For the first time in history, the Canadiens did not have a captain for an entire season. While some say this was to ‘honour’ Saku Koivu, the decade-long captain, there are other aspects to consider.
First off, why was a captain not named in the preseason? I think because there was no choice as clear-cut as Koivu had been the previous ten years. Traditionally, the Habs have rarely named a captain who hadn’t played at least one year in Montreal. Kirk Muller, whose leadership skills were evident in New Jersey, where he was named captain at the tender young age of 21, was only conferred that honour in Montreal after he had played an entire season with the Habs.
It is more probable that the reason a captain was not named is because Habs brass wondered whether the rumoured preseason choice, Andrei Markov, could possibly handle the media in a town where non-francophone captains are crucified, never mind captains that can’t even converse in fluent English! As the season progressed, the notoriously reserved defenceman became, surprisingly, increasingly interviewable.
Unfortunately, Markov was injured in the first game of the season which did not help his chances at the position.
Another major consideration was the fact that half the team was brand new, and most of the offseason additions have equal leadership abilities which made the choice difficult.
Now, let’s see who the candidates for the ‘C’ are for the 2010-2011 season:
Brian Gionta: This intense, hard-working player makes the best case for Captain. He is a giant in a smaller body, a leader extraordinaire on and off the ice. He plays every shift as if it would be his last, no matter the score.
Josh Gorges: Gorges makes a serious play for the position. He emerged as a leader in the Habs’ miraculous post-season run, being brutally honest with the media and an obvious leader. However, Gorges is still new to his role as leader and loses out to Gionta for sheer experience. Gorges’ role on the team is still in a supporting position for now.
Hal Gill: Although a very worthy choice for an ‘A’, Gill is not expected to stick around for very long
(he’s unrestricted next season) as the Habs have plenty of up-and-coming, more mobile defencemen.
Mike Cammalleri: My personal favourite newcomer who seems to genuinely enjoy playing in Montreal, as evidenced by the fact he has stuck around for the Grand Prix and attended Impact games as well as participated in the recent golf tournament. He also possesses impressive media skills, always ready to elaborate more than the usual clichés and short soundbite comments from his teammates. However, he might be too a nice a guy to argue with the referees when necessary.
Finally, an honourable mention to Tomas Plekanec, who is also a feisty, intense player but I feel that a captain should be a veteran who has gone through the battles and wars. Therefore, Gionta
is my pick for the captaincy. He would be the perfect individual to represent his team on and off the ice.