On Monday, the Ottawa Senators tweeted that their nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy is Brady Tkachuk. The award is given to the player who best exemplifies on and off ice leadership and is an active humanitarian. Each team submits a player for the trophy, and eventually, that list is cut down to three nominees league-wide. The winner will be announced during the Conference Finals.
Brady Tkachuk with the Inside Track on the Captaincy
The fact that one NHL team picks a nominee every year makes the nomination news usually not that interesting. But this one is different. The Senators haven’t had a captain since they traded former captain Erik Karlsson right before the 2018-19 season. When the Senators next announce a captain, it is expected the choice will be between either Thomas Chabot or Tkachuk.
Both players are the two best players on the team. Chabot led the league in ice-time this season, playing a ridiculous 26 minutes a game. Tkachuk meanwhile led the team in goals, points and penalty minutes. The 23-year-old Chabot and the 20-year-old Tkachuk are faces of Ottawa’s youth movement, so, naturally, one of them will lead the team into their hopefully brighter future.
With Ottawa choosing Tkachuk as their nominee for an award that rewards leadership, it seems clear that they are leaning toward Tkachuk as their next captain.
Here is a fan-altered image giving Tkachuk the ‘C’ on the Senators rumoured new jerseys.
Here’s another concept regarding the Senators confirmed rebrand. 👀
— Everyday.Sens (@EverydaySens) July 15, 2020
On-Ice Leadership Qualities
Under head coach D.J. Smith, Ottawa is a hard-working team that wants to be hard to play against. Brady Tkachuk certainly exemplifies that. He loves to play in the dirty areas and battle for pucks in the corner and in front of the net. Tkachuk is physically mature for his age at 6′-3′ and 212 pounds, so he can use his strength to win battles, and it makes him a handful in front of the net. He scores many goals by banging a loose puck in front of the net.
When he doesn’t have the puck, he is willing to sacrifice his body to get it back. Tkachuk was second in the league this season with 303 hits. He also was second on his team among forwards with blocked shots this season with 43. In an interview with Sportsnet’s Hockey Central, Smith sees Tkachuk’s work ethic motivating the team.
“He’s a guy that shows up every day. Even if your team maybe doesn’t have it, [he throws] a couple hits, he scores an ugly goal, [he’s] yelling at the other team — they drag you into the battle,” says Smith. “And he’s a guy that’s going to help us turn this thing around.”
Another leadership quality is the team is better with Tkachuk on the ice. He had an even-strength corsi for percentage of 50 percent, meaning he generates just as many shot attempts as he gives up. That percentage was third among Ottawa’s regular forwards. Among 20 players who have played at least 70 minutes with Tkachuk, only Tyler Ennis and Artem Anisimov had their corsi percentage improve playing without him, which means that Tkachuk makes his teammates better. The corsi statistics are from Natural Stat Trick.
Brady Tkachuk is great when it comes to interacting with fans, it is easy to see during warm-ups. Here are two video examples of him doing so. The first one is him accepted a floss dancing competition with a young fan, the other is him handing a fan a puck when she held up a sign asking him to be her valentine.
— #JayAndDan (@JayAndDan) February 5, 2020
Away from the rink, Brady Tkachuk takes time to interact with fans as well. Here is a story of Tkachuk taking a few minutes out of his day to take a picture with a soon to be married couple.
1. Congrats on your wedding day @ladsdeev
2. Brady Tkachuk connects so seamlessly with fans in this city. I’ve heard so many stories about how approachable and polite he is with fans in public. This is another example. https://t.co/vnVlfVqSTk
— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) February 29, 2020
None of these examples are things that are overly difficult for Tkachuk to do. But it shows that he understands his role as a celebrity in Ottawa and takes it seriously to make sure fans have a good interaction with him. All organizations strive to have their players behave that way around fans and Tkachuk is leads by example.
When the Senators Should Name a Captain
After the Senators traded Jean-Gabriel Pageau and had fellow assistant captain Mark Boroweicki injured, the team made Tkachuk the replacement assistant captain. He didn’t wear the ‘A’ for long, but it showed that the coaching staff sees him as a leader. Chabot actually received an ‘A’ before Tkachuk. Even though Tkachuk looks to be in the lead for the captaincy because of his King Clancy nomination, Chabot is still a serious contender.
The Senators have had many veteran leaders like Pageau, Boroweicki, Ron Hainsey, Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Craig Anderson over the past two seasons. With the possibility that all of those players won’t be on the team next year, it forces both Tkachuk and Chabot to truly take prominent leadership roles for the first time in their NHL careers. It would be best if neither of them had to jump into the captaincy role right away and had a year to figure out what it takes to be a leader of an NHL team. If one player emerges as the obvious choice for captain, then the Senators should name a one for the 2021-22 season.