Point counterpoint: O captain my captain or The more the merrier

Head Coach Michael Therrien ruffled a few feathers in the hockey world this offseason when he announced that the Canadiens would be dividing the team’s leadership duties among four alternate captains. The wisdom behind having a sole captain is that it provides a veteran presence for the team to rally around and look to in pressure situations. On the other hand, however, a team can risk appearing fickle and amature if it is constantly appointing a new captain—or even worse, giving the coveted ‘C’ to a rookie or sophomore player who hasn’t earned his proverbial ‘stripes’ yet.

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The more The merrier

Nicole Spadotto

Controversy has arisen from Montreal Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien’s decision to deviate from the standard leadership configuration of a captain and three assistants. Instead, the Canadiens have opted to name four assistant captains and this, while unorthodox, is a good decision. A core group of leaders is needed for any team to be successful because a variety of leaders are able to fill different leadership roles; some leaders choose to motivate vocally while others choose to lead by example. A lack of a singular captain does not leave a leadership void – in fact, not having one captain gives all players equal responsibility to play a leadership role, both on the ice and in the locker room. Once a team begins to rely on one person to provide leadership and motivation, its individual players become more one-dimensional.

As a Leafs fan, I remember the era when Mats Sundin was the only source of leadership on the team, with the rest of the team relying on him to point the way. When Sundin was injured several other members on the team took on an increased leadership role, and the Leafs began winning more games without their captain. When a group holds accountability, the pressure on individuals is lessened. Wearing the ‘C’ puts an enormous amount of pressure on a player. The Habs have a very young leadership group of players that have not proven themselves under pressure. Too much pressure too early in a career can ruin a budding prospect. We recently saw Alex Ovechkin crumble under the pressure of captaincy; he is only now getting back into his groove.

Naming a captain is akin to declaring a franchise player, which makes trading away a captain very difficult. This gives rise to a costly inefficiency for many front offices. For example the aging Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes is not immensely talented at this stage in his career, but the Coyotes have clearly stated that Doan is the only player they will not trade. The Canadiens, arguably, don’t have any franchise players other than Carey Price, and perhaps P.K. Subban. But, giving the letter to Subban becomes difficult to justify given his young age, selfish play on the ice, and controversial media image. In the future, Subban or even Brendan Gallagher will likely be named captain, but neither is ready for the role and all that it encompasses right now. Easing them into leadership roles is a smart move, especially considering the captain is accountable to fans and media for the performance of the team.

Much of the leadership and culture of a team comes from the coach. Whether it is a captain, or a team of assistants that conveys this message is a moot point. The Canadiens have no obvious leadership choice for this upcoming season, and to force leadership upon a player not equipped to handle the responsibility makes no sense, especially considering they have a close-knit team of players that can take on the role together.

O captain, my captain

Alex Sirois

The Montreal Canadiens have opted to go with four alternate captains this season rather than going the traditional route of appointing one captain.
Following the departure of veteran Brian Gionta to free agency, the Canadiens were left without a captain. Although unorthodox, this is not the first time a team has decided against selecting a captain and in favour of a group of assistant captains. This past season the Columbus Blue Jackets were led by Jared Boll, Jack Johnson, Brandon Dubinsky, and Mark Letestu, and reached the playoffs for the second time in club history. In the 2008-2009 season, the abysmal Toronto Maple Leafs were led by a triumvirate of Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle, and Mike Komisarek.

In this case, Head Coach Michel Therrien has made a mistake in putting his trust in veterans Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec, as well as young stars Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban. That is not to say that none of these players deserve to lead the Canadians. Although they are all more than capable of leading their team to victory when it comes to the wire, no player on the Canadians deserves to don the ‘C’ more than Andrei Markov.

Injuries have kept Markov off the ice for long periods of time, he missed all but seven games in the 2010-2011 season due to knee injuries. It’s inarguable that it is imperative that a captain stays on the ice as much as possible. This season will be Markov’s 15th season as a Montreal Canadian; a milestone very few have reached in the hallowed franchise’s history. A player of Markov’s stature, with over 800 games and 442 points in his career, has earned his stripes after years of suiting up for the Habs. In addition, he has worn the ‘A’ since the 2009-2010 season. For comparison, this would be like working for a company for 15 years, expecting a promotion, then being forced to share your current role with new employees instead. For the cohesion of the team and out of respect to a player who has given so much yet received so little, Markov should assume captaincy over the Habs this year–there’s a reason he’s known around the locker room as “The General”.

Furthermore, it’s hard to understand the point that the front office was trying to make by selecting four assistant captains. Instead of showing direction, Therrien’s decision comes off as convoluted and misdirected. If you’re grooming P.K. Subban for captainc–and they most likely are–then why not just give it to him now? The former Norris Trophy winner is coming off a stellar season in which he reached the 50-point mark for the first time, and tallied 14 points in 17 postseason outings.

