Since arriving in the city in 2005-06, the Toronto Marlies have been fortunate to have stability in their captaincy, at least compared to most minor league teams. Marc Moro was the first and served for three years, before quitting professional hockey. Ben Ondrus did the same before heading to the Edmonton Oilers organization. Alex Foster followed, with a pair of seasons in Europe, and Ryan Hamilton followed in Ondrus’ footsteps in the sense that he wore the C for three before heading to Oil Country.
With Hamilton’s departure, the spot was up for grabs this year. With the season underway tomorrow afternoon, the team publically made their decision, naming Trevor Smith as the 5th captain in team history.
Picking a captain out of this bunch had to be a tough process. Not that there aren’t players who show leadership qualities, but in previous cases, prior history came in to play. The reality with this team? There wasn’t a lot of prior history. Just Jerry D’Amigo and Korbinian Holzer had even three seasons of experience in Toronto; most of them entering in their first or second year with the team. Even veteran professional experience is hard to pick out of this team; with just 3 players being older than 26. In fact, 17 of the players on the roster were born in 1990 or later. This is great in the sense that they’re a development team full of prospects, but it makes picking a leader theoretically difficult.
Enter Trevor Smith. Contrary to the previous captains, he won’t have any prior experience with the team. To add to that, this is his first experience as a Captain in his pro career. But what he does bring is seniority (the third oldest player on the team at 28 years old), AHL experience (entering his seventh season) and brief stints above and below (24 combined games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh Penguins, along with 22 games in the ECHL in 2007-08).
Smith also is best suited to the role of a traditional AHL captain, in the sense that he’s a player who has an outside shot at making the NHL and is still pursuing the goal, but is unlikely to be away from the team for very long if at all over the course of the year.
Spott is confident in his choice, that he made after team bonding sessions in Muskoka. "When you go through it, you have to trust people around you, and obviously our support staff, and this was a decision we felt very comfortable with."
"This young man.. embodies everything we want as a coaching staff. For a team that might have some younger, newer faces this year, he understands the rigours of playing in the American Hockey League."
It wasn’t simple. "They’re not easy decisions. People think that every player gets a vote, putting names in a hat and pulling them out, but at this level, you need to make sure your leadership group, not just Trevor, but all five of these guys are on the same group as your coach."
Joining him are two pairs of alternate captains. On the road, Korbinian Holzer and Andrew MacWilliam will wear the A, while John-Michael Liles and Jerry D’Amigo will wear them at Ricoh Coliseum.
"This is a great opportunity for me, and a great honour" said Smith. "We’re looking for success this season early and often, and can hopefully get this team in the playoffs, as they have in the past few years."
Beyond that, the team is looking ahead to tomorrow’s game against Grand Rapids, with a twenty seven man roster announced yesterday. The back to back home games this weekend will give coach Spott a look at his 10 defencemen and three goalies, and allow him to begin making decisions on assignments to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. That’s not a concern for Spott right now, though.
"That’s going to be a work in progress. We talked about it as a staff, and we’ll reconvene tomorrow to look at that.We’re not looking at [Sunday vs.] Lake Erie as of yet. We’re looking at [Saturday vs.] Grand Rapids, and we’ll see how that all plays out, We know we have to clean up the ten [men on defence], it’s too big of a number, not realistic for practice, even."
He is, however, very excited to coach his first professional game.
"It’s kicking in now. The last couple of weeks have been relaxed, but today you can feel the adrenaline, and I’m starting to get anxious."
Trevor Smith and his Toronto Marlies begin their season tomorrow afternoon. Puck drop is at 3PM at Ricoh Coliseum.