Roberto Luongo had 35 wins, a 2.38 GAA and .917 save percentage for the Canucks last season. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Vancouver Canucks may be leading the league in bafflement this summer, but I’m all for the naming of goalie Roberto Luongo as team captain, even though the duties he should receive along with the title will be greatly diminished.
In fact, if the Canucks bent the rules in awarding King Louie the ‘C,’ the NHL should bend its rules and let Vancouver stitch the letter onto his sweater.
Now, I still believe Luongo should stay in his crease and not be the one who communicates with refs or linesmen in an official capacity, but what’s the harm in letting him wear a letter with pride upon his left breast? Jason Varitek wears a ‘C’ with the Boston Red Sox and while that simple fact doesn’t really impact games, it’s still meaningful to the Sox to visibly identify their leader.
The NHL’s logic in banning goalies from the captaincy is sound, though not as relevant as it once was. As hockey historian Joe Pelletier notes in his blog, the rule (14-D) harkens way back to the early 1920s, when the league was trying to speed up proceedings by only allowing one player (the captain) to speak with on-ice officials. If that player was on the bench, too bad.
In order to ensure his team always had a say in matters, Toronto St. Pats coach Eddie Powers made goalie John Ross Roach the captain. Other teams followed, but it was loquacious goalie Bill Durnan who eventually convinced the NHL to do away with goalie captains for good in 1947.
This I have no problem with. When the Canucks have a beef, alternate captains Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund and Ryan Kesler can do the shouting. Though it would largely be a symbolic gesture, physically giving Luongo the ‘C’ would be outstanding.
Think of it: Luongo carries a heavy burden for the Canucks. This is a team that expects to win games 2-1, assuming a shootout is involved. And I get the impression he enjoys the weight. In Florida, Luongo would have been happy to face 40 shots a night if a playoff date was included, but it wasn’t. Hence his departure.
When approached by Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault about the pseudo-captaincy, Luongo immediately and enthusiastically embraced the concept. Plus, Luongo is the linchpin to this team. Without King Louie, the Canucks are the St. Louis Blues with a slightly better defense corps and a weaker future at forward. He sets a high standard with his play and I’m sure will demand the same in return from his teammates. And isn’t that what you want in a captain?
I always thought Olaf Kolzig should have been captain of the Washington Capitals back before Chris Clark came in (and I’m sure Alex Ovechkin will take over soon) and Ron Hextall seemed to be pretty vocal for the Flyers back in the day, so let’s give Luongo a letter on his chest and honor all those cut from that same mold.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect-watch feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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