Pacioretty had served as the Habs’ captain for three seasons, named the franchise’s 29th captain just a few weeks prior to puck drop on the 2015-16 season following a vote among players.
Not only does Pacioretty’s departure put an end to the months of rumours and speculation, it also means there’s a vacancy in one of the highest honours in hockey: captain of the Montreal Canadiens. Now, the question is: who’s up next to carry the torch? Here are a few names who could be the franchise’s 30th captain:
Weber is widely regarded as one of the most respected leaders in the game, and his time with the Canadiens so far is no exception. GM Marc Bergevin has spoken highly of Weber’s leadership since acquiring him in 2016’s massive (and much-debated) trade that saw P.K. Subban sent to Nashville, and wasted no time making him an alternate captain upon his arrival.
The 33-year-old knows what it takes to wear the ‘C,’ having served as captain of the Predators for six seasons prior to being traded.
But while he brings a steady veteran presence to the Canadiens’ increasingly youthful locker room — and, seeing as he’s under contract through 2025-26, he’ll continue to do so for the foreseeable future — injuries have impeded him from contributing much on the ice of late. He was limited to just 26 games in 2017-18 due to a foot injury, for which he underwent surgery in March, and it’s unclear when he’ll be able to make his 2018-19 debut after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in late June, for which he was given a recovery period of five to six months.
Seeing Gallagher named captain would likely brighten the spirits of many downtrodden Canadiens fans — a quick glance at social media streams says as much, anyway — as he’s worked his way up to fan-favourite status with his loyalty and grind-it-out style of play in the tough times and the good.
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The 26-year-old has proudly worn an ‘A’ on his sweater for the past three seasons after being named to the leadership group at the same time Pacioretty was crowned captain.
While his leadership role has grown with each season, so too has his production. Gallagher led the team in goals (31) and points (54) in 2017-18, with his performance being one of a few bright spots in Montreal last season.
It was a dream come true for Drouin to be traded to the Canadiens in June 2017, as the kid who grew up just a few hours outside Montreal would don the sweater of the team he grew up watching. The local kid was embraced upon his arrival, not just for his local roots but also for his potential as the true centre the club has long craved.
Though his first season in Montreal had its share of struggles on a roster rife with exactly that, Drouin is still young and holds plenty of potential to fulfill the role laid out for him a year ago.
At 23, and with a tumultuous stint in Tampa Bay still closely trailing his reputation, it’s unclear if Drouin would be ready for such a significant and pressure-filled role. But it also makes plenty of sense. If appointed, Drouin would re-establish the tradition of having a bilingual player as leader. He’s also got tons of upside as a core member of this rebuilding team and is under contract through 2022-23.
Carey Price… unofficially?
OK, this isn’t actually allowed in the NHL. The league has a rule against naming goalies as team captain that dates back several decades, as the process of goalies leaving the crease too often to speak with officials and report to the bench caused several game delays.
The Vancouver Canucks bent the rules when they named Roberto Luongo “captain Canuck” in 2008, but that didn’t exactly work out. He never formally wore the ‘C’ on his sweater and stepped down from the post two years later.
Position aside, Price would make total sense. He’s beloved in Montreal as the backbone of this club, and is under contract for the next eight seasons. He has appeared in 558 games with the Habs, which gives him the record for most games played among goalies in the franchise’s history.
So while it won’t happen, it’s a nice thought nonetheless.
No one… yet.
The Canadiens have played just two seasons without a captain in its 100-year history: the first was 2009-10 following the departure of Saku Koivu, and the second was 2014-15 — after Brian Gionta and before Pacioretty. Might the franchise make this upcoming season its third?
Playing captainless seems to be an increasingly common trend around the league as teams are taking their time with the decision and opting instead to go with a group of alternates. Take the Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, who haven’t had a captain since Dion Phaneuf was dealt to Ottawa in 2016 and appear to be taking the captain-by-committee approach once again this year. The Vegas Golden Knights made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final without a captain, while the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes also hit the ice without an official captain last season.