When the Montreal Canadiens eventually decide to sew a ‘C’ on somebody, count Mike Cammalleri as a prime candidate.
The 27-year-old left winger singed a five-year deal worth $6 million annually last summer and, so far, has delivered the goods, which in his case is goals.
With five goals over his past four games, Cammalleri is on pace to tally 40 times this season after netting 39 with the Calgary Flames last year. Montreal’s second line has been hurting a bit since Andrei Kostitsyn was sidelined with a knee injury that will keep him out a few more weeks. However, Cammalleri continues to find the net playing alongside Tomas Plekanec, thereby taking some attention away from the red-hot top line of Scott Gomez between Benoit Pouliot and Brian Gionta.
The Canadiens have had a couple talented goal-scorers in the recent past, but difference between Cammalleri and somebody like Alex Kovalev is the former plays with enthusiasm every night. The results aren’t always there – and in fact, Cammalleri has been known as a streaky scorer in the past – but it’s not for lack of trying.
Anybody who’s paid real attention to Montreal this year can tell you Cammalleri is small, but snarly. He gets his nose dirty; heck, he’s even gotten into it with a couple teammates in practice, not because he’s an egotistical diva who can’t blend on a team, but because he lets you know when you’re not giving the type of effort required of an NHL player.
That’s the kind of spirit a team needs in its captain. Quite simply, Cammalleri always looks like he cares, just the way former captain Saku Koivu rarely cheated his coach or teammates with a second-rate effort.
Cammalleri is also the kind of confident person who is comfortable speaking with the huge media contingent that covers every move made by the Canadiens. Like it or not, a willingness to engage an enormous amount of microphones and cameras simply goes with the territory for a Habs captain.
Cammalleri has done everything asked of him in his first year with Montreal and should the team decide to give him more responsibility by putting the ‘C’ on his No. 13 jersey, there’s no doubt he’d respond the right way.
This article also appeared in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursday and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesday.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.