Captain of the Farm: A history of AHL captains

As the IceCaps search for a new captain, a quick review of past farm team captains indicates a lack of NHL success

For the last two seasons Gabriel Dumont captained the Montreal Canadiens farm team. With his departure from the organization, the team will be looking to crown a new captain for the upcoming season.

Dumont is but one in a long list of captains who have championed the Canadiens name and safeguarded their prospects over the years. The list of former captains is long, and surprisingly there will be one very important trend that emerges as we revisit this group.

For the 1984-85 season, the Canadiens farm team moved, going from being the Nova Scotia Voyageurs to the Sherbrooke Canadiens. And with it came a brand new captain for the farm team: Brian Skrudland, a natural leader, who became captain of the AHL Canadiens in only his second professional season, taking over from Bill Kitchen who languished in the AHL and left the Voyageurs over his frustration of not getting a shot in the NHL. Skrudland led a very stacked team consisting of numerous future Montreal Canadiens, including Patrick Roy and Michel Therrien, to only their fourth Calder Cup ever in their inaugural season in Sherbrooke.

The following season Montreal and destiny came calling, and Skrudland vacated the captaincy for higher aspirations. In his place Perry Ganchar was named for the 1985-86 season on the farm. Then former Chicoutimi Sagennées captain, and four year AHL veteran, André Villeneuve became captain in 1987-88 after Ganchar was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Villeneuve led the Canadiens to the Calder Cup final.

In 1990 the Montreal Canadiens contemplated moving their AHL farm team to the United States for the first time ever, to Troy New York. However in the end they stayed in Canada, transitioning to Fredericton instead. Jim Nesich was their inaugural captain, while Luc Gauthier and Craig Ferguson succeeded him during the Habs nine year tenure in the New Brunswick capital.

The farm team moved to Quebec City in 1999 to become the Citadelles, and veteran Pierre Sevigny served as captain for their entire three season tenure there. Pierre Sevigny was a third round draft pick for Montreal all the way back from 1989, and spent six seasons in the Canadiens organization from 1991 to 1997, bouncing from the AHL and the NHL before leaving the organization to join the Rangers in an attempt to finally establish himself in the NHL. He rejoined the Canadiens organization in 1999 to captain the farm team until 2002.

In 2002 the team moved to Hamilton, as the Bulldogs, and NHL veteran Benoit Gratton became their first captain, signing as a free agent with the Canadiens in 2001, and playing his second season with their AHL affiliate. He served for two years before moving to Europe during the NHL lockout, playing in Switzerland rather than staying in the AHL, and remained in Europe until the end of his playing career.

After Gratton's departure, the Bulldogs went through a series of single year captains, including Montreal first round pick Jason Ward (2004-05), Dan Smith (2005-06), Ajay Baines (2007-08), and a season split between Kyle Chipchura and Mathieu Darche in 2008-09.

Ironically it was a season without a captain in 2006-07 where the Canadiens farm team captured their fifth and latest Calder Cup.

In 2009 the Canadiens farm team crowned their first multi-season captain Alex Henry since Gratton. The fearsome defenceman ruled the blueline as captain for the Bulldogs for three seasons. He wasn't much of a scorer, but was feared for his physical play.

The team again went without a captain in 2012-13 after Henry departed, but in 2013-14 the team named ten-year veteran and journeyman Martin St. Pierre as their captain. Finally in 2014-15 Gabriel Dumont took on the mantle, as one of the more experienced players on an increasingly young squad.

History has been very unkind to anyone named captain at the AHL level, as it most certain is an indication of an unlikely established NHL career.

Sherbrooke Canadiens Brian Skrudland 881 126
Sherbrooke Canadiens Perry Ganchar 42 171
Sherbrooke Canadiens Andre Villeneuve 0 158
Fredericton Canadiens Jim Nesich 0 407
Fredericton Canadiens Luc Gauthier 3 524
Fredericton Canadiens Craig Ferguson 27 470
Quebec Citadelles Pierre Sevigny 78 520
Hamilton Bulldogs Benoit Gratton 58 444
Hamilton Bulldogs Jason Ward 336 373
Hamilton Bulldogs Dan Smith 22 731
Hamilton Bulldogs Ajay Baines 0 647
Hamilton Bulldogs Kyle Chipchura 481 186
Hamilton Bulldogs Mathieu Darche 250 552
Hamilton Bulldogs Alex Henry 177 632
Hamilton Bulldogs Martin St-Pierre 39 587
St. John's IceCaps Gabriel Dumont 18 389

And so for the upcoming season the St. John's IceCaps will be looking to name a new captain of the Montreal Canadiens farm team. With the departure of Michael Bournival, Bud Holloway, Victor Bartley, and Morgan Ellis, all obvious candidates from last season's leadership group are gone. The options for captaincy are not numerous, but the list of veterans include Jacob de la Rose, Philip Samuelsson, Chris Terry, and Max Friberg.

Whoever is named captain can be assured that their role in the organization will be to remain in the AHL for the season with an outside shot of a call up.

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