Eggs Bennett Issue 21-12
December 15, 2021
This is the fifth installment of my series exploring who should be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens. So far I’ve considered Gallagher, Byron, Petry, Toffoli and Edmundson, and you can access those articles and others at https://habather.wordpress.com/
Let’s turn our attention to two more options – Jonathan Drouin and David Savard. I’m considering them together because they share a significant feature that has been in the spotlight in Montreal with the change of leadership.
Jonathan Drouin is 26 years old and will soon turn 27. This is significant since it is unlikely a new captain will be named until next year. Drouin was drafted 3rd overall in the 2013 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has been with the Canadiens since June 15, 2017 when he was traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Habs for defence prospect Mikhail Sergachev. Drouin was immediately signed by GM Marc Bergevin to a six-year, $33 million contract ($5.5M AAV). He is in the fifth year of that contract.
David Savard is 31 years old. He was drafted 94th overall in the 2009 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets and spent most of his career in Columbus before being traded to the Lightning at the 2021 trade deadline. This past summer, the Habs signed Savard as an unrestricted free agent to a four-year, $14 million contract ($3.5M AAV). He is in the first year of that contract.
Drouin and Savard are the only Francophone players on the Habs roster who are on contract beyond this season.
The contract situation is worth considering for each player for different reasons.
Savard will have three years remaining on his deal after this season. He is in a logical point of his contract where naming him captain might make sense. But that assumes Jeff Gorton is motivated to keep Savard around. It’s normal for a new defenceman to need some time to acclimate to a new team, but where Savard is concerned it seems wise to manage expectations for his usefulness and how well the contract will age.
Will Gorton see a long-term fit for this player? Will he be able to move Savard’s contract, even if he wants to? Do you make a guy captain if he’s in a contract you’d love to move but can’t without taking a loss? Is there a leadership component that Savard can bring that can compensate for other shortcomings?
Jonathan Drouin is entering the last year of his contract after this season. Naming him captain would almost certainly signal a plan to extend him beyond 2022-23. Is that likely? Is he worth his current AAV? Would he be interested in taking a cut? In fairness to Drouin, he’s played on some very bad Habs teams. That said, the tenure has been disappointing, even if expectations were always going to be tangly.
Does either player have the leadership skills to be the next captain in Montreal?
On Tuesday night I watched Drouin skate to the net to claim the puck after Ylonen scored his first NHL goal and wondered what he brings to the team in terms of leadership. When Weber was visiting the team out west earlier in the season, we learned about a team outing that had been arranged by Jo. A few weeks ago, we saw video from practice where he was obviously at odds with the coach, but these days it’s hard to tell if that’s a good sign or bad. Certainly, he takes his turn fielding questions from the media, and we have seen glimpses that look like leadership potential.
It was only a few months ago that we all wondered if we had seen Drouin play his last game for the Montreal Canadiens. He had taken a leave to address his mental health, to his credit. One wonders if he would even be interested in the additional pressure of a captaincy.
With respect to Savard, one thing I will say about this player is that he communicates maturity. He seems even keeled and just recently we saw him claim his Stanley Cup Ring. Savard has international experience under his belt. But I’m not sure he screams captain material.
It’s been a very long time since the Canadiens have had a Francophone captain.
Vincent Damphousse was the last Francophone captain in 1998-99. He served in the role for three seasons. It has been a while. With the hiring of Jeff Gorton, and the subsequent response, it’s worth considering whether the Habs could benefit from having a local player who is named the next captain.
One of the ways Paul Byron has shown his worth as an alternate is his ability to hold a presser in two languages. Drouin, Savard, Perreault and Paquette have also shared that weight this season. There is no disputing the value in having a Francophone player in a leadership position.
Naming a captain who grew up dreaming of playing for the Habs certainly appeals. If he is a local kid who can communicate in both official languages, that would be a bonus. I’m not sure that guy is currently a member of the Montreal Canadiens.