Canucks are undecided about naming a captain for next season

Aug 23 2018, 1:24 am

The Vancouver Canucks are going to delay a lot of things until their 50th anniversary season in 2019-20.

The popular Flying Skate jersey – voted for by fans this summer – will return to the ice for select games in 2019-20, as will a totally new third jersey. Quinn Hughes, who elected to go back to college this season, might not make his Canucks debut until then too. Goaltender Thatcher Demko likely won’t call Vancouver home for another year as well.

Even the Sedins’ jersey retirement ceremony, according to COO Jeff Stipec, might be delayed an extra season.

Also potentially on hold is the naming of a new captain.

With Henrik Sedin retired, the obvious choice to succeed him as Canucks captain for most is Bo Horvat.

With four years of experience, the 23-year-old is now the Canucks’ unquestioned first-line centre. He’s exuded leadership ever since the juniors and handles the Vancouver media with ease.

Given that there isn’t another ideal option for the C, Horvat is the clear frontrunner.

And yet, according to general manager Jim Benning, they might not name Horvat captain before this season – and not because they’re planning to trade him for Erik Karlsson.

“Travis [Green] and I have talked about this,” Benning said in an interview on TSN 1040 Wednesday. “We’re going to continue to talk about it. Bo’s a leader of our young players already in that group, but we have other good leadership on the team and we want him to continue to work on his development as a player and do all the things that he’s capable of.

“We’re going to have more conversations in the next couple weeks to decide if we’re going to name a captain this year or go with three assistants.”

The last time the Canucks went a year without a dedicated captain was in 1991-92, when Trevor Linden, Dan Quinn, and Doug Lidster alternated wearing the C following the retirement of Stan Smyl. It was a situation not unlike the one that the team faces presently.

Linden was unquestionably the team’s best player in 1991, and had leadership qualities. But he was also just 21-years-old, so the team waited until he was ready to handle the pressure and responsibility that comes with being a captain for a Canadian NHL franchise, before giving him the C a year later.

Going without a captain is becoming increasingly more common in the NHL, with the Toronto Maple Leafs going two full seasons without naming one.

“I think it takes the pressure off Bo,” Benning said of the idea to run with three assistants, adding that it would allow Horvat to concentrate on playing. “We do have some older players that are leaders that can help him out with that role. It takes the day-to-day pressure of being a captain and talking to the media – he doesn’t have to handle all that pressure.”

“We’re going to make a decision before the start of the season.”

Horvat has improved every year since joining the Canucks, but he still has growing to do. He seems like a player that can handle pressure, but no player is immune to it. If things went sour for him early on, particularly on a team that’s expected to lose a lot of games next season, it could make life more difficult for him.

Should the Canucks go with three assistants next year, I can envision a scenario where Horvat, Brandon Sutter, and Alex Edler wear As before Horvat takes over in 2019-20.

Not trading draft picks

After a report from Elliotte Friedman linked the Canucks to Karlsson, alarm bells sounded in Vancouver, with fans concerned that Benning was about to mortgage the future.

Not true, it seems.

“I’m not moving any of our good, young players. [Elias] Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, [Thatcher] Demko, [Olli] Juolevi, Kole Lind, any of these young players that I think are players that we’re going to win with and we have a chance to something special with, I’m not moving any of those players.

“Those players are untouchable as far as I’m concerned.”

Great, but what about draft picks?

“That’s a non-starter, I’m not trading any picks in next year’s draft,” Benning said, in as assertive a tone as we’ve heard from the Canucks’ GM.

That’s music to Canucks fans’ ears, given Benning’s willingness to part with picks in the past.

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