The thing about serving as a captain in the NHL is that nobody sets out to become one. Like leadership itself, the development is organic, and if the right combination of timing and chance allow, wearing the "C" stands as one of hockey's greatest honors.

Paul Ysebaert, the Tampa Bay Lightning's first captain, learned the power of that letter when he wore it for the first time in the 1995-1996 season. He learned about the roles he accepted beyond strapping on his skates and helping to lead Tampa Bay to 88 points and its first playoff berth in its four-year history. He learned about becoming part teammate, part general on and off the ice, part liaison between his dressing room and the front office.

Now, 18 years later, it's Steven Stamkos' time to embrace the job description. Ysebaert isn't worried one bit.

"I think Steven Stamkos will be a leader on the ice, just like all the great leaders are leaders-first on the ice," said Ysebaert, who served as Tampa Bay's captain from 1995 to 1997. "When they speak -- they don't speak a lot -- but when they speak, it's very meaningful and poignant. So I think he's going to be a great captain, because he does lead on the ice. He's a very, very hard worker, and obviously, one of the best-skilled players in the league."

The reasons for why Stamkos became Tampa Bay's 10th captain are well told. There was Marty St. Louis' tension with Steve Yzerman to St. Louis' family concerns to the trade with the New York Rangers on March 5. Ysebaert can relate to being asked to accept a captainship as part of movement into a different era.

The Lightning had no captain the first three years of their existence, instead fielding a team with three alternates. But one day, a group that included coach Terry Crisp, assistant coach Wayne Cashman, co-founder Phil Esposito and his brother, Tony, summoned Ysebaert, a seven-year veteran, and asked the player to wear the "C." Ysebaert was honored. He was named captain on Oct. 4, 1995, three days before the season opener against the Calgary Flames.