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Captain Decision Crucial for Canadiens Present And Future

September 12, 2018, 7:23 PM ET [728 Comments]
Brandon Smillie
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The rookie camp is wrapping up without much to write home about aside from a couple brutal concussions and the Canadiens Main Training Camp is just around the corner.

With that is likely to come some questions for veterans about the Pacioretty trade, how long have they known he wanted out, and so on. But the big question for me is who replaces Pacioretty as team Captain?

The Captain of the Montreal Canadiens is no small job. It’s an important job on any team but with a city that eats, sleeps, breathes, and bleeds sports the Captain is more than guy who chats up the refs and takes ceremonial puck drops.

The Canadiens are a club where the Captain needs to be respected and where the Captain needs to respect the role.

Last time we had this discussion about a Captain we were waiting to see who would replace a Captain who was a great Montreal Canadien, but ultimately a stop gap placeholder in Brian Gionta.

Gionta came to the Habs cashing in on a 60 point season that he would never again come close to replicating, but he did play with heart and desire. The first year in Montreal saw him excel in the playoffs too on the Canadiens cinderella run in 09-10. He put up 9 goals and 6 assists in 19 games that spring but his stature and hands were just not at the elite level so he never really got to solidify himself as one of our all time greats.

Gionta had to replace the last exceptional Captain we had and you can’t hold that against him.

Saku Koivu was a battler through and through who gave his all for the team while taking more than his fair share of criticism (deciding to not learn French, not being French) and injuries/illnesses. But every game you could count on the then undersized Center being ready to skate through the boards for his team. Koivu rarely backed down from anything and the quality of his work for the Canadiens and the city of Montreal are undeniable.

The last decision on who would Captain the Canadiens was decided by a team vote and I’ll fully admit that I thought Subban or Markov were shoe ins for the role. The team of course voted for Max Pacioretty and the rest is history.

Pacioretty respected the role and wore the C with pride, we cannot forget that. Pacioretty’s only fault is he was a streaky player and come playoff time he rarely took his game to the required levels. This was probably the most frustrating part of Max’s tenure with the Habs. He had games where his speed and shot looked second to none, but then he had stretches where you literally didn’t notice he was playing. There was no real battle in his game and he seemed to only create real chemistry with recent KHL defector David Desharnais.

For a routine 30+ goal scorer to have a 0.5 PPG rating in the playoffs over the last six season (38 games) isn’t really something most of us wanted to brag about either.

I, like many of you, watched pretty well all the games last season and I would hope we can all agree that J Drouin displayed high end skill and vision, but lacked someone who can finish. Playing the two together should have made for all kinds of goals but again, it appeared that chemistry wasn’t there.

We know from Drouin’s time in Junior, in Tampa, and at the World Cup that he creates chances and can be down right dominant on the PP. While the excuse of learning to play Center this year is completely valid for why there was struggles, it doesn’t make sense that a player who scored 30+ goals routinely would struggle so hard with a player with elite vision like Drouin.

If we are being completely honest about last year, for the most part (until shortly after the 2nd half of the season) the Canadiens actually generated lots of good opportunities. The Corsi and Fenwick numbers showed you could argue the Canadiens were outplaying teams many nights. The problem was no one could finish a play with a goal and when they did the Habs had a terrible habit of allowing a goal within a minute or two and half the time another goal after that. There other bad habit was allowing the first goal early but I’m sure Carey Price would love to have that entire season back as well.

Now we know that it was likely that Pacioretty asked for a trade during last season, after spending a summer mentoring Drouin, and perhaps that had an affect on the team too. With Weber playing on one leg (and dominating) and Price having his first off year in almost a decade this was probably insult to injury for the guys in the locker room. With Weber and Price down they definitely looked like a team without a leader…

This is why this the next decision for Captain is so important. It’s too important to let players who come and go every couple years decide. This Captain has to be chosen by all the important brass based on many factors.

The Captain has to have trust of management to be an ambassador on and off the ice, but almost as important is the player and management trusting that neither has any intention of turning on each other. The player and management must feel trust in each other that there won’t be a surprise trade request or that other managers will be leaking trade talks involving said player. An understanding that this job is a minimum 5 year agreement and hopefully more.

But more than ever, the Canadiens need a Captain that can not only play at a high level, but stand up for teammates. A player that opponents can’t take lightly but also can’t take liberties with. No more push over Captains.

The Canadiens need a warrior. A true leader. A player like Shea Weber or Brendan Gallagher.

The argument against Gallagher is the ref’s don’t give him a fair shake and thus won’t have the respect of officiating crews night in and night out. While I somewhat understand the sentiment here, if you watched the last couple seasons you would see that Gallagher drives the net but stops just short of crossing the lines he used to cross and as a result has seen much fairer treatment from officials. He even draws penalties now instead of officials allowing him to be used as a punching bag every shift.

This may be why Gallagher had himself a career season too. A little league wide respect for him and his game allowed him to play a game without fear of cheap shots with no calls.

So I don’t buy into that argument against his qualifications to be Captain of the Canadiens. I think if I was on the same team as Gallagher I would have no issue with him leading the charge, motivating the group, dealing with the refs, and playing 110% every shift.

Gallagher displays the type of loyalty found only in the most outstanding of people and I would bet that if the Canadiens wanted him he would stay a Canadien for his entire career.

That said…

I truly believe Shea Weber is going to be the next Captain of the Montreal Canadiens. I would like Gallagher to be Captain (with no disrespect intended to Weber), but realistically the job should be Weber’s.

Shea Weber is an all round elite force in the NHL. The type of human that can defy the norm. A Mark Messier style of moose. A player that will beat you at both ends of the ice, then beat you physically for getting out of line too.

If not for being on a team that had no real appeal or talent outside of its blue line for years Weber would like have a Norris or two under his belt to go with his Olympic gold. A player that is an automatic selection with Drew Doughty and Patrice Bergeron for Team Canada squads. There’s a reason for that and that’s because he’s been an elite force in the league for almost his entire career.

Agree with me or not, but I feel that Weber will be an elite level talent for at least another 5-6 years and will be one of the rare 40 year old NHL players. This player is one that has already earned the respect of all his peers and officials. Weber is allowed liberties in the same way Z Chara of the Bruins is.

Shea is under contract for another 8 years when you include this season so you will have someone who is under team control with cost certainty. The last 3 years of his deal have him only making $1,000,000 in annual salary so there’s at least an expectation that he will be playing at a high level for at least 5 more seasons before the possibility of retirement starts to be discussed. More than enough time to help mentor all the new faces of the Montreal Canadiens that will be looking to team leadership for help learning to be pros and learning to play the game the right way.

There is no better mentor on the Canadiens even when Pacioretty was Captain.

Weber is the Canadiens best leader outside of the blue paint and I look forward to the Canadiens announcing he’s been named Captain. Yeah he will miss a month or so to start the season, but I doubt he’s out until Christmas like original timelines from his surgery suggested. Weber will likely be back after October, the only question is will it be at the beginning of November or towards the end. I’m also sure he’s going to have a pretty big chip on his shoulder as well.

Shea Weber said nothing negative about being dealt to Montreal, he simply showed up and played dominant hockey.

Shea Weber is the reason Nashville has the marketing line of “Smashville”.

Shea Weber is the right person to help lead by example as the Canadiens ice one of their youngest rosters in years.

Shea Weber is the right choice for Captain of the Montreal Canadiens… But I won’t be surprised if it’s Brendan Gallagher either.

Go Habs Go
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