Bo Horvat is not the best player on the Vancouver Canucks. He is not the best skater, the best shooter, nor the most physical player.
Yet after being handed a jersey with the ‘C’ sewn on from Henrik Sedin, the Canucks’ captain from 2010 until 2018, he has proven that he was the correct choice many times over. Horvat has excelled with the ‘C’ stitched to his chest and has shown that he can handle all the duties that come with being the captain. As one of the last links on the team to an era that Canucks fans will not soon forget, he carries on a spirit of hard work and humility that makes Vancouver proud.
The Sedins: Big Shoes to Fill
The Canucks had never had players like the Sedin twins ever before, two young stars that fans got to see blossom in front of their eyes. The Sedins were not only outstanding players, but outstanding people as their off-ice philanthropy and impact on the community may have exceeded their on-ice achievements (from ‘Vancouver’s Sedin Twins will be remembered for their skill on the ice and their benevolence off it,’ Globe and Mail, 02/11/2020).
The city could not have asked for two better stars to wear the jersey and represent the diverse fan base that the Canucks hold. Fans cherish the memories of this period of success, and it was the Sedin twins who were the leaders throughout. Henrik was the one who had the official captaincy, succeeding