In an interview with CBC Montreal sports anchor, Douglas Gelevan, Subban touched on the topic of having four alternate captains this season, saying: “I always feel like I’m auditioning, even to keep my job”.

On the whole, Therrien’s moves this off-season are puzzling. Lack of respect and lack of direction is what plagues this team at the moment. If the front office cannot show strong leadership then why would its players? The move didn’t work for Ron Wilson’s Leafs a few seasons ago and it won’t work for Therrien’s Canadians now.

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on the ice and in the locker room. Once a team begins to rely on one person to provide leadership and motivation, its individual players become more one-dimensional.As a Leafs fan, I remember the era when Mats Sundin was the only source of leadership on the team, with the rest of the team relying on him to point the way. When Sundin was injured several other members on the team took on an increased leadership role, and the Leafs began winning more games without their captain. When a group holds accountability, the pressure on individuals is lessened. Wearing the ‘C’ puts an enormous amount of pressure on a player. The Habs have a very young leadership group of players that have not proven themselves under pressure. Too much pressure too early in a career can ruin a budding prospect. We recently saw Alex Ovechkin crumble under the pressure of captaincy; he is only now getting back into his groove.

Naming a captain is akin to declaring a franchise player, which makes trading away a captain very difficult. This gives rise to a costly inefficiency for many front offices. For example the aging Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes is not immensely talented at this stage in his career, but the Coyotes have clearly stated that Doan is the only player they will not trade. The Canadiens, arguably, don’t have any franchise players other than Carey Price, and perhaps P.K. Subban. But, giving the letter to Subban becomes difficult to justify given his young age, selfish play on the ice, and controversial media image. In the future, Subban or even Brendan Gallagher will likely be named captain, but neither is ready for the role and all that it encompasses right now. Easing them into leadership roles is a smart move, especially considering the captain is accountable to fans and media for the performance of the team.

Much of the leadership and culture of a team comes from the coach. Whether it is a captain, or a team of assistants that conveys this message is a moot point. The Canadiens have no obvious leadership choice for this upcoming season, and to force leadership upon a player not equipped to handle the responsibility makes no sense, especially considering they have a close-knit team of players that can take on the role together.

Maple Leafs were led by a triumvirate of Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle, and Mike Komisarek.In this case, Head Coach Michel Therrien has made a mistake in putting his trust in veterans Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec, as well as young stars Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban. That is not to say that none of these players deserve to lead the Canadians. Although they are all more than capable of leading their team to victory when it comes to the wire, no player on the Canadians deserves to don the ‘C’ more than Andrei Markov.

Injuries have kept Markov off the ice for long periods of time, he missed all but seven games in the 2010-2011 season due to knee injuries. It’s inarguable that it is imperative that a captain stays on the ice as much as possible. This season will be Markov’s 15th season as a Montreal Canadian; a milestone very few have reached in the hallowed franchise’s history. A player of Markov’s stature, with over 800 games and 442 points in his career, has earned his stripes after years of suiting up for the Habs. In addition, he has worn the ‘A’ since the 2009-2010 season. For comparison, this would be like working for a company for 15 years, expecting a promotion, then being forced to share your current role with new employees instead. For the cohesion of the team and out of respect to a player who has given so much yet received so little, Markov should assume captaincy over the Habs this year–there’s a reason he’s known around the locker room as “The General”.

Furthermore, it’s hard to understand the point that the front office was trying to make by selecting four assistant captains. Instead of showing direction, Therrien’s decision comes off as convoluted and misdirected. If you’re grooming P.K. Subban for captainc–and they most likely are–then why not just give it to him now? The former Norris Trophy winner is coming off a stellar season in which he reached the 50-point mark for the first time, and tallied 14 points in 17 postseason outings.

In an interview with CBC Montreal sports anchor, Douglas Gelevan, Subban touched on the topic of having four alternate captains this season, saying: “I always feel like I’m auditioning, even to keep my job”.

On the whole, Therrien’s moves this off-season are puzzling. Lack of respect and lack of direction is what plagues this team at the moment. If the front office cannot show strong leadership then why would its players? The move didn’t work for Ron Wilson’s Leafs a few seasons ago and it won’t work for Therrien’s Canadians now.

Editors’ pick: Nicole. While Markov has earned his place in Canadiens’ history, a true team player does what is best for his team. When a team appoints a single captain, they must have full confidence in the player’s ability to lead the team for years to come. Therrien’s decision took a lot of courage, but with no clear choice for team captain, its a decision that will benefit the Habs in the long run.


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