since the moment he arrived, but now it’s official.
“There are 31 NHL teams, a majority of them have captains, so it’s not something I’m going to take lightly,” Stone said. “I haven’t really thought about it being a 100-year-old organization or a 4-year-old organization; it’s the same responsibility. I’m going to do everything I can to help this team win.”
When the Golden Knights open the season at 7 p.m. Thursday at home against the Ducks, they will do so with a roster containing just 10 players who were part of the inaugural team.
Some of the first-year leaders are still there but in the years since the Stanley Cup Final run in 2018, a new team has taken shape.
Stone wasn’t on that first-year team. Neither was Alex Pietrangelo or Max Pacioretty or Robin Lehner or plenty of key members of this year’s team.
Stone’s captaincy is another sign that the Golden Misfits are long gone. It was a magical run, but moving to a new age might not be the worst thing.
“I think it was time,” original Golden Knight Brayden McNabb said. “We got ourselves established and now we have a leader that we can count on and everyone’s excited for it."
Stone has been arguably Vegas’ best player since he arrived, racking up 26 goals and 74 points in 83 games across parts of two seasons.
He’s taken his game to another level in the playoffs, registering 13 goals and 29 point in 27 postseason contests, helping the Golden Knights to the Western Conference Final last year.
Stone came to Vegas in a February 2019 trade with the Ottawa Senators and promptly signed an eight-year extension that will keep him with the team through 2027. With a $9.5 million cap hit, he is also the team’s most expensive player.
All those credentials made Stone a strong choice for captain.
“The discussions this year pointed to an obvious guy,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. “That’s why the decision was made to have a captain and why the decision was made to have that person be Mark Stone.”
Stone will have some help. The Golden Knights are a veteran-heavy team with plenty of leadership — official and unofficial.
Pietrangelo and Reilly Smith were named alternate captains, and Pietrangelo and Pacioretty have both been captains in their careers.
Goalies don’t wear letters on their jerseys, but Marc-Andre Fleury is still a leader in the room.
Stone will wear the “C,” but it’s not as if he’ll be carrying the leadership load on its own.
“The good thing about this is we have so much leadership in this group,” Stone said. “We have guys who have been here since Day 1 creating a culture. I think I’ve helped add to that culture and I think a lot of guys who have come later on have helped add to that culture.
“Now it’s not just my responsibility but everyone as a group’s responsibility to continue to grow that culture and eventually try and win.”
Entering today, the Golden Knights were one of five teams without a captain.
Detroit placed the “C” on Dylan Larkin this morning, leaving New Jersey, Ottawa and the Rangers as the only teams without one.
Vegas coach Pete DeBoer was quick to point out that it’s been nearly 50 years since a team won the Stanley Cup without a captain — the 1972 Bruins.
But because nearly every team has a captain, it’s more than likely that one of those teams will win. The Golden Knights reached the Final in 2018 without one.
Still, DeBoer said early in his tenure as coach that he wanted a captain, and he got one today, telling Stone the news this morning.
“I think that leadership hierarchy is very important in the dressing room,” DeBoer said. “But (it’s) just as important in the messaging from the coaching staff through to the team that you have that guy in that group.”
The captaincy is more of a formality with few defined duties. Stone will be the public face of the team and be responsible for some smaller things, like taking the ceremonial faceoffs before games.
There is one fun perk. If the Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup during Stone’s captaincy, he gets to be the first one to hold it. That’s the Golden Knights’ vision — No. 61 skating to center ice to accept the Cup from the commissioner.
Now we know that No. 61 jersey will have a “C” on the front.