Just Give Him the C

Segue Issue 22-10

June 26, 2022

Earlier this season, with the officially listed captain of the Montreal Canadiens reportedly scouting out west, I wrote a series of articles considering who should be the next Habs captain.

I eliminated Brendan Gallagher because of his style and reputation with officials, and because he can continue to be a strong leader without being captain. I wrote off Paul Byron because the Habs are better served by moving his contract than making him captain. With both players, their absences due to injury are also a factor to consider.

I considered the merits of Jeff Petry as captain, but ultimately saw him as a better alternate captain. The point is moot with a pending trade. Tyler Toffoli and Joel Edmundson were considered based on their Stanley Cup experience, their leadership skills, and the term left on their contracts. Toffoli has since been traded, but Edmundson remains an option – for now.

Jonathan Drouin and David Savard were also considered as players under contract and because of their significance as local players. At this point, it is debatable whether either is in the Habs plans, and Drouin has been explicitly named in summer trade rumours.

The last player I considered was Nick Suzuki, and found he checked all the boxes in terms of his contract, his temperament, and his importance to the Canadiens. The only issue of concern was his youth, and whether he could handle the pressure of the captaincy in the Montreal market.

This past week (June 20th) Michael Farber appeared on Melnick in the Afternoon on TSN690 Radio. With the recent trade of Shea Weber, Melnick and Farber discussed Weber’s departure and then asked Farber who should be the next captain. Farber’s response was perfect. “Nick Suzuki, and I don’t even think it’s close.” It was an excellent hit, and you can hear the whole thing here.  

Farber’s comments resonated with me, and I’ll build on some of them here.

“You need better players being your captain – you just do.”

Farber’s comments revolved around Suzuki’s merits in comparison to Gallagher. He noted Gallagher is a good player who is injured a lot, snipes with officials and who can still lead wearing an A while continuing to play the way he always plays. That’s pretty consistent with what I wrote in the winter.

Farber added that Suzuki is a better player than Brendan Gallagher and will be for a long time. This is not really in dispute. But his next point is key. “You need better players being your captain – you just do.”

Suzuki is entering the first year of a contract that will make him the highest paid player on the team not named Carey Price. That contract is justified, and he is still getting better. He will continue to be an important player for the Habs for a long time.

“He seems to have the royal jelly.”

Melnick asked Farber what he meant by this, and Farber’s response was equally metaphoric. “He’s a hockey prince and he should wear the purple.”

We all know what he means, right? Beyond being, perhaps, the team’s best player, Suzuki also possesses the intangibles that are vital to the captaincy. The maturity and level-headedness that Suzuki brings at this early stage of his career are the leadership skills you want in your captain.

As Farber said, there is something “regal” about how Suzuki plays the game and how he carries himself off the ice.

Nick Suzuki IS the window.

Whether he intended to or not, when Marc Bergevin signed Suzuki to that contract, he announced the new window. The developments that followed – Weber’s unofficial retirement, Price’s injury – only confirmed the window.  As Farber noted, Suzuki is young and will be an important player for a long time.

Nick Suzuki is so central to the new Habs window that making him captain is only logical.

Some worry about his youth. Are you watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Steven Stamkos was named captain at 24, and Gabe Landeskog was named at just 19! I’m not suggesting these teams are cup contenders because they picked young captains. But I am suggesting that they are contenders because they fully embraced a new youth window they would build toward. Two other cup winning teams did the same – Jonathan Toews was named captain at 20, and Sidney Crosby was named at 19. Both teams won cups because they embraced a group of youth to build their team around.

Yes, Montreal is a tough market. It’s especially tough when you resist it. That’s what happened in the previous regime – hiding the players, stifling the media, and playing games through public relations. The new regime knows what is unique about this market, and they are embracing it. They have the capacity to help Suzuki navigate it.

Nick Suzuki understands both “the fact” AND “the fluff” of being the Habs captain.

You should listen to Farber explain it, but he asserted that while Shea Weber understood and excelled at the “fact” of being the captain, including leadership on the ice and in the dressing room, that he never embraced the “fluff” of the role, such as the ceremonial aspects and media interaction. Farber provided examples to support his position, but this article is not about what Weber was or wasn’t good at. In fact, I would contend that Weber only followed the lead of the ruling regime.

Farber’s point is brilliant. The captaincy, especially in Montreal, is so much more than staying in touch with teammates, holding players accountable, and being the most determined guy on the ice. I believe Suzuki can do all of those things, but I believe he knows the captaincy is also about the fluff.

Suzuki understands the impact of spending the summer in Montreal.

Suzuki gets the importance of a breakfast honouring Habs legend Yvan Cournoyer.

Suzuki shines while playing tour guide for an F1 driver.

Suzuki embraces the opportunity to surprise a group of kids playing ball hockey.

Suzuki understands the significance of attending a Laval Rocket playoff game.

Suzuki knows the captaincy is also about the fluff, and he’s all aboard.

Just give him the C.

With the trade of Shea Weber, the error of maintaining him as the listed captain last season has been addressed. It’s time to move on. Why wait until training camp?

On July 7th, the Habs have at least two picks in the first round. Kent Hughes should have the honour of naming that first overall choice. But when the next pick rolls around, it would be so cool to have Hughes take the microphone to say, “The new Captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Nick Suzuki, will announce our pick.”

It’s time. Just give him the C.

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

3 thoughts on “Just Give Him the C

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