The captaincy in hockey is arguably the most important in all of sports. A soccer captain’s armband is often passed around during a game, there are up to six captains on a football team, and most baseball teams often don’t even bother naming a team captain.
In hockey, however, the lone owner of the “C” on his jersey is tasked with more than just representing his team in on-ice discussions with officials. The captain is often the face of the franchise, a player expected to lead his entire franchise on and off the ice. They are expected to “face the music” and answer to critics when times are tough, and they are looked to for guidance and leadership during times of hardship within an organization.
While they don’t necessarily have to be the best player on the team, they are expected to bring their best to the arena every night and produce in the biggest moments, on the biggest stage.
With all that in mind, it’s time to finally admit, without trepidation or hesitation, that the Montreal Canadiens search for their next captain should end firmly with the “C” being stitched on the heart of P.K. Subban’s jersey. While Subban is a polarizing figure in the hockey world, Subban has proven himself to be not only a highly-talented player but a mature, articulate and respectful human being off of it. To top it all off, he bleeds bleu, blanc, rouge.
This is more based on personal opinion that anything else, but I truly believe that Subban has shown enough to validate his selection as captain in terms of his leadership ability. This will be fleshed out in the article, however on a very basic level, Subban has shown all the qualities of a potential captain; a vocal and on-ice leader, a mature and smart individual and someone who can get a group of players to buy in to a team concept.
Captaincies have been handed out for less valid reasons; Alex Ovechkin was given the captaincy in Washington because he scores a lot of goals. Joe Thornton clearly isn’t doing something right, because he’s been stripped of the captaincy twice in San Jose. While Subban is still young, there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t be able to handle the Holy Grail of NHL captaincy’s.
Don’t get me wrong – Brian Gionta was a fantastic captain, a respected and experienced leader who led his team to two Eastern Conference Finals throughout his time in Montreal. The one thing Gionta lacked, though, was charisma – while he may have been able to fire up his teammates (mostly by leading by example), you didn’t see many Gionta jerseys in the Bell Centre on game-day. Subban, on the other hand, is the darling of Montreal fans, and would bring a burst of flair that we haven’t seen from a captain in almost two decades.
9. Respected Around the League
While Subban appears to have a target on his back from opposing players (and sometimes the referees), you’ll never hear an opposing player openly criticize Subban. For one thing, his hockey resume is long and impressive, and that track record goes a long way in the NHL fraternity. As important as it is for your teammates to respect you, it’s almost as important to have the respect of players around the league – and maybe slapping the “C” on Subban will finally get the referees to cut him some slack, too.
8. Fan (and teammate) Favorite
This reason is almost of extension of the last reason. No one will follow a captain they don’t respect, but it’s even less likely that a leader can lead a group of people that don’t like him. That won’t be an issue with Subban; he’s by far the most revered player on the team by Montreal’s massive fan-base, and while some people might get rubbed the wrong way by such a bubbly personality, he is just as adored by his teammates in the locker room (which is what really matters).
7. Best Player on the Team
It’s important to preface this explanation with this statement: P.K. Subban is the best skater on the Montreal Canadiens. Carey Price is by far the most important player on the Habs, but after the Roberto Luongo disaster in Vancouver, we’ll likely never see another goalie as team captain again. Subban is going to be a perennial All-Star for years to come, playing 25-30 minutes a night as the team’s most important skater.
6. His Relationship With Michel Therrien
You might be scratching your head at this one, as for awhile now the relationship between these two has seemed to be tenuous. Both are here for awhile longer, however, and it finally appeared that the head coach learned that he couldn’t keep the short leash on Subban anymore – he had to let him run free, and it paid dividends in the playoffs.
Not only that, but if there is anyone on this edition of the Habs who’s fully bought into Therrien’s team concept, it’s Subban. Despite everything the franchise has put him through, Subban has been fully committed throughout, and if one of the main jobs for a captain is to help sell the coach’s system, he’s the perfect guy to do so.
We’ve seen several captains take on the role with their respective teams at much younger ages than Subban’s 25 years, and the main reason those players were handed the torch so young was because they proved themselves to be mature beyond their years. Not only has Subban similarly shown he is mature enough to handle the burden of the captaincy, he’s done so ten-fold, most notably during the racism scandal during the Boston-Montreal playoff series last season.
4. Subban Hearts Montreal
If there’s ever been a player who’s loved playing this team as much as Subban does, that player probably played during the 70’s or earlier, because for the past 20-30 years this team has seen it’s fair share of players leave – or not come at all – because they didn’t want to deal with the pressure of playing in Montreal, or because they didn’t want to loss a chunk of their earning to Quebec taxes. Subban has said time and time again that he wants to retire a Hab and has proven his love and commitment to not only the franchise, but the city as well – who would have thought it from a guy born and raised in Toronto?!
One of the things that has defined captains throughout NHL history is their ability to come up clutch in the biggest moments of important games. Subban has scored enough big goals and made even more incredible plays during the most desperate of times that it’s easy to forget a few of them, despite having only a few full years of experience under his belt in the NHL. Now armed with a big contact that he’ll have to live up to, Habs fans can rest assured that there will be more of those moments to come.
2. Long-Term Contract
For most captains of the Montreal Canadiens, their tenures lasted a significant amount of time. All the names on the list of captains with multiple years of experience were highly respected and highly-talented individuals who carved out legacies in the franchises history. While names like Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec come up in the discussion for the team’s next captain, there’s no guarantee either one will be around long enough to create the type of legacy and leave the same long-term impact that Subban can, who is signed for the long-haul.
1. Face of the Franchise
If all of the aforementioned reasons are insufficient or debatable, this one is not: P.K. Subban is the most “sellable” player on the current edition of the Montreal Canadiens, and probably will be until the day he leaves or retires. When you think of the 2014 edition of the Canadiens (or when people are talking about them), the one name that always comes up is P.K. Subban – and while the decision should be up to the players in the locker room, there’s no denying the benefits to the Canadiens organization and brand with Subban cemented as not only the face of the franchise, but the captain and leader of the franchise.
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