Oh captain! My captain!
Walt Whitman once wrote metaphorically in a poem about the death of Abraham Lincoln and has been renewed again, satirically in the meme generation.
The Red Deer Rebels resorted to no deep symbolism or sympathy with the loss of their captain to injury this week.
“He’s one of our best players. He works hard every night and never gives up on anything. That’s a guy you really need your lineup and he’s an unbelievable captain,” Said Rebels alternate captain Brandon Hagel, who has played parts of two seasons alongside Adam Musil.
Musil did plenty to help the Rebels behind closed doors, too, and his loss will be felt in all aspects of the team. He will likely miss the final games of the season with a lower body injury.
It’s inevitable that with six games left in the WHL schedule – desperation time as the saying goes, that in the captain’s absence their will be a void, on and off the ice.
“We have to be 10 to 15 per cent better, each player. I think if we do that we’ll be successful,” Hagel said of the team’s contingency plan without Musil.
Young players will look for direction during the toughest time of the season and veterans will draw on what they learned from past regimes about how to handle being captain-less during an obviously vital stretch.
The Whitman work speaks of a nation rising up in the face of adversity, much like Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt believes his group will do with the latest tribulation.
“Let’s find out who brings the character forth,” Truitt said.
“Even with your leaders there you need a supporting cast. Everybody has to push this time of year. But without Adam in the dressing room, that voice, now you’re really going to see who steps up.”
To even physically fill the void of Rebels’ captain, a mammoth of a man at six-foot-three, 203 pounds, will be a tall task.
While nobody is expecting that, a leadership group by committee will lead Red Deer down the playoff road with six games left in the WHL season.
“We’ve got some guys who can step up and now their voices are going to get heard loud and clear,” Truitt said.
While Hagel is one name expected to step up, team leading goal scorer Evan Polei will also need to rise to the occasion, and newly minted alternate captain Lane Zablocki should be among that group as well.
“Whenever you lose a guy, especially a guy like Musil, it’s a chance for everyone to step up and show what they have to the rest of the team and the coaches,” Zablocki said.
Along with leadership, Musil was one of the Rebels top point producers at 51 points in 56 games. He kills penalties, plays power play and makes space for his teammates often on the top forward unit for Red Deer.
“Even if Adam was here, we’d be looking for the second efforts,” Truitt said.
“The situation we’re in, second efforts are what’s going to get you there. Maybe that means a guy who has ten goals, now all of a sudden the last six games gets four or three. A second effort in character and hard work, that’s what you look for this time of year.”
The Rebels played nine without the Delta, B.C., native when he was away playing for Czech Republic at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Toronto.
Unsurprisingly, they went 2-4-1-0 during that time, but were also notably missing leading point producer Michael Spacek and goalie Lasse Petersen.
Still, with Musil moving on next season, the final stretch of this year serve as a test of equal parts who will step up immediately and who the next man to wear the ‘C’ will be in Red Deer.