Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin – USA TODAY Sports
Last summer, in a Province column, I lobbied for the Vancouver Canucks to bring Bo Horvat into their leadership group and make him an alternate captain. I have since revised my thinking on the matter. Now, I want them to skip the A altogether and just give him the captain’s C this off-season.
I say this with all the respect in the world to Henrik Sedin – the man who currently holds the captaincy and has done so through the best stretch of hockey in the organization’s history. Sedin’s track record speaks for itself on the ice, in the locker room and the community. Short of bringing a Stanley Cup to Vancouver, Sedin has delivered in every way possible and gone above and beyond to represent the organization.
But the Canucks need a change. And more importantly, the Canucks, as a franchise, need to be open to change. What they’re doing and the direction they’re headed isn’t working. It’s so clear on a nightly basis that Horvat is now the leader of the hockey club and the disappointing 2-4 road trip was further indication of how much Horvat means to this franchise. He scored in the last three games he dressed for, and in the one he missed in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the Canucks put up a doughnut.
The torch has been passed on the stats sheet and in overall performance. So, make it official, make this Horvat’s team when this season ends on April 9th.
Sure, he’s young. But this isn’t about age. It’s about leadership and even at 21 – he’ll be 22 in April — Horvat already possesses the characteristics and qualities needed to lead the Canucks. He’s had three full seasons to get a read on this market, earned the respect of his teammates and demonstrated a comfort level and maturity to stickhandle through the media demands on a daily basis.
For weeks now, veteran teammates have been singing Horvat’s praises like Alex Burrows did to Jason Botchford in the December 31st edition of The Provies.
“He wants to drive this bus. He wants to be the leader of this team,” Burrows said. “He wants to be the go-to guy. He has that mindset. A lot of young players, at that age, they just sit back and watch and try to be a part of it. They don’t want to lead. He has that. He wants to lead the way. He wants to take over from Danny and Hank.”
As recently as Thursday, Canucks General Manager Jim Benning threw his support behind Horvat as a future captain of the hockey club. In his weekly appearance on TSN 1040 Radio, Benning responded to the idea of stitching the C on Horvat’s jersey sometime down the road made sense.
“It does to me,” Benning said. “He’s a candidate. Of our young players, he’s got that natural-born leadership in him. He’s a guy that plays the right way every night. He shows up and competes and works hard. I think he’d be a good role model for all of our good young players coming in. Henrik’s an excellent captain and Bo’s learning a lot from Henrik. And we’ll see when that time comes. But he’s for sure a candidate.”
Ideally, Henrik would make the process easy by taking it upon himself to transfer the letter this off-season. But these situations are never easy. However, Henrik doesn’t need another season of nightly explanations of why this team can’t score goals and can’t win hockey games. He doesn’t need the aggravation of trying to explain the mounting losses. He doesn’t need to justify why he and Daniel aren’t the same players they once were. This organizational decline has happened on their watch, but let’s be perfectly clear, it isn’t their fault.
Ideally, the Sedins could play out the final year of their current contracts free of the burdens attached with wearing a letter in the National Hockey League. Just let them perform to the best of their abilities as veterans on the hockey club, but no longer the two in charge of the locker room. They’ve done all they can in that role, but it’s time for new voices to usher in a new era. They’d still be there to support Horvat and lend guidance if necessary. But they wouldn’t be the dominant voices in the room.
One needn’t look further for a comparison than down the coast in the Bay Area where the transition of power from Patrick Marleau (2005-09) to Joe Thornton (2010-14) to Joe Pavelski (2015-present) hasn’t adversely affected the San Jose Sharks. In fact, Marleau and Thornton continue to perform at a remarkably high level, but they’re no longer seen as the faces of that franchise.
Henrik has had a seven-year run as the captain of the Vancouver Canucks. Again, fans should salute him for the way he’s conducted himself in the role. But as this season winds to a close with the Canucks likely to miss the playoffs for a second straight season and for the third time in four years, the time has come for the franchise’s all-time assists leader to do what he’s done throughout his career – and that’s know when to pass at just the right time. It seems like this off-season would be the perfect opportunity for Henrik Sedin to slide his C over to Bo Horvat.
It’s going to happen eventually. It may as well happen before next season.