Kent Hughes is on record saying it, the Montreal Canadiens will have a team captain next season. No, there are no positive news about Shea Weber making a comeback. His status is the same and the team (and the player) won’t say anything about it not to give the insurance companies any fuel to stop paying the veteran player. It sounds more like the Habs will be going ahead with a new captain instead, as it appears like Weber’s career is all but officially over.
While few doubt that one day, Nick Suzuki will be the future team captain, they are many who feel like the Canadiens need to find another veteran for a few seasons before Slick Nick is ready to take on such a big role. I was one of them… until fairly recently. Ever since joining the team, Suzuki has displayed a maturity on and off the ice well beyond his young age. But since Martin St-Louis has taken over as head coach, the young center has taken an additional step with this team.
The most common reason that fans and media members will use against Suzuki (and I’ve done the same) is that they feel like he’s too young. I’ve done a bit of research and here are some young men who have been named captains around the NHL over the years.
Connor McDavid – Edmonton Oilers
19 years, 266 days
“You see every single night he goes out there and leads by example. He’s not afraid to say something when it needs to be said. For everyone in the room, he’s a great example of how you go out there and play every night. He takes it to a new level and definitely brings energy every night that we can feed off of.” ~ Darnell Nurse when McDavid was named captain
Vincent Lecavalier – Tampa Bay Lightning
19 years, 315 days
Vinny was the franchise’s first captain and he was also the first to lift the Stanley Cup over his head in Tampa Bay. Now working for the Canadiens, and former teammate of head coach Martin St-Louis, he certainly can serve as reference and vouch that young players can do that job.
Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado Avalanche
20 years, 57 days
Hard worker, gritty, level-headed and definitely talented are some of Landeskog’s best qualities. And it’s not the talent that lacks on that team yet, he’s the team captain and was at a very young age. His leadership has never been contested in Colorado or across the NHL.
Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins
20 years, 59 days
Like McDavid, Crosby is a generational talent but more than that, he’s an amazing leader. Ask anyone who has played with him in Pittsburgh and they all say the same. Selfless, he helps others on and off the ice, and make people around him better.
“I promise to play for the logo on the front, not the name on the back.” ~ Sidney Crosby
Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
20 years, 164 days
Captain serious is his nickname, but no one will ever doubt his dedication and how good of a captain Toews has been throughout his career, even at the very beginning. Some people are born leaders. He’s one of them.
Comparison with Suzuki
What do the individuals mentioned above have in common? Yes, they all displayed great leadership qualities but that’s a gimme considering the career they’ve had or are having. What jumps to mind is their maturity and, in spite of being stars on their team and in the league, they are humble people. They put the team first. They stay away from controversy, keep level-headed and are selfless individuals. They were also all mature beyond their age at the time of being named captains of their respective team.
If you were to describe Nick Suzuki, ask yourself this: could you use the same description in his case? One would be hard-pressed to answer no. Living in British Columbia, I see a lot of similarities between Suzuki and the Canucks’ captain, Bo Horvat. Their demeanour, swagger, confidence, desire to get better and be the best they can be on every shift… and they’re both outstanding individuals and citizens. They share all of that.
Who has yet to read this story from Saturday’s game in Toronto? Reportedly, this young man asked for a warm-up puck from Suzuki. Nick picked one up, a shuffle ensued, the kid got a fat lip and no puck to show for. Seeing that, Suzuki grabbled another puck, went to see him off the ice, signed the puck and gave him his stick, taking the time to get his picture taken with the young fan.
Now the rest of the story isn’t great since ushers at the Gardens wanted to take the stick away, under the pretext that it’s a “weapon” so they left the rink, went back to their hotel and never got to watch the game. Extremely poor handling by the Toronto Maple Leafs’ staff if you ask me but that’s a whole different issue.
In spite of the drama that he went through, this young fan will never forget his first encounter with Suzuki and how classy the London, Ontario native was with him. And here’s another example, again in Toronto…
He is ready
While I was one who thought that it would be good to have one more captain before giving the team to Nick Suzuki, I have changed my mind. The young man, mature beyond his age, has what it takes to take on this responsibility. He already has an “A” on his jersey so he’s already one of the team’s leaders anyway.
Nico Hischier, in New Jersey, was 22 years and 47 days when the Devils made him team captain. In Ottawa, the Senators named Brady Tkachuk as captain of their team 78 days after he turned 22 years old.
Suzuki is finishing his third season in the NHL. He was a key contributor to the team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals. He has learned the ropes of leadership under Shea Weber as captain, and under the likes of Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron, Corey Perry and Eric Staal, amongst others. The Canadiens’ center will turn 23 years old on August 10th. I say give him the “C” at training camp when the 2022-23 team is announced and start the new era.