With head coach Michel Therrien announcing on Wednesday that it will be the
coaching staff and management that decide on the captaincy and that it will be
announced sooner rather than later, it’s time to evaluate the potential options
to succeed Brian Gionta as the next player to lead the Canadiens. Who are
the favourites to get the nod?
Pros – He’s the longest-tenured Hab and there’s little doubt that he
commands a ton of respect not only in the room but throughout the league as
well. He leads by example more than being a vocal player in the room which
seems to mesh well with the characteristics that the decision makers would value
in choosing who gets the ‘C’. If they’re not convinced that one of the
younger players is ready for the role now, Markov would be a good fit as a
transitional captain as he likely will be retiring when his contract is up in
Cons – If the ability to deal with the media is high on the priority
list, the fact that Markov doesn’t speak French or English particularly well
will work against him. He always has been one that prefers to stay out of
the spotlight, will taking on that role make him uncomfortable as the season
grows on? Also, the optics of giving the captaincy to a player who
reportedly turned down the role a few years ago aren’t the greatest. How
much has really changed from then to now that would make him change his mind?
Pros – For the last three years, Pacioretty has been a consistent
go-to threat and is a player that the team already relies on heavily. He
has taken on a more active role with the media in recent years as well.
There’s also no questioning his dedication after recovering from the devastating
neck injury sustained on a hit from Zdeno Chara years ago. In fact,
Pacioretty has a reputation for working really hard to recover quickly from any
injuries; that positive work ethic is something that the coaches/management
would want to rub off on other players.
Cons – I’m not a big fan of those who actively campaign for the job
and Pacioretty’s comments saying that he wants the captaincy is just that.
We all know that he meant that he wants to be more of a leader and that he’d
gladly accept the role but he didn’t say it quite right…and look what
happened. You have to be really careful in saying the right things,
especially with the Montreal media, and the hubbub that his comments created may
be a sign that he has not yet mastered the art of saying lots while really
saying nothing at all. With just three full NHL seasons under his belt –
one of which was the lockout-shortened year – there’s a case to be made that he
may not yet be tenured enough to warrant getting the nod.
Pros – If the Habs are looking for another two-way player to lead the
way, Plekanec is the best fit. He also fits the long-tenure criterion and
is another lead-by-example player. The fact that he was named captain for
the Czechs at the Olympics over some other highly-respected veterans speaks
volumes as well. Like Markov, Plekanec would also be a good candidate for
a transitional captain if there are reservations about the readiness of some of
Cons – He’s another player who honestly seems camera shy and given the
extra responsibilities in that regard that the captaincy carries, being camera
shy is not ideal. There are questions as to how much longer he’ll be
around, especially if youngsters like Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk progress as
expected; is it worth naming Plekanec the captain now and having to go through
the process a couple of years from now?
Pros – He’s already the face of the franchise (at least among the
skaters who can actually wear the ‘C’) and he’s certainly not afraid of the
spotlight. With him locked up for the long haul, the team wouldn’t have to
worry about appointing anyone else to the role for a long time. There’s
little doubt that he’s the preferred choice for a lot of the fans. Given
the unwavering and blind support that many fans give Subban, there could (I’d
almost go as far as to say there would) be negative blowback should the club give
the role to someone else. That other player may very well quickly fall out
of favour with the fan base as a result, leading to a less-than-ideal situation.
Cons – Like Pacioretty, publicly commenting about wanting the job
doesn’t sit right. The fact that Subban hasn’t met a camera that he
doesn’t want to speak in front of isn’t necessarily a good thing either; he
could be too accommodating when it comes to the media requests. There’s
already enough pressure on Subban given his new contract, style of play, etc, it
might be best to let someone else tackle the extra responsibilities associated
with the captaincy instead of putting even more of the spotlight on him.
Catering to the preferences of the fans as suggested above isn’t really a good
There are a few other names that you could make a case for but have to be
considered longshots at this time.
David Desharnais: His work ethic is something that has been praised
many times before while he has become one of the more consistent point-producers
on the team. The fact that he speaks French also works in his favour over
many of the other candidates.
Brendan Gallagher: If he were a few years older, he’d likely be one of
the favourites. His never-say-die attitude is exactly what the team would
want to see out of their leader in terms of leading by example. At 22
though, he’s still too young.
Carey Price: He already is one of the faces of the franchise and a
leader on and off the ice. But he’s a goalie and the fiasco that was the
Roberto Luongo captaincy probably scared teams off from naming a goalie captain
for a long time.
Brandon Prust: All the players seem to love him and as the team shifts
towards trying to be a tougher unit, having Prust as the leader during that
transition makes some sense. However, his injury concerns work against him
while it already seems likely that he won’t be back after his contract expires
(for money reasons), meaning that he’s a short-term option at best.
While there are quite a few legitimate candidates, there isn’t really anyone
that stands out as the best option either (this also was the case a few years
ago when Gionta got the nod). It’ll be interesting to see the route that
Therrien and Marc Bergevin take – do they go with a veteran or turn the keys
over to someone from the younger part of the core?
If I had to guess, they’ll go with the former and select Tomas Plekanec as
the next captain. He has the tenure, the respect in the room, and many of
the same characteristics that Gionta did. If those made Gionta worthy of
the ‘C’ back then, they should make Plekanec worthy now.