In the case of Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, actions speak louder than letters.
In a move that makes a lot of sense, Bergevin announced the team will play without a captain this season in favour of deploying three alternates every night. Veterans Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec will each wear an ‘A’ in every game, while one of P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty—both 25 years old—will also be sporting the letter in each contest.
The Canadiens captaincy opened up when Brian Gionta signed with the Buffalo Sabres as a free agent on July 1. That same day, Bergevin shipped defenceman Josh Gorges to Buffalo for a second-round pick in 2016. Gorges was an alternate captain and one of the most respected voices on the team, meaning the Canadiens officially had a leadership void to fill.
Of course, Bergevin wouldn’t have been so willing to let two valued vets leave if he didn’t believe in the next generation. As the Habs try to build on an appearance in the Eastern Conference final last spring, they’re doing it largely on the backs of younger players like Subban, Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk.
Sure, he could have taken things a step further and stick the ‘C’ on Subban or Pacioretty, but far and away the most significant endorsement occurred when Bergevin cleared a path for those players to shine. And in the case of Subban, what more do you need to know beyond the fact Bergevin committed $72 million to him on an eight-year deal in August?
This decision also reflects the fact Montreal doesn’t have a player who’s an obvious candidate to be the captain right now. It wouldn’t have been a stretch to put the ‘C’ on Subban, the team’s most impactful skater overall, or Pacioretty, who led the club in goals last year, but there’s no downside to easing them into official leadership roles. (For the record, Subban will wear the ‘A’ for home games and Pacioretty for road games in the first half of the season, then vice-versa in the second half.)
As for Plekanec and Markov, the team’s two longest-tenured players draw ample accolades for their no-nonsense approach. On the ice, Plekanec remains the Canadiens’ best two-way forward and Markov is still a vital cog on the blueline, so they’ve got more than enough credibility to tell another player how to better play the game.
The common sticking point, though, is that neither player is terribly verbose. And while the oratory aspect to leadership tends to be greatly overblown—rousing speeches are really more the domain of Hollywood sports, anybody wearing the ‘C’ in Montreal would obviously have a lot of microphones to answer to. Every. Single. Day. Markov and Plekanec have never hid from the music, but if wearing an ‘A’ means they can take turns spelling each other in that regard, maybe that’s the preferred approach.
Chances are, if the Habs were going to name an old guy captain, they would have done it already. That means, about this time next year, one of Subban or Pacioretty will probably be in the middle of a big press conference. And no matter which one it is, he’ll be more prepared for the responsibility thanks to the course Bergevin has charted this season.