MONTREAL, QC- Being the captain of the Montreal Canadiens is one of the most glorious titles one can have as a hockey player with the history of this franchise. Generally, captaincy comes with great responsibility on and off the ice. For a hockey team, the captain is the one that teammates look up to and follow his lead, and especially for the Montreal Canadiens, the captain has to represent the whole team to one of the biggest fan base in sports. He will get a lot of media attention and will have to address the entire province on whatever is happening with the team.
Since the departure of Brian Gionta, the Canadiens have went with a four alternate-captains system. Although this has worked well for the club last season, I can’t see them not naming anyone in the long run. So who could take on this role?
Here are my top 5 candidates:
- Tomas Plekanec
Plekanec is wise veteran player that has been groomed inside the Montreal organisation for quite some time. The 2001 third-round draft pick has been a consistent two-way player throughout his ten seasons as a Habs player. He has been well-liked by nearly every single coach that has coached him here and he is one of the most reliable players on the team, or even in the league.
The only knock on Plekanec being the Habs’ captain is that his future is uncertain. Plekanec is heading into a contract year on a team that has a lot of center depth. Lars Eller, David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk, Jacob de la Rose, Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn can all play center in the current lineup and prospects Michael McCarron, Jérémy Grégoire, Lukas Vejdemo, to name a few, are all up and coming centre prospects. With Plekanec, Eller and Desharnais taking up the first three lines as centres, prized prospect Alex Galchenyuk has been shifted to left-wing, causing some disagreements among fans. With Plekanec’s contract coming to an end, his future is certainly in doubt with the Canadiens.
- Andrei Markov
If we talk about longevity and tenure with the Montreal Canadiens, no one tops Andrei Markov. A sixth-round draft pick in 1998, Markov has been with the organisation for 17 years. This next season will be Markov’s 15th as a Habs player and he has accumulated 492 points in 846 games with the Habs. Considering that he has went through two lockouts and a few major injuries, that is a pretty impressive total for a defenseman. Markov’s ability to control the play and pass the puck is well documented and he has been the heart and soul of Montreal’s power play. He is well-respected by his teammates and by the fans.
The only issue is that if Andrei Markov was really interested in being captain, I strongly doubt that Brian Gionta would have gotten it over him in the first place. Markov has a reserved personality and generally doesn’t like the spotlight despite a few surprisingly humoristic encounters with the media recently. If Markov wanted to be captain, he would be.
- P.K. Subban
Subban is probably the most controversial pick of my top 5, just like his reputation in the NHL. P.K. entered the league with an endless energy that rubbed opponents off the wrong way. His attitude was seen as a problem back in his junior days and he is still overly emotional on the ice occasionally. But five seasons into his young career, P.K. Subban has put up 227 points in 366 games, and winning the Norris Trophy, awarded to the best defenseman, in the 2012-2013 season. In the past season, he also got nominated for the Norris Trophy despite losing it to Senators’ Erik Karlsson.
His talent is getting more and more recognition and his off-ice personality is starting to win over some fans all over the league. His clutch performances in playoffs make him a very legit candidate for captaincy. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and he is a dominant force in the back end for the Canadiens.
His reputation around the league is still doubtful but in a way, a captain should be well appreciated by his teammates. If that is indeed the case (I do think it is), then Subban is worthy candidate.
- Brendan Gallagher
Effort. Effort. Effort. Gallagher is the train that never stops. He has been playing like this ever since he started playing hockey, and while everyone expected him to slow down a little this past season, he topped his career best in goals (24) and in points (47). Brendan Gallagher is a warrior on the ice and he constantly fights for a better position in front of goalies, driving opposing defenders and goaltenders mad. In nights where his teammates are nowhere to be found, Gallagher will still fight for every inch and score that important goal for his team.
His attitude is what the coaching staff and management team have been advertising for the last three seasons. He would make a good poster boy for work hard and earn your ice time, something coach Michel Therrien repeats rather frequently.
- Max Pacioretty
My top choice may seem like an obvious choice, as Pacioretty has been leading the Canadiens in goals and points in the last three seasons (the whole tenure of this management and coaching team), but I think that he is the best candidate not only because of his points production. Pacioretty has seemingly matured a lot since he was drafted, and he has gradually taken on a bigger leadership role every single year.
He signed a rather economic deal with the Canadiens for six years at 4.5 millions per year. Pacioretty said that the reason he took that deal was because he wanted to stay here.
Additionally, Max Pacioretty seems to not only have the respect of his teammates, but from players and goalies around the league as well. In a recent article from The Players Tribune, Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick had this to say about Max Pacioretty:
When I think of Max, I think of the most underrated player in the NHL. Only three players have scored more goals than him over the past three seasons — and these aren’t all pretty power play goals. Most of his goals come in 5-on-5 situations where space is tight, and I know he had 10 game-winners last season. Max is similar to Tavares in the way he works in dirty areas. It blows my mind that he’s not talked about more because he’s such a great scorer.
When you’re playing Max, you have to be very aware of his quick snapshot. He’s able to release the shot so quickly and with so much power that you have to know where it’s going ahead of time to have a chance to stop it. The thing that separates Max is that his shots are as accurate and consistent as you’re going to see in the NHL. He can pick a little sliver of space better than anyone, so if you’re deep in your net when he releases it, it’s game over.
When a cup winning goaltender has this to say about a player, it is some high praise for the 26-year-old Canadiens player. For the past year, the Montreal media also has been subtlety selling Max Pacioretty as the Habs’ next captain, often praising his leadership. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was named captain sooner rather than later.
Who will be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens?
- Max Pacioretty (68%, 434 Votes)
- Brendan Gallagher (13%, 83 Votes)
- Tomas Plekanec (9%, 57 Votes)
- P.K. Subban (6%, 36 Votes)
- Andrei Markov (4%, 28 Votes)
Total Voters: 638