When the Canadiens decided to go without a captain after losing quality leadership in Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges last summer, they decided not to name a captain for the 2014-2015 season, wanting to see who would step up and take on a bigger role on the team. What they saw was impressive as a few stepped up in their leadership roles. Let’s face it: any of Max Pacioretty or P.K. Subban would have been a good choice. But one guy made a late push in spite of his young age and that’s Brendan Gallagher.
PENTICTON, BC. – When the team announced that Max Pacioretty was named the franchise’s 29th team captain, it came as little surprise and a vast majority of fans were in total support… particularly when they found out how the choice was made. Pacioretty will be the third American to wear the “C” on his jersey (second consecutive) after Chris Chelios and Brian Gionta.
In his last meet with the media, GM Marc Bergevin had said that the next captain could not be announced at that time because he hadn’t met with all of the players yet, but that a choice would be made during training camp. Those who listened to what he said will also remember that Bergevin mentioned that the next captain would have to have the respect of the other players in the dressing room. We now know why: the leaders were voted in by the players themselves!
It turns out that in the voting, not only was Pacioretty named captain, but Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, PK Subban and… Brendan Gallagher led the votes and will share the duty of assistants to Pacioretty.
This captaincy process is yet another example of the way Bergevin is bringing a new direction for this team. Past managements have all appointed the players wearing the letters on their jerseys but Bergevin wanted to bring back the old school way of doing things by letting the players decide on who their leaders were in the dressing room. The last captain to be voted by his teammates? Saku Koivu, back in 1999.
Make no mistake here: This team is Carey Price’s team in the dressing room. He is the ultimate leader on this team and players know it, but league rules prevent a goaltender to wear the “C” during a game. You will remember the fiasco in Vancouver when, in a desperate move to convince Roberto Luongo, a future UFA, to sign back with the team, pulled the publicity stunt by naming him captain. Not that Luongo wasn’t a great leader, far from that, but they knew the league rules and it created all sorts of controversy, the goaltender even getting the “C” painted on his mask.
The results of this vote are interesting in many ways and one thing stands out in all of this, and it’s particularly obvious when looking at the names chosen. Last year’s four alternate captains were Markov, Plekanec, Pacioretty and Subban, all chosen by management. After the players’ votes, the same four names came on top, with the addition of young Gallagher who really stepped it up last year, particularly in the playoffs. This is a clear sign that management has a pretty good idea of what’s going on with this team, and it shows how both the players and the organization are “in sink” with each other.
They are called clichés because they are truth being repeated over and over again, but while Pacioretty will have the captaincy, the fact remains that there is a core group of young leaders in this dressing room and all will contribute in their own ways in providing the necessary guidance on the team both on and off the ice. Many of those players have worn a letter on their jerseys at some point in their career, and weather they are wearing one or not this year, they seem to all be wanting the same thing: the team’s success and ultimately, winning a Stanley Cup together.
WHY FOUR ALTERNATES?
As only three players can wear a letter in any NHL game, teams traditionally go with one captain and two alternate captains, sometimes naming one extra in case of an injury. For some reasons, the Canadiens have named four alternates, a decision which raises even more questions about the status of veteran centreman Tomas Plekanec. There is no doubt that he is one of the quiet leaders in this dressing room and for as long as he is wearing this uniform, he will be an alternate captain and he will be playing centre even in the event of the current log-jam at that position.
Plekanec, as we all know, is entering the final year of his contract with a cap hit of $5 million, and it has been reported that no contract talks have been held between his agent and the team. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any, but many think that if Alex Galchenyuk shows that he’s ready to take on the next step in his career by showing that he can play centre, Plekanec could be sacrificed to obtain scoring help on the wing.
This could explain the four alternates, although one would think that the team would have kept the announcement for the fourth one quiet, at least until one of them is moved via trade. So why the rush to name four? Like with anything else, we will likely find out in due time, but this decision certainly won’t stop the rumour mill from turning full speed until Plekanec is either re-signed or traded, that’s for sure.
With one of the Canadiens’ top 10 questions entering training camp now answered, nine others remain. Isn’t it great that hockey is back?
Go Habs Go!!!