Updated: Apr 8
What we are witnessing with Brady Tkachuk this season is a leadership coming of age the likes of which the Ottawa Senators franchise has never seen.
That’s saying a lot considering we’ve seen Captains such as Daniel Alfredsson, Erik Karlsson, and Jason Spezza come into their own in Senators uniforms. There's also the current captain of the Vegas Golden Knights, Mark Stone, who grew up a Sen and would have almost certainly been named the next captain of this team had he not been tragically traded just over 2 years ago.
So what exactly is it that makes what Brady Tkachuk is doing right now so special?
My answer is simple… but I’ll get to that.
Let me first take you back to June 22nd, 2018.
The Senators are drafting 4th overall, directly after their rival Candiens select Jesperi Kotkaniemi #3 overall (Yes… HA HA HA … YES!). At this time, Senators fans everywhere have labeled Filip Zadina the automatic choice for their team’s first round pick and are floored when instead of picking the touted Czech sniper, the Sens select the rangy, pale, and raw second son of Keith ‘Walt’ Tkachuk out of Boston University.
The masses on social media go absolutely mental, appalled by this selection. The announcement post on the Official Sens Twitter comment section was a total shit storm of people handing in their fan cards and crying bloody murder. People were even burning their jerseys on video if I’m not mistaken.
That comments section is a barren wasteland of deleted tweets now, but here's few examples of the type of dialogue that was going on pre-draft 2018 to give you an idea:
You think, eh?
I have this affliction, I'm glad BUF, CAR and MTL didn't.
You're right about one thing, Shackles. He's not that bad.
You get the point.
Did Brady Tkachuk see any of that? Did that have any effect on his attitude coming into his first Senators training camp in any way?
He had no idea about any of that nonsense. He was far too busy doing what he does; Preparing to crack the Ottawa Senators of the NHL as a then barely 19-year old.
Immediately upon his arrival in Ottawa, it was clear he was different from the other young rookies on the team that year; Max Lajoie and Alex Formenton, who didn’t end up sticking with the big club past their 9 game stint.
His infectious personality took hold and he quickly won over a fanbase that just months before was too busy playing armchair GM to look at and appreciate the person they had just gained. Nobody can forget that famous interview where the 3 rooks were asked who they called first when they found out they made the NHL squad. When Max Lajoie said “My girlfriend” and Brady made that face, I thought to myself, “okay this kid gets it”.
Under the tutelage of Mark Stone, his then landlord, Tkachuk put up a respectable 22G-23A-71GP stat line on a crumbling Senators team as a rookie.
The following season, he made the thought-out effort to establish himself more physically and did so by posting an almost identical statline of 21G-23A-71GP while adding 31 PIMs for a total of 106 penalty minutes on the season.
Included in those 106 penalty minutes were fights with NHL veterans P.K Subban and Blake Wheeler.
Still… he’s only 20 years.
I was at this game, sitting in the 100 section, and watching Tkachuk physically and mentally torture a guy like Subban, who still gets boo'd in Ottawa, was awesome.
Fast forward to this 2021 season. The Senators have overhauled their roster and Tkachuk is named one of three alternate captains along with Erik Gudbranson and Thomas Chabot. As the shortened campaign begins, it appears the door is left wide open for Tkachuk, Chabot, or another dark horse like Tim Stützle to prove themselves as the leader of the group as it develops from spare parts and a bunch of younglings, into a real team that learns how to compete together.
So what does 21 year old alternate captain Brady Tkachuk wake up and decide to do on the morning of the season opener? Well, he goes and does what good leaders do, and that’s setting the goddamn tone early by leading the team in points (1G, 2A), hits (5) and SOG (5) in the first game of the season, a 5-3 W in the Battle of Ontario.
He didn’t even come close to stopping there. Since then we’ve seen him do a ton of the things that indicate a great leader and ICYMI - I’ve outlined some of those things below:
Embracing his younger teammates by making them feel welcome and part of the team:
Brady knows better than anyone that joining a new team in a new city as a teenager can be an overwhelming experience. He's experienced first hand, after moving in with Mark Stone in his rookie year, how a veteran player taking you under their wing can add a level of comfort to an uncomfortable circumstance.
It’s hard to imagine a 21-year old taking on the unfamiliar role of older brother in the NHL, but that’s exactly what Brady Tkachuk did when he invited the German phenom Tim Stützle to join him and Josh Norris in occupying the aforementioned Mark Stone’s vacant Ottawa home. From that moment on, we’ve seen the NHL’s cutest bromance blossom before our eyes in some pretty entertaining ways (See tweet thread below)
But Tkachuk did not let his mentorship end at active young players on the Senators roster.
It has come to light recently that he’s also kept in close contact with a few other Senators prospects that have yet to play an NHL game. He's been keeping them in the loop when it comes to the day-to-day in the locker room and checking in periodically.
More specifically, he extended an offer to a member of his fellow draft class, Jacob Bernard-Docker, to reach out to him for advice on making the decision to leave college to go pro (he also made this gesture to Shane Pinto and Jake Sanderson). This type of action speaks volumes about the thoughtfulness Tkachuk displays naturally everywhere he goes. He seems to be very in tune with how to nurture his future teammates to make them feel included and part of the team before they ever even enter the CTC.
Establishing himself as a force and embodying the Senators identity:
As someone who works in the tech startup industry, I know how much having a well profiled culture and identity for your workplace and brand can help you keep teammates on the same page. It’s not always about just going out and playing, or working, the way you do as an individual. It’s about playing as a cog that fits into the larger overarching strategy and philosophy that has been outlined by leadership. This helps with employee decision making, among other things.
When rival teams think about playing against the Ottawa Senators, the first thing we want to come into their minds as fans is Brady Tkachuk because that means they’re already dreading having to face the hard working, physical, pesky, no nights off, never back down, take shit from nobody, Senators Team. That’s the identity of this team and that’s the character Tkachuk exemplifies every time he steps on the ice. If he were to be named Captain, this element gets taken to a new level because it strengthens the message from the coaching staff and management. That message is: “This is the way we want to play” and from there, the rest of the players will fall in line. Using Tkachuk to embody the Senators identity gives the Senators a mental edge before the puck even drops. You hear players all the time saying things like “Stick to the process” or “play our game” - they say these things because it’s actually important, not just as a cliché.
Check out some of the fight vids below of Tkachuk dominating bigger , more established players. If it fires you up from your couch or computer chair, just imagine how it would get the blood pumping if you were someone who is pulling on the same rope and wearing the same uniform as a guy like that. You'd be ready to run through a brick wall.
It always makes me smile when I see Leafs and Habs players bleed. Sicko shit.
Flexing his clutch muscle:
Tkachuk is also pretty good at scoring timely goals. 12 through 38 games isn’t some crazy number, but it’s the type of goals and the timing that makes them special. 1 OT GWG, 1 other GWG (8.2 seconds left vs Jets), 2 goals to open the scoring for the team, and 2 goals that tied the game at crucial moments.
That’s just this season, but if you look back, he actually has a decent track record for being clutch. In the 2017 WJC, you might remember it was Tkachuk who tied the game for the USA with in the third period Vs. Canada when they played outdoors. He also scored what ended up being the shootout GWG in that game.
Whether it’s against the Canadians or against the rival Canadiens, Tkachuk is a player the opponent needs to mark in tight games as the clock winds down. Some will remember this blazer of an Overtime GWG from last season against the rival Canadiens. Brady’s last name might as well be Molson considering how seemingly owns the Habs. Just love to see a guy who torches rivals like this year in and year out.
When the game is on his stick, you know he's going to come in clutch.
Marketability and Class.
Despite his being a total scumbag on the ice, off the ice Brady Tkachuk is a genuinely fantastic young man. There are countless stories I’ve seen of him taking time out of his day to stop and chat with fans, sign autographs, and take photos.
Sure, that may not seem like much, but it means a whole lot more to the fans than even Brady himself might even realize.
Side note: There was a time EK65 once turned me down when I asked him to sign my jersey at the airport, and I’ll never forget how that made me feel.
I wouldn’t count on Tkachuk to accept every offer to stop for a photo or sign an autograph, but I do think he has a higher appreciation for the fans than your average player.
That trait most likely comes from his Father, the great Keith Tkachuk. Keith was known during his 19 year NHL career for being especially courteous with fans, as well as trainers and equipment staff around the rink. Word on the street is that he was always going out of his way to check in and thank them for everything they do for the players any chance he got. This is a virtue that he passed down to both his sons.
Even the media has stories about Tkachuk’s genuinely polite demeanour.
However, as nice as it is to be a friendly and considerate person, that doesn’t always make a player marketable.
Luckily for the Sens, Tkachuk also happens to be one of the brightest shining personalities in the league whose ceiling for marketability might very well be beyond measure. It’s so refreshing to see players interact with fans like this:
Companies like Nerf have also recognized these characteristics landing both Tkachuk brothers for a great ad campaign all about 'brotherly love'.
Even Milk identifies themselves as a product that aligns with Brady’s Brand.
The ‘Stuck with the Tkachuks’ videos Sportsnet did during the break was another example of his marketability. This kind of content doesn’t work unless the players you're working with have a certain charm to their personality.
With all that being said, other than a few exceptions to the rule (Toews, Lindstrom), I don't think your captain should be boring. That's how you end up with an uninspired group. Looking at you John Tavares.
To finish up: I can’t imagine a scenario where the Senators decide to go in any other direction when naming their captain for the 2021-22 season. There is only one player who has clearly gone above and beyond to cement himself as the leader of this franchise. There is only one player who drags this team into battle every night. There is only one player who can lead this team to glory. That is Brady Tkachuk.
Oh, and to answer the question from the beginning of the article:
What is it that makes him the best choice? What does he have that nobody else does?
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