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First Down: Pick the Caps’ next captain

TAKE YOUR PICK WHO SHOULD BE THE CAPITALS’ NEW CAPTAIN?

Alex Ovechkin — From the outside, Ovechkin seems like the logical choice. He’s the Caps’ best player by far and might be the best in world. He’s already the face of the franchise and will be — barring unforeseen circumstances — for the rest of his career. Putting leadership onto their best young player worked for the Penguins and Sidney Crosby. Give him the “C” now and envision him shaking Gary Bettman’s hand and lifting the Stanley Cup at least once.

Brooks Laich — If the Caps have a mouthpiece in that locker room, a go-to guy for reporters and a spokesman between and after games, it’s Laich. Laich is always there to answer questions and provides well-thought-out answers. If he’s anything like that behind closed doors, he’s the perfect pure leader for a team that has its hopes on a deep playoff run. And his on-ice play — killing penalties, blocking shots, camping out in front of the net — displays the kind of grit you want in a captain.

Nicklas Backstrom — Yes, he’s young, but like Laich, he’s always present and accountable after games. In his on-ice style, Backstrom is a facilitator and a smart hockey player — two good ingredients for a guy you want a team to rally around and trust. And the Red Wings’ Nick Lidstrom ended the myth that Europeans can’t captain a Stanley Cup-winning team. He’ll get a chance to be a young follower with Sweden in the Olympics, but Backstrom appears ready to be a leader with the Caps.

Our take — Give it to Backstrom. Ovechkin is Washington’s best player for the next decade, but Backstrom is a leader of the future. Laich is a professional who will be able to guide Backstrom through the process, but the young Swede has all the qualities you want in a captain while offering more talent than the well-respected Chris Clark. There’s no one formula in a captain that leads to a Cup, but banking on a winner like Backstrom couldn’t hurt.

TUESDAY’S BEST BET ON TELEVISION

I’ll be at the EagleBank Bowl to watch Temple in its first bowl game in 30 years, but the most exciting matchup of the day is the Champs Sports Bowl with Miami vs. Wisconsin. 8 p.m., ESPN

About the Author

Stephen Whyno

Stephen Whyno is the Capitals and NHL reporter for The Washington Times. You can follow him on Twitter (@SWhyno) or send him e-mail at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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