Canucks slated to be winners, but still no captain

Henrik Sedin signs autographs outside the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, GA before the 2008 All-Star Game. Photo: Creative Commons

The puck is set to drop at Rogers Arena today at 7 PM and Vancouverites are set to celebrate after four painful months without the sound of puck-on-stick in their living rooms.

The 2010/2011 Canucks are already a trendy pick to go all the way this season-- The Sporting News, The Hockey News, and a dizzying array of analysts have already predicted that the Stanley Cup will be paraded down Robson Street this summer.  But the team, mere hours before puck drop, is still without a captain.

A month of silence from Canucks brass is only thinly veiling what seems to be overwhelming evidence that Henrik Sedin is poised to snatch the “C” from, quite literally, right underneath Luongo’s chin.

Summing up the sentiments of most of the city’s hockey analysts, the Vancouver Sun’s Iain Macintyre wrote yesterday that “the debate has been about why the Canucks are taking so long to name Henrik [captain].” Heck, even the oddsmakers are forcing you to bet $70 on Henrik to win a measly $20!

But the team’s first Art Ross and Hart winner—only the third and fourth major annual awards taken home by the Canucks in their history—may not be the most saavy choice to lead this year’s edition of the Canucks to the chalice come the spring.

The fans have, in polls, overwhelmingly supported gritty American Ryan Kesler’s candidacy over Henrik’s, and the management should too.

No writer will ever know locker-room dynamics between periods or exactly what is said after a deflating goal against. But Ryan Kesler has proven night in and night out that he has a heart of a lion and he leaves said heart out on the ice every night. He may not hit the scoresheet, but you’ll know when he’s on the ice—he’s going to hit everything that moves, doing whatever it takes to win.

Henrik Sedin, on the other hand, simply does not have that physical dimension to his game. On off-nights—no matter how few and far between they are—if he’s not in sync with his cycle game, it’s hard to know he’s there. If he is indeed named captain, he will undoubtedly draw parallels to a former high-scoring Swedish captain.  

Like Henrik now, Markus Naslund was labeled by management as one who did his talking on the ice. But when your leadership credentials are drawn directly from your productivity come game time, how do you lead during a prolonged scoring slump?

Will Henrik take a step back from his Hart-winning form? Coming off a career 112-point season, it’s hard to think he won’t underwhelm in a year where expectations are obscenely lofty.

It is Cup or bust in Vancouver this year- though the season starts today, everyone knows that this team’s regular season success will be moot if they aren’t playing in June.

And because grit, pain management, and physical play characterize playoff hockey, how can we argue against Kesler’s credentials as a fearless warrior who plays bigger than his size and always gets his nose dirty in the scrum? He really is the manifestation of rugged, war of attrition that characterizes the NHL Playoffs.

(Oh yeah, and he’s also a 75-point scorer.)

Say what you want about Kesler’s tempestuous exchanges with the media and his uncensored public comments. No matter how much Mike Gillis would like to convince us all that media relations are the reason for his failed goalie-captain experiment, captains’ jobs are not to talk to reporters, but to lead their teams to sixteen wins in the playoffs.

Henrik Sedin, who probably has the “C” already sown onto his jersey, would be a safe choice for the captaincy.  

But, come the spring, Sedin fails to “speak” on the ice (read: put the puck in the net), Canucks fans all over the world will be looking long and hard at today’s decision.  

After all, Vancouverites have already planned out the Cup’s parade route for the summer.  And this year, we’re putting the plan to use.

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