By JD Lagrange – The Montreal Canadiens have lost some quality leadership in the past couple of years, no doubt. Ultimate leader and captain Shea Weber was forced into injury-related long term leave, as has Carey Price, a quiet leader in the room. Corey Perry, Jeff Petry (now back but for how long?), and more recently Joel Edmundson, were all great veteran leaders on the Habs’ squad from the 2021 playoffs’ push.
But there are still some quality people in this dressing room. Brendan Gallagher is also a great leader, as is David Savard, who has taken a leadership role with some of the Canadiens’ new defensemen, in particular with young Kaiden Guhle. Josh Anderson is acting like a true leader both in the room and in front of cameras. Sean Monahan wore a letter in Calgary and Mike Matheson is surging as a leader on this team as well.
Nick Suzuki is the captain obviously and will be wearing the “C”. In fact, Suzuki himself says being in touch with none other than Shea Weber from time to time, running things by him. Who better than a former Mark Messier Award winner to guide you through this market, the man who wore the captain “C” before you?
But Suzuki cannot do it alone. Who are the Canadiens’ top candidates to wear an “A” on their jersey this upcoming season? As mentioned above, they are many who have in the past (some of it due to the rash of injuries), but there are others who are also deserving. The debate is open, to say the least. Let’s have a look at the top candidates, shall we?
He’s worn in for the past several years now. It would be shocking if he didn’t wear the letter on his jersey, at least part time. If you want a vocal leader, one that preaches by example, leaving it all on the ice on every shift, Gally is your guy!
The big shot blocking defenseman took a mentorship role last season and young Kaiden Guhle had nothing but praise for Savard and what he did for him last year. With Edmundson gone, his role will be that much more important, in my opinion, as many of the Canadiens defensemen will be entering their second season at the NHL level.
Jeff Petry (?)
Yes, I have to put him on this list. He was an assistant-captain prior to requesting a trade and he asked for that trade for two reasons: he didn’t see eye to eye with then head coach Dominique Ducharme, and due to COVID and the travel restrictions, had to spend too much time away from his wife and kids. Things did change when Martin St-Louis took over and the restrictions were lifted, but he may not be with the Canadiens when season starts.
He is a strong candidate, believe it or not. His coaches like him. His teammates like him, as does management. He has a rare mix of size, speed, grit and character. He has added an East-West aspect to his game and he’s been taking a bigger role by killing penalties last season. He doesn’t shy away from answering the bell in front of the oftentimes blood-thirsty media either.
He has stepped up his game on the ice, and he is emerging as a young veteran leader on this defensive squad as well. Calm, cerebral, and now having played a season in his hometown, he has what it takes to be one of this team’s leaders.
Monahan was an assistant-captain in Calgary. He was a great mentor to Suzuki before getting injured last season and there is no denying that he’s a low maintenance player that can be relied upon in all aspects. Giving him a letter to wear would not be a stretch by any means. In fact, it would be a good thing.
There are a few young players who are emerging as young leaders on this team. They may not be fully ready to take on a letter, but they have displayed leadership skills at lower levels and it might just be a matter of time before they take on a bigger role both on and off the ice for this team.
When you talk about emergence, the name of Dach should be high on everyone’s list. If he can stay healthy, he is poised to have a breakout season. Very mature for his young age, this will already be his fifth NHL season for the 22 year-old. This being his second season in Montreal, he should take more room in the dressing room, through familiarity.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Guhle reminds me so much of a young Shea Weber. In my opinion, he will be an assistant-captain before long and could become team captain one day. I would give him a couple of years of development without a letter though. Keep that pressure off… for now. But he’s fully capable.
Said by many to be the firecracker and the clown of the team, his demeanour and smile are contagious. Good friend and linemate of captain Nick, he is serious about improving his game and he has shown that since the coaching change. Who better to teach him the ropes than St-Louis, seriously? I don’t see him being ready for a letter but he should wear one, some day.
If I had to choose, I would go with the alternating options, as the team has done the past few years, for the letter “A” on players’ jerseys. I would name two alternates for the road, and two different guys for home games to assist Suzuki.
- Brendan Gallagher (A)
- David Savard (A)
- Sean Monahan (A)
- Josh Anderson (A)
I really like Matheson as a choice too, and it was tight between him and Anderson as a choice. But the Powerhorse has been here longer and has already displayed the necessary signs of a quality leader, justifying my choice over the quality defenseman.
With that being said, if the team was going to do like the “old days”, by having the same three guys wear letters all season long, both for road and home games, my choices would be:
C – Nick Suzuki (obviously)
A– Brendan Gallagher
A– David Savard