The biggest off-season story in Montreal was the trade of Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues. But once the dust settled on that shocking event, attention turned to who would be the team’s next captain.
The Canadiens played the entire 2009-10 season without a captain following the departure of Saku Koivu in the summer of 2009 and the subsequent, sweeping changes made by the club.
A few names were in the mix, from rock-hard defenseman Josh Gorges to top sniper Mike Cammalleri, but ultimately, nobody was surprised when the Habs tabbed Brian Gionta to lead the ship. It seemed like the right choice then and Gionta has validated the decision by doing all the things that make him fit to be the face of the team.
The 32-year-old native of Rochester, N.Y., endeared himself to Canadiens fans when he introduced his teammates in French on opening night. On the ice, Gionta had a slow start to the season, scoring just one goal through 13 games. But he eventually found his stride and is currently leading the Habs with 19 tallies.
The numbers, of course, don’t tell the whole story with Gionta. He’s making an average salary of $5 million a year and probably won’t net much more than 40 points this year. That’s not good value in a salary cap world.
But a big part of why Gionta makes that salary is his work ethic and the fact he sets a great tone for the team. Because he had to fight every inch of the way just to prove he could play in the NHL at 5-foot-7, he’s conditioned to battle every night and every shift. It’s almost like he’s still trying to show the world he belongs. Gionta has an even temperament, great for keeping a team on an even keel, yet also displays an obvious passion for the game and goal-scoring, which is something Habs fans can latch on to.
Gionta isn’t the kind of player who can consistently take games over, but he’s a player capable of fulfilling all the requirements of one of sport’s biggest honors, being captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.