The Canucks don’t need a captain and shouldn’t be in a rush to name one

Photo credit:© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
1 year ago
After trading Bo Horvat, the Vancouver Canucks are not only going to need to fill a hole in their top-six, they’re also left without a captain. Horvat was the 14th captain in Canucks history and served in the role since the start of the 2019-20 season. While he only captained the Canucks for a few years before being traded, Horvat did admirably well in the way he handled the media, kept his composure, and never complained despite a less than ideal situation.
The role of the captain is one that carries a lot of significance in hockey. Players like Steve Yzerman, Sidney Crosby, and Joe Sakic are revered across the hockey world for their leadership. In Vancouver, Trevor Linden is remembered fondly partially because of his ability to lead and his success in that captain role.
With Horvat gone, naturally the speculation on who the Canucks will name as their next captain has started to ramp up. However, with less than half a season left to play, the best move for the organization is likely not naming one at all.

Changing of the guard

The Canucks have clearly outlined that they’re ready for a new era to begin. While previously players like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko were seen as young talent on the roster, those players will now be expected to take a large leadership role. New head coach Rick Tocchet made this very clear an interview on Sportsnet 650 following the Horvat trade.
“They [Hughes and Pettersson] gotta set the standard, and I’m gonna really lean on those guys… Those guys have been in the league three, four years now,” Tocchet said. “They’re premier players in the league, and I think it’s important that they have a voice and they’re part of this leadership group going forward.”
It seems as if both Hughes and Pettersson will likely have a letter on their jersey this season, although it remains to be seen if it will be an “A” or a “C”. This marks a new period in Canucks history, one where the young core will be forced to mature and lead the team through what’s likely to be rough waters ahead.

The pressures of being the captain in Vancouver

The Vancouver hockey market is intense. There are a lot of people that care about the Canucks and that’s a wonderful thing. It also means that the Canucks’ captain carries more responsibility than in many other markets. While you might be able to slide under the radar in Florida, that’s not possible in Vancouver.
This is a tumultuous time in franchise history. Not only are the Canucks losing lots of games — as they have for the better part of a decade now — but there have been plenty of serious off-ice issues as well. The public breakup with Bruce Boudreau and the questions that still surround Tanner Pearson’s injury are just two examples.
As a captain, you have to stand up in front of the media and answer questions about these topics. Pushing someone like Pettersson or Hughes into that role at this moment is pointless. There is nothing to gain by making them the face of this tire fire season. Instead, they should be eased into a leadership position.

Sticking with the leadership by committee approach

Just because no one has the “C” on their jersey, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be leaders on the team. In fact, even with a captain, every good team relies on multiple voices instead of a single individual to influence, provide guidance, and give direction.
“How I’m going to do it I haven’t thought about it too much other than the fact that I’m going to try to power a really strong leadership group, and it’s gonna be multiple guys in that leadership room,” Tocchet commented when asked about the captain situation.
The Canucks have veteran voices on the team such as Luke Schenn and Oliver Ekmann-Larsson. These are players that have had a wide range of NHL experiences and can help guide the ship. They’ve also both played for Tocchet in the past, meaning that they might be able to help communication between the new coach and the players.
There’s no rush to name a new captain. Having a player with a “C” on their jersey isn’t going to change anything in terms of how this season goes. However, forcing Pettersson or Hughes into the role prematurely could be overwhelming and have negative results. Take it slow and let the rest of the year play itself out. When it comes to the start of next season, there will have been a lot of changes and the new leader can be afforded a fresh start.

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