September 12, 2022
This morning the Montreal Canadiens transitioned into the 2022-23 season with their annual golf tournament. They didn’t waste any time making an important announcement. Nick Suzuki has been named the 31st captain of this storied franchise. He just turned 23 in August, and he becomes the youngest player in franchise history to be named captain.
This decision puts an exclamation mark on efforts to modernize the Habs.
This past New Year’s Eve I published an article asking whether Suzuki should be the next captain. I included a chart of NHL captains, which points to the teams that have taken the plunge in naming a younger captain when the player was significant enough to the team.
Few would dispute Suzuki’s importance to the team, but many would point to the unique challenge of the Montreal market. This management group could have fallen into the traps of tradition. They could have picked a veteran player, choosing to spare Suzuki the spotlight and the stress, even if that would have meant a change in the captaincy in a couple of years.
In this choice, HuGo is communicating that not only is Suzuki the best option to be captain, but also that they are not intimidated by the uniqueness of the market. They intend to modernize this team, and old ways of thinking will have to submit.
Is Suzuki ready?
Nick Suzuki has already demonstrated he can lead by example on the ice. He has spent this summer proving he is committed to the off-ice role of the captaincy in this market. Absolutely everything we have seen points to a temperament befitting the role. But don’t take my word for it.
What about the other guys?
I’m referring to Brendan Gallagher and Joel Edmundson. They were the veteran alternatives to wear the C, at least until Suzuki is ready. I love that HuGo didn’t go with the two-step approach.
I’ve never seen Gallagher as a legitimate option and I’m not convinced he saw himself in the role. Does a guy who aspires to be the captain of the Montreal Canadiens go on Twitter to chirp refs on off days? Yet, this is the style that makes Gally who he is. Why attempt to domesticate him for the captaincy when he can provide his style of leadership without a C?
Edmundson would have been an acceptable short-term option, if it was felt Suzuki was not ready. The timeline on his contract would allow for a brief preparation time for Suzuki. This choice would make sense in a world where Suzuki is not ready, and HuGo clearly believes this is not the case.
Leadership by committee has expired.
Last year Marc Bergevin’s devastation at losing Shea Weber was personified in the number of alternates used through the season. Rumour has it that organist Diane Bibeau wore an A on her sweater on a few Saturday nights.
Sometimes you can share the load so much that no one knows who is carrying it.
One captain, two alternates. Going forward the leadership group is clear, and so far neither of them are scouting out west.
The decision had become so obvious that by the time it was announced it came as a surprise to no one. Nonetheless, it was the right choice. A good decision. Nick Suzuki is the Captain of the Montreal Canadiens, and that call is just the latest on the path to modernizing the Habs.