That isn’t to say that there aren’t a number of worthy candidates for the Canucks now-vacant captaincy slot, which was vacated Monday by Roberto Luongo. Ryan Kesler fits the bill of the gritty hardworking captain hasn’t been seen in Vancouver for quite some time, while Daniel and Henrik Sedin are the longest tenured Canucks and both could make strong cases for themselves as being quiet, lead by example types in the mold of fellow countrymen and former Canucks captain Markus Naslund. Henrik, admittedly, is the popular vote of the two Sedin twins, but don’t be fooled by the rocks that he’s got: either Sedin could fill the slot.
Beyond the obvious or popular choices right now, the Canucks do have a couple of other potential candidates. Mikael Samuelsson would be my dark horse favorite, as he’s not afraid to speak his mind, is passionate and has a bunch of NHL experience, a good chunk of it with the Detroit Red Wings. Sami Salo could be another candidate were he not forever injured. Manny Malhotra and Dan Hamhuis have both been getting votes, despite neither one of them having played a single game with the Canucks as of yet. Both of them being attractive to fans for different reasons: Hamhuis is seen as being a local ‘BC Boy’, so naming him captain would please the Don Cherry types who place things like nationality before talent or personality traits. Malhotra seems to have that veteran ‘hard working’ vibe to him, along with the fact that he’s a new, fresh face. Gillis brought him in because he’s good, right?
That said, despite there being some respectable choices and some damn fine players who could potentially be in the running for the Canucks captaincy, I think that the Vancouver Canucks would probably be better served with not naming a captain at all and instead just running with 3-6 alternates all season long.
Why? Well, there’s a couple of reasons. The first is that there is no real standout candidate on the team that screams captain material right now. Ryan Kesler’s game (being more of a trash talking agitator on the ice and a quiet, almost shy interview off the ice) isn’t necessarily well suited for the captaincy role. While I’ve never had a problem with the Sedins, the only reason they (and by they, I mean ‘Henrik’) have been getting any love as of late is due to Henrik’s Art Ross and Hart trophy wins. Before this season it’d be hard to have found a majority that’d be in favor of either Sedin getting the captaincy…which could lead to more ‘distractions’ with the C when the Sedins are no longer in vogue.
Which brings me to the second reason: the captaincy in Vancouver has been an albatross ever since Mark Messier took things over from Trevor Linden. Messier, of course, has become a local pariah as a result of his ‘leadership’ with the Canucks back then and those who have followed in his wake haven’t fared much better. Markus Naslund, if the jersey retirement debates that raged this past summer were any indicator, was, to put it gently, a controversial captain who had rabid fans AND critics. Roberto Luongo hasn’t fared much better, with many people outside of British Columbia viewing his time as captain as being more novelty than anything else.
There’s also Trevor Linden’s shadow. Although he’s been retired for a few years now, Linden still looms large in anything Canucks related. Probably the most loved Canucks player ever and the last captain before Messier took over, Linden remains the standard by which Canucks captains are measured, fair or not.
With no standout choice and with the fact that Canucks fans are a rabid lot regarding the captaincy, it makes sense to not bother with naming a captain until the ‘ideal’ candidate rolls along. Go with 3 alternates or 3 for road and 3 for home games. Really sell the idea of a leadership group or unit, rather than one sole guy who is responsible as the team’s ‘leader.’ It’ll make the inevitable columns when the Canucks hit a slump about the team’s leadership that much harder to swallow, as they’d be questioning a group of 3 or more players. It’d also show that having ‘A’ or ‘THE’ captain isn’t the end-all, be-all and should hopefully clear the way for when that eventual ‘perfect’ candidate is available.
Whoever it is.