In the first four parts of our multi-candidate examination of the Vancouver Canucks’ vacant captaincy, we took a look at several individuals who might feasibly fill the role—including Alex Edler, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Troy Stecher.
Then, we said to hell with it and threw our full support behind Bo Horvat in the form of a three-part PR campaign for him to be named as captain of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2019/20 season. In Part 1, we discussed all the many reasons why Horvat will make an excellent leader moving forward—and now it’s time to discuss why he would specifically be a better choice than all those other candidates we mentioned earlier in the series.
This is not to say that any of those individuals would be bad choices as team captain, and one can easily envision a scenario in which each of them expertly fulfills the role moving forward—but Bo Horvat remains the superior selection.
Why Horvat And Not Alex Edler?
Naming Edler as captain of the Vancouver Canucks would undoubtedly represent a stop-gap measure—and that would probably send the wrong message to the fanbase. Choosing Edler means that the team believes that none of its young talent—including Horvat—are ready to take on the burden of leadership, and that would be a pretty unfair statement for a team core that has already surpassed so many expectations.
Edler has long been a leader on the Canucks’ blueline, but he’s never been asked to helm the entire team—so why ask him to now? With Edler signed up for just two further years with the team, he’s probably best remaining in the role of defense corps mentor—and leaving the captaincy for someone who can grow into the role.
Why Horvat And Not Brock Boeser?
In our writeup on Boeser’s captain candidacy, we mainly focused on his impeccable personal character. While Horvat may not have the same superhuman levels of morality that Boeser has, he’s probably the very next in line when it comes to ranking the “good guys” on the roster.
For all his offensive firepower, Boeser has occasionally been criticized for neglecting his defensive duties. That’s probably fine for a top-line sniper, but it’s not something that would be acceptable from a team’s captain—and that’s why Horvat’s role makes him a better fit.
Why Horvat And Not Elias Pettersson?
In all honestly, Pettersson represents the greatest “threat” to Horvat’s impending captaincy. If the Vancouver Canucks are going to transition into a Stanley Cup contender anytime soon, it will be largely on the back of Pettersson’s on-ice accomplishments—much more so than Horvat’s. There’s no doubt that Horvat will remain central to the Canucks’ success moving forward, but he’ll never be the franchise centerpiece that Pettersson already is—and he’ll never challenge for league scoring titles like many expect Pettersson to one day do.
With that being said, there are still several aspects of the game in which Horvat is clearly Pettersson’s superior—and leadership is one of them. Horvat took on a tough defensive assignment in 2018/19 so that Pettersson’s offense could thrive in his rookie season—and the organization has no real incentive to shake up that dynamic. Pettersson’s offensive production should continue to be the focus of his game, and the harder responsibilities should remain Horvat’s—including the burden of leading the team.
There’s also Horvat’s natural charm when it comes to dealing with the media—which serves as a sharp contrast to Pettersson’s habit of glaring at reporters who ask dumb questions.
Why Horvat And Not Troy Stecher?
Quite simply, Horvat is a better player than Stecher and he’ll probably play a more important role with the franchise for a longer time. Horvat is signed for much longer, ranks much higher on the depth chart, and has already gained significantly more NHL experience than Stecher—and yet Horvat is almost a full year younger.
Troy from Richmond would make an excellent alternate captain for Horvat—perhaps as early as 2019/20 depending on whether certain veteran defensemen remain with the team—but he doesn’t stand a chance of swiping the “C” from Bo anytime soon.
The Developing Story
When it comes to Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson specifically—along with the newly-arrived Quinn Hughes—there’s another important reason to place Bo Horvat in the main leadership role instead of them.
At 24 years old, Horvat has entered his prime at an NHL forward—and his offensive production is probably quite close to peaking. Boeser, Pettersson, and Hughes, however—at ages 22, 20, and 19 respectively—are still very much on the upswing of their NHL development curves.
In other words, there is still a lot more growth yet to come in the games of those three young Canucks—whereas Horvat’s development is about to experience a levelling out. For Horvat, gaining the captaincy runs little risk of upsetting his progress—but for any of the others, it could represent an unnecessary distraction that hampers their ability to further refine their talents.
Jim Benning, Travis Green, and Co. are much better off handing the franchise keys to Horvat now, so that the younger portion of the team’s core can continue to grow—hopefully, into the kind of individuals that can supplement Horvat’s leadership. A team usually won’t suffer for having multiple players on its roster deserving of the captaincy—just look at Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron in Boston—so there’s no reason to deny Horvat the “C” now just because someone else might prove worthy in the future.
The Connective Tissue
The Vancouver Canucks hope to compete for the Stanley Cup as soon as the 2020/21 season—and that transition will correspond with the playing primes of their core talents like Horvat, Boeser, Pettersson, and Hughes. With that being said, the team won’t be able to compete without supporting those players with some older and more experienced veterans—and Horvat can serve as the connective tissue that bridges any generational gaps that occur.
In many ways, it’s a role he’s already filling on the Canucks as someone who came into the league under the tutelage of vets like Alex Edler and Chris Tanev—not to mention the Sedins, who we’ll get to in Part 3—but who has also made a clear connection with the organization’s new generation.
Horvat already looks like the glue that holds the Canucks’ dressing room together—and there’s no reason to doubt that he’ll continue to serve that purpose for many seasons to come.
The Fans Demand It
The least consequential—but still undeniably important—reason why Bo Horvat should be named as captain of the Vancouver Canucks ahead of any other candidate is that the fans of the team overwhelmingly support the move. Take a look at our very informal, very unscientific June 15 Twitter poll if you don’t believe us—the Vancouver fanbase wants Horvat as captain, and they don’t want anyone else.
— Stephan Roget (@StephanRoget) June 16, 2019
Fortunately, there’s quite a high probability that they’ll get exactly that in 2019/20, for reasons we’ll discuss in Part 3—the final article in this series.