Roberto Luongo and Mike Gillis had their much publicized meeting over Luongo’s captaincy Monday, and the decision came down that Luongo would relinquish the “C” he was never allowed to wear in order to better focus on reclaiming the all star form he has lost over the last couple seasons.
Luongo has previously battled off-ice distractions which seemed to affect his play. In 2007-2008 he skipped the all-star game in order to visit his wife during her difficult pregnancy. His play down the stretch of that season was shaky, and the Canucks would miss the playoffs. Luongo has struggled with consistency since being named team captain, leading many to believe the burden of leading a team both on ice and off is too much for a player whose position relies so heavily on mental focus and preparation.
The question now becomes: Who’s next?
There is a couple different directions Mike Gillis and Co. could opt for to be the next captain of the Canucks. The most likely (and most obvious) seems to be Henrik Sedin.
Leading the Canucks with his on ice play last season and winning the Hart trophy cemented Henrik as the best player on the team, and wearing the C could be the next logical step. Henrik represents something of a quiet leader, similar to Markus Naslund. Naslund was much maligned by the fans as captain at the end of his tenure in Vancouver for not being enough of a visible leader. If that is a concern, the next consideration for Gillis could be Ryan Kesler.
More youthful and vocal, Kesler represents the best North American option to lead the Canucks. Kesler is a physical presence on the ice, and seems to be more of a vocal leader than Henrik. The worry with Kesler is the filter between his brain and his mouth, as he can be a hothead as witnessed by his pre game comments towards Team Canada at the Olympics.
There are other options to wear the C, but they’d all be considered long shots. Dan Hamhuis is not likely to be asked as he’s a brand new addition to the team. Alex Burrows and Sami Salo might warrant small amounts of consideration, but a strong enough case can’t really be made for either. Daniel Sedin would be right in line with Henrik had he stayed healthy and been in contention with Henrik for the Hart. The Canucks could also go the route of alternating the C, or not dressing a captain at all, although Gillis says that will not be the case.
By giving up the captaincy, Luongo is likely doing what’s best for the team. He’s said nothing but how proud he is to be the team’s leader, and it was likely hard for him to be humbled in admitting it might be too much for him to handle. He will undoubtedly remain a leader on the team without the C; and by being able to focus on nothing but being the best goalie he can for the team, should give the Canucks a much better chance to win that elusive Stanley Cup.