Two new arrivals and a home-grown talent are the Thrashers' new leadership for the season. After spending the first quarter of the year alternating the As (Johnny Odyua and Nik Antropov also wore them as well as did Ron Hainsey), the team narrowed the letters down to just three. Traditionally in the past there has been the captain and four alternate captains, two road and two home. This season, coach Craig Ramsay figured that too many cooks could spoil the pot in the quest for one person to take control of the room. Looking out on the ice so far this year, it was clear who was leading by example.
Last season's alternate captains, Zach Bogosian and Ron Hainsey, both have been playing average hockey to say the least. Bogosian was probably too young to be named an alternate captain of a team that was already not the most stable in the league, and despite being very outspoken in the press (and presumably in the locker room), Hainsey's on-ice performance has never been stelar enough to rally around. Andrew Ladd this season, however, has been outstanding. The team appears to look towards him for advice, and he has a nice shiny Stanley Cup ring to wear around them just in case they've forgotten if he knows what it takes to be a champion. Unlike other captains in the team's past, Ladd can speak from experience - which of course always encourages listening. He's thrived in Atlanta thus far with his expanded role, averaging a point per game and playing on the top line.
Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien's at the top or near the top of most statistical categories for defensemen, and is one of the few players that the Thrashers have who can control a game entirely by himself. He also comes equipped with a playoff ring and a playoff rep that he's done nothing but add to since he's come to Atlanta. Tobias Enstrom, of course, is our home grown talent. The diminutive former Young Star was an 8th round pick (239th overall) in the 2003 draft. This kind of drafting of a defenseman is something that teams like Detroit is known for. Enstrom holds the team record for most consecutive games played - he's never missed one - and he also holds the franchise record for assists by a defenseman. Last season he had 44 assists; so far this year he has 13.
Ladd is in the final year of his current contract and will be an RFA at the end of the season. Hopefully his expanded role on the Thrashers will be an incentive for a decent contract extension. Enstrom has two seasons remaining, while Byfuglien will be an RFA at the close of this season.