“As a captain, I think it’s important that the players really know who you are and what you stand for, what your beliefs are, and to be consistent in those if things are going good or things are going bad.”
~ Mark Messier
PENTICTON, BC. – I was killing time this week, reading all sorts of conversations and topics on Twitter, when one caught my attention. Some people, including good friends and members of the All Habs team, were casually discussing the topic of captaincy with the Canadiens. Some were suggesting that perhaps, with an adjustment to the direction of the team, a new captain might be in order. Others were taking the stance that Brian Gionta was not the problem and should be kept as the team’s captain.
No matter which side of the debate one might be sitting, I find very interesting to see such debates when it’s done in a mature and respectful manner, just like the one on Twitter the other day. Following this interesting discussion, I thought that it would be interesting to throw it out there to my followers by simply asking them who would like to see a change in leadership on the team, as opposed to keeping the status quo. To make things even more interesting, I even threw in a third option, offering to keep Gionta but to strip him of the captaincy and giving it to someone else on the team. Thankfully, not one single person chose that option, and like yours truly, people felt like doing so would prove very disrespectful to the player and such move would not help the relationship between players and management.
As votes came in, the results were kept very close for the most part but at the end of it all, I stopped the poll after receiving somewhere between 50 to 60 replies. Of those votes, approximately 65 per cent opted to keep Brian Gionta as team captain, with the other 35 per cent either wanting him traded at all costs (by some), or people feeling like he should be traded for a bigger player if the deal was right. Interesting, isn’t it?
Amongst the group of fans who would like to see Marc Bergevin put Gionta’s name on the market, many justified it by saying that the organization might want to complete the changes initiated, as he was appointed team captain by Jacques Martin and not by the players in place. Granted, most people also acknowledged that they did not know how the players in the dressing room felt about Gionta, whether it’s as a captain or as a leader.
Some have suggested that he could potentially be an interesting piece offered in a package for a more major trade to see the Canadiens acquire a bigger, meaner and/or younger top six forward who might be available on the market. Of course, mentioned were the usual suspects like Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan, but fans also pointed to a guy like Ryane Clowe in San Jose. Either way, the name of the player targeted is somewhat irrelevant as the concept of trading the captain for what they would consider an improvement is the point here.
While I can certainly see and respect those arguments, I personally would rather keep Brian Gionta in Montreal as the team’s captain. Looking at what Marc Bergevin and his team are basing their decisions on, they want character players. How much more character can you get than coming from a guy who has been told his entire life that he was too small to make it to the big show? Looking at Gionta’s style of play, in spite of his 5-foot-7, 173 pound frame, he drives the net hard (ask the Leafs how James Reimer is doing.) Gionta digs in the corners, he parks himself in front of the net on the powerplay and he takes bumps and bruises as proven by having played 61 games or more in seven of his last eight seasons.
Further, Gionta will be there for you when it counts, in the playoffs. Since signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Canadiens in the summer of 2009, Gionta has played 200 games for his new team, playoffs included. He has registered 127 points, 77 of them were goals, more than anyone on the team for that period. In the playoffs alone wearing the red, white and blue, he has scored 12 goals and registered 20 points in 26 games.
If, as stated by Mark Messier, the players need to know who the captain is and what he stands for, in good times and in bad, there is little doubt in my mind that anyone in the Canadiens’ dressing room who doesn’t know that about Brian Gionta.
What’s your take?
En français: Oh mon capitaine