Lots of fans thought it was a curious decision last year when the Vancouver Canucks elected to make goaltender Roberto Luongo the captain. After all, the league doesn’t exactly enjoy this, even to the point where they won’t allow goalies to wear the captain’s “C” on their jerseys. After the Canucks bowed out in their second straight playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks, a series that saw Luongo still play poorly against Chicago, questions were raised as to whether or not Luongo was distracted by being the team captain.
Now, it appears those questions are being addressed and Luongo might not be the team captain next season. Matthew Sekeres of the Globe and Mail does some digging to find out who might be the next captain in Vancouver.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis denied an Internet report Tuesday that claimed goaltender Roberto Luongo had been stripped of the C and that centre Henrik Sedin, the NHL’s most valuable player, would take over as captain. Gillis said he had yet to meet with Luongo about the matter, but expects an audience in Vancouver next month, when the goaltender arrives prior to training camp.
After losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for a second consecutive season last spring, Luongo said he would review his captaincy, particularly its media demands.
Gillis said the organization wanted Luongo to determine whether the captaincy had become a distraction. He added that the team made lots of changes this summer, and wanted to give the goaltender ample opportunity to digest a revamped roster.
“I don’t think it is [a distraction], but it comes with certain expectations that may be, at times, a distraction,” Gillis said. “It can be challenging answering similar questions over and over again.”
Being a team captain doesn’t just mean being the guy on the ice that gets to talk to the referees, it also means being the focus of the team off the ice and in the locker room during post-game interview scrums. Luongo, while making for a great quote after the game, doesn’t always come off as the most complimentary guy of his teammates, defensemen in particular. Switching off to a guy like Henrik Sedin makes sense in the big picture sort of way, especially after winning the league MVP award.
If the Canucks are going to make a change, however, don’t be shocked if centerman Ryan Kesler turned out to be the guy. Kesler is a guy that plays with a tough edge and plays leading by example on the ice. During the Olympics, Kesler was a force on the ice for Team USA. Bringing that sort of tenacity to the captain’s position could do the seemingly heartless Canucks (judging by the playoffs the last two years) a boost they sorely need.