In late March, the writers at my old blog Cycle like the Sedins discussed whether or not the Vancouver Canucks should make Ryan Kesler their “true” captain rather than having goalie Roberto Luongo stand as their unofficial one. As you may know, goalies cannot wear a captain’s ‘C’ but the team considers him their captain, going as far as to allow Luongo to paint a big ‘C’ on his goalie mask. I wanted to tackle that subject in March, but it just didn’t happen. So when I heard that Don Cherry recently weighed in against Luongo being the team’s captain, I find now to be a good time to touch on the subject.
If you look at the scenario without the inconvenience of context, the idea seems sound. After all, you’re not technically stripping Luongo of the captaincy, right? He’s not technically your captain … so it’s like getting two for the price of one! All snark aside, the question for me is: would naming Kesler – a great player who brings offensive punch and defensive play to the table – your captain going to bring enough benefits to off-set the bruises on Luongo’s ego? I’m not so sure, so I thought it would be wise to take a look at similar situations in recent NHL history.
Recent moments of quality and/or big-name players being stripped of the captaincy
Mike Modano to Brenden Morrow: In the summer of ’07, the Dallas Stars decided to take the captaincy from the face of their franchise, Modano. The move was controversial to say the least (enough to make Modano’s future-wife angry) but it seems like things have blown over. Then again, the Stars haven’t made the playoffs for the last two years and Morrow seems to have regressed a bit possibly due to injuries.
Vincent Lecavalier: The Tampa Bay Lightning star was named their captain for the first time in March 2000, becoming the youngest captain in NHL history. That didn’t last very long as he was stripped of the captaincy before the 2001-02 season. That ended up working out nicely, though, as Dave Andreychuk’s leadership helped the Lightning win a Cup. Lecavalier was re-named captain before the start of the 08-09 season, which isn’t really working well; at least I say that because his team is a sinking ship that is paying him way too much money and he’ll be in trade rumors until he actually produces to expectations again.
Patrick Marleau to Rob Blake: Perhaps the strangest of the captaincy shuffles, meek but spirited captain Patrick Marleau was stripped of the Sharks ‘C’ last summer thanks largely to the fact that the team lost in the first round to the Anaheim Ducks. Eventually the team named Blake the captain which seems like a band-aid solution; Blake’s age and Marleau’s pending free agency indicate that they both may be gone after the playoffs.
So what do these cases say? To me, they show that getting to the question itself is already a dangerous undertaking. Perhaps I underestimate the beyond-symbolic effect of the ‘C’ but I can’t help but wonder if the Canucks would be better off soothing Luongo’s ego and making Kesler their spiritual captain. Like he is, already.