- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

The Washington Capitals will have just one captain when the season opens next month instead of the current two.

Butch Cassidy, the Caps' new coach, said he prefers dealing with one individual as the intermediary between the coaching staff and players but has not ruled out staying with two players in that role. In fact, rotating the job on a monthly basis like the Minnesota Wild is a possibility.

Cassidy emphasized his decision does not reflect on the job the current captains, defenseman Brendan Witt and left wing Steve Konowalchuk, have done.

"There's nothing against them; in fact, I barely know them," Cassidy said yesterday. "And I'm not discounting either of them from being the next captain. But I took them aside and told them first because I figured at some point somebody was going to ask me about captains."

It is no small decision. The captain of a hockey team is an honored position that usually goes to the player held in the highest respect by his peers and management. He is expected to enforce team rules and smooth the path for newcomers, rookies or veterans.

Cassidy said he is unsure how the next captain will be selected, but it is possible the team will vote if no individual stands out to the coaches. The selection will be made by the end of training camp.

"If there's someone I notice who is clearly a dominant force in the room or on the ice, a leader above and beyond the next guy in line, then he'd be a natural choice," Cassidy said. "At the same time it may be hard to find that individual in two or three weeks. It may come down to a vote. I'm a big believer in a dressing room being united. But if they vote on their captain and then don't like the guy, they have only themselves to blame."

Cassidy said he also wanted four alternate captains, two for MCI Center and two for road games.

"That way I have a leadership group," he said. "I've always liked to throw things out to the players, let them know what's coming. If you have a leadership group, you're probably meeting with all facets of the dressing room, and that's good."

Konowalchuk and Witt, two homegrown Caps, were named to their posts before the start of last season by former coach Ron Wilson. They were supposed to alternate wearing the "C" every other game, but Konowalchuk missed a good portion of the campaign with a shoulder injury.

"We still need leaders, and Kono and I will still have to be leaders," Witt said. "Everybody dreams of being the captain of a team, but whether you're wearing a letter on your jersey or not, we have to come and play like we did last year. I'm proud of the role we played."

If one player is chosen to lead the team, he will be the 12th captain in the Caps' 28-year history. Rod Langway held the post the longest, six seasons.

"At some point you have to have one guy who has to step up in the room to talk to the officials and do certain things," Cassidy said. "Two can work, but I also like what they do in Minnesota, rotating captains. That usually works when you're in it for the long haul and I assume we're all here for the long haul and maybe that's not a bad way to go. We'll see who emerges. I hope I get a good enough feel in the next month that I can make a decision."

Notes Center Dainius Zubrus, the unsigned restricted free agent, made his first appearance yesterday at Piney Orchard. Center Andrei Nikolishin is the only other unsigned restricted free agent. About two dozen rookies are expected to report today for physicals with their training camp starting tomorrow. The group departs Friday for Traverse City, Mich., where it will take part in a rookie tournament involving four other NHL teams.

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