Kukla's Korner Hockey
by The Upper Canadien on 08/19/10 at 06:30 PM ET
Over a year has past since Saku Koivu left Montreal for the sunny shores of California, and still the Canadiens do not have a captain. Speculation was rampant that it would be Andrei Markov – but he was never given the ‘C.’ Fans then began to theorize that the future captain wasn’t yet on the team - but I for one am glad the days of endless Vinny Lecavalier rumours are over.
No, the Canadiens next captain will come from the current collection of players on the roster. We know there will be a captain, because head coach Jacques Martin has said so. Who’s it going to be? There’s a fairly strong collection of veterans to choose from. Let’s take a look at a few.
Gionta seems to have a strong rapport with coach Martin, one based on respect. Gionta is often the first to the microphone to take responsibility for a loss, and the last off the ice at practice. He worked hard to integrate new players to the team last year – even though he himself was a new player in Montreal, and the kicker: he’s working hard to learn French. Gionta always defends his teammates, and thus commands their respect. A Stanley Cup winner, he would be an excellent choice.
Markov is the longest tenured of anyone on this list, and likely the most talented. A Canadien his entire career, Markov is an important cog in the Canadiens defence and has anchored the power play for a decade. Last season, Markov reportedly had a verbal sparring match with Carey Price, where he apparently challenged Price’s attitude after a loss to the St. Louis Blues. However, throughout his career Markov has been known as a taciturn individual, and for years spoke little English and did few interviews. This past July, Markov became a Canadian citizen, and in recent years he has, to some extent, come out of his shell. Should Markov be chosen, he will likely be a leader by example, and less vocal than many would expect a captain to be. However, the Price incident last year shows that he will take a stand when he believes it is warranted.
(A side note, this offseason Markov has said publicly he believes the team did the right thing in keeping Carey Price as goalie of the future, so he has attempted to diffuse any awkwardness that may have existed because of the incident.)
Cammalleri came close to breaking club scoring records during last year’s playoff run, and that says something about his playing abilities given the longevity of the club. Cammalleri is known for his jovial attitude during interviews, his ability to take pressure off of his colleagues, and his unselfish tendency to accept blame and responsibility when something goes wrong. Cammalleri commands a great deal of respect in the Habs locker room, and is clearly going to be the offensive juggernaut on the club over the next few seasons.
Gorges was captain of the Kelowna Rockets during his WHL junior hockey days, and is respected league-wide for his willingness to sacrifice his body for the team. This past season he blocked a slapshot with the back of his head, was taking off the ice bleeding profusely, and yet returned the next game. He has vastly improved over the past two seasons, gradually given more responsibility by a coaching staff that clearly trusts his talent and hockey intelligence. Gorges opened many eyes in the playoffs of 2010, forming a formidable shutdown pairing with veteran Hal Gill. A captaincy for Gorges would be interesting, as it would take the pressure off of other players expected to perform offensively, such as Markov, Cammalleri and Gionta.
Hal Gill is certainly a dark horse for the captaincy, but not out of the realm of possibility. Gill was named an assistant captain last season, which demonstrated Martin’s faith in Gill’s leadership abilities. Furthermore, Gill has won a Stanley Cup and demonstrated his willingness to play through pain on many occasions. Gill apparently had a tête-à-tête with Scott Gomez in December of last year, which many credited as a turning point for the club. Also of note, former Hab Georges Laraque was on the record on Off the Record, TSN’s long running talk show, that Gill was definitely the most vocal player in the dressing room on a nightly basis. He’s only got one year left on his contract, so that alone makes it unlikely, but if it comes to pass Gill’s jovial attitude with reporters and laissez faire approach to the demands that come with a captaincy job will work well in the pressure-cooker that is Montreal.
I doubt Lapierre has any chance at being named captain, but what’s a potential captain’s list for the Montreal Canadiens without a Quebecois in contention? Lapierre had a terrible 2009-2010, but stepped up in the playoffs and scored some important goals for the team. Furthermore, Lapierre is great at getting under the skin of opponents and breaking the concentration of his foes. The Canadiens dealt Guillaume Latendresse over Lapierre because they believed Lapierre offered more as a player over the long-term. His leadership will be a big part of that, and if he continues to mature he could one day be captain material. For now though, it’s a long shot at best.
Well, Martin and GM Pierre Gauthier have confirmed that they will choose the captain. Conversely, I believe quite strongly that the captain should be chosen by the players themselves. If it were up to me, everyone on that roster at the end of training camp would get a vote, and that’s how the captain would be named. Captaincy means a lot more when your teammates nominate you for it, something Saku Koivu commented on many times after being elected by one vote over his linemate at the time, Shayne Corson.
But I don’t work for the Montreal Canadiens, and they are unlikely to change their strategy now after being so public with it. So if I have to name someone, I say Josh Gorges, followed quite closely by Hal Gill. There is a great tradition of effective captains being role players, something often lost in today’s NHL. Gorges and Gill both sacrifice themselves night after night, helping the more talented guys score goals and look good. Naming one of these two proficient defencemen would take significant pressure off the players expected to put up big numbers. The decision maker for me? Gorges is young and likely to be around for years, whereas Gill is approaching 40 and has a year left on his contract.
Josh Gorges: captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
How does that sound?
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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