With the weather temperature beginning to dip into single digits, I, among other hockey fans around the world readies for another season of NHL hockey. For the Canadiens and their fans, just off the tail of a deep run to the Eastern Conference Finals, this season embarks the beginning of a new era. Gone are former captain Brian Gionta and assistant captain Josh Gorges, both reminiscence pieces of the Bob Gainey-Pierre Gauthier regime and are both now with divisional rivals, the Buffalo Sabres. Thus for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, the Habs enter training camp without a captain (as you may recall, the Habs decided not to select a captain that season). However, the reasoning behind going captain-less that year was because it was basically an entire new leadership core that then GM Bob Gainey had brought into the team via free agency or trades (Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, Hal Gill, and Travis Moen). With basically the same team that was 2 wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1993, expect Marc Bergevin, Michel Therrien and the rest of management to decide a captain before the puck drops on opening night in Toronto. Here are the 5 players I believe should be in contention for the C.
Just off a recently signed 3-year $5,750,000 deal this past summer, a contract that could make Markov a Canadien until his retirement, I believe Andrei Markov would be the ideal candidate for the vacant captaincy. Markov is a lead by example type of player and has the respect inside the locker room among both the players and management.
“He’s (Markov) a guy that leads by example, and he’s been around Montreal for a while. Behind closed doors he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve seen and I think that goes a long way, especially with some of the young guys, as well.” – Max Pacioretty
Dedicated to hockey on and off the ice, as shown with his training and conditioning to come back from 2 leg injuries and a lacerated ankle injury two months ahead of schedule, Markov is also not afraid to hold his teammates accountable for their lackluster play (The now infamous incident with franchise goaltender Carey Price after a overtime lost against St. Louis in 2010). The only problem is, Markov is a quiet individual and hates dealing with the media. There were rumblings back in 2009-2010 that he was offered the captaincy after former captain Saku Koivu had signed with the Anaheim Ducks, but declined.
Like Markov, Plekanec is also another long time serving Canadien, who leads with his play on the ice. Having already worn the A with the Habs on occasions, Plekanec was also selected captain for the 2014 Czech Republic Olympic mens hockey team. A great example as to why Plekanec deserves the captaincy is when called upon during tough games or in the playoffs, Plekanec has put his ego and offensive stats aside and is willing to play tough minutes against tough opponents to try and shut them down (matched up against Ovechkin and Crosby in the 2010 playoff run and the Krejci line and Stamkos in the 2014 playoffs). Definitely not the exciting pick amongst Habs fans, Plekanec would be the safest pick to be the next captain. If chosen as the next captain, it most likely would be seen as a stop gap selection by both management and the fans until PK Subban or Max Pacioretty is ready to take the C.
“I think that I’d embrace it. Added responsibility to me makes a player better, and I think I’ve accomplished a lot in a short time in this league and I’ve earned the respect of my peers and my opponents to command the respect that a captain deserves. I really believe that I’ve earned a lot of respect in this league, both on and off the ice.” – PK Subban
The fan favourite selection to be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens, PK Subban has every characteristic that would make him the ideal captain. He even recently signed the longest contract in Canadiens’ history, making him a Hab for the next 8 foreseeable seasons. He always plays 100% and always leaves everything on the ice. He is media friendly and seems to be at his best when the spotlight is on him. The only question mark regarding PK is whether or not he has the respect and trust of both teammates and management. This is the same player that has gotten into scuffles with teammates during practice (Pacioretty, Leblanc, Desharnais, Lapierre) and is the same player that coach Michel Therrien has benched multiple times over the past 2 seasons. Besides, if you think the spotlight was huge on PK before, the spotlight this year will be insurmountable with his new 8-year $9,000,000 contract (currently the 3rd highest paid player in the league). Even though I am a believer that PK Subban will eventually be a captain for the storied Montreal Canadiens, I just don’t think right now is the right time. Heck, he has never even worn the A for the Habs in his career so far.
“I think anyone who wants to be a leader on their team would want to be a captain of a team, especially with a franchise with such history like that.” – Max Pacioretty, who added that he’d be completely on board if the team went in another direction
Giving the captaincy to Pacioretty could be an interesting decision. Coming off a career year where Max scored 39 goals, Pacioretty has recently stated his desire and how much of an honour it would be to be the next captain of the Habs. Pacioretty is widely respected in the room, including notoriously coming to the defence of then struggling linemate David Desharnais, when the entire city and even Montreal Mayor, Denis Coderre, wanted to send Desharnais back to the AHL. He has also held himself accountable during rough patches throughout the year, even calling himself out to the media just before Game 4 versus the Lightning and Game 6 versus the Bruins in the 2014 playoffs and then coming out and scoring the series clinching goals in both Game 4 against Tampa and Game 7 in Boston. However, I am one of those that does not like putting additional pressure onto a goal scorer. Like Brett Hull or John LeClair, these guys are paid to score and they should not be worrying about the media or anything else but putting pucks into the net.
If I was in charge of the Canadiens, no doubt in my mind my next captain would be Brendan Gallagher. This guy is plain tenacious, willing to do everything, going to the dirty areas, laying his body on the line for the team, just to win hockey games. Gallagher is the epitome of character and is the ultimate team player, but this isn’t just some third or fourth line grinder, Gallagher also has the ability to lead by example, producing 15 goals in a shortened 44 game season (his rookie season) and 19 goals last year. The only thing scaring fans away from Gallagher as the next captain is he is still young and he would continue the tradition of undersized Canadiens’ captain (Mike Keane, Saku Koivu, Brian Gionta). For fans trying to move on from the smurf era in Canadiens’ history, it might be hard to accept another “smurf” 5’9 as the next captain. Imagine the home opener on October 16 versus the Bruins, the previous #11 and captain (no not Scot Gomez) Saku Koivu handing the torch off to the current #11 Brendan Gallagher.
My Prediction: Tomas Plekanec (C), Andrei Markov (A), Max Pacioretty (A)… PK Subban (3rd A, if Markov or Pacioretty is injuried)