Look to the "C" to End the Skid

As the Pioneers hit the 3-week hockey holiday break, a sense of gloom has settled over the program. The Pioneers are 7-7-2, hardly a disaster, but certainly not up to the program's expectations heading into the season. There are many different thoughts on what has caused the current 0-4 stretch where the Pioneers were outscored an astounding 20-5.

Many look to the head coach or DU's gifted front line for answers. Others look at goaltending. Some see DU as an undersized squad overmatched by bigger teams.

The answer might just rest with the alphabet - namely the letter "C". Senior forward Grant Arnold wears this important letter for the Pioneers. While in other sports, captains are largely symbolic and often rotated, a hockey captain holds this role for an entire season. According to USA Hockey Magazine, The ABC's of Wearing the C, "The team captain is picked for leadership, whether it is leading by example or being vocal and letting players know their roles in getting the team to succeed. And many coaches agree that the perfect captain gives their team, in essence, an extra coach in the locker room and on the ice."

According to Dave Starman, an NHL scout and hockey analyst, “You’re (head coach) looking for someone who, when you walk out of the dressing room, is going to facilitate your message and who is going to be respected enough by the guys in that room to adhere to it,” 

Contrary to other sports, the captain isn’t always the best player on a team. There are instances when the captain might even be one of the least talented players on the club. Regardless of their skill set, every captain has a few specific personal qualities – confidence, strength of character, and the ability to speak up, among others. Captains are not selected because they are the star of the team - they are chosen for their leadership skills. For example, in his first three years at DU, Arnold only averaged 2.6 goals per season with and 5.3 assists. While those numbers are relatively pedestrian, Arnold was chosen because he has what it takes to wear the prestigious "C" on his sweater.

Interestingly, one of the most important things about earning the honor of captain is not "running" for the "C". In hockey culture, leaders don’t broadcast to their teammates and coaches how much they want to be captain, and certainly don’t do things just to be considered for the position. So if a player is campaigning to earn the “C,” he/she probably doesn't deserve the distinction.

At the conclusion of the recently completed St. Cloud series, radio announcer Jay Stickney suggested a three weak 'break' would be good for the Pioneers. Coach Montgomery quickly responded that family time is important but players must be responsible for following their training schedules, adhering to dietary guidelines and getting sleep. Behind the scenes, expect Arnold to be checking in with his teammates during the break to make sure they adhere to Montgomery's instructions.

Other tools cited in How to be a Good Hockey Captain, may be employed by Arnold as well. These 'tools' include calling a 'players only' meeting, calling out teammates (1-on-1, not publicly), lead by example, stick up for teammates on the ice, and be a confidante to players on and off the ice.

When facing tough times, NHL all-star Mark Messier said, "As a captain, I think it’s important that the players really know who you are, and what you stand for, what your beliefs are, and to be consistent in those if things are going good or things are going bad."

So, if the Pios are going to emerge from the holiday break and start winning again, it will likely be the leadership of Arnold that is a major reason for it. The Pioneers have a great leader in Grand Arnold and fans should have every confidence in him to help lead this team back to where it belongs, in the win column.


MagnessMan said...

Not sure you meant to oversimplify but I think you have. The early concerns about DU's Defense have held true. The last four games against top-tier programs have clearly exposed that weakness. This is a long term recruiting issue.

Twister said...

I'm sure Arnold is shouldering some of the responsibility for DU's recent struggles, especially concerning the effort level against the Sioux and last weekend against SCSU. Certainly that is an area of concern--no excuse for subpar effort. Other areas DU needs to fix:

Goaltending--neither Cowley nor Jaillter has stepped forward. One of those guys needs to make a statement in the 2nd half.

Power play-shoot the puck! Quit looking for the perfect play. Get some traffic in front and make life difficult for the goalie.

Scoring--I was concerned about secondary scoring this season, but the fact is, no one is producing at a high level. Heinen has 11 points in 16 games, Moore has 10 in 15, Shore has 8 in 16, Levin has 8 in 15, Marcinew has 8 in 16 etc. Those numbers have to change.

DU needs some nasty on the blueline a la Ryder, Mayfield, and Didier. Where is Sean Mostrom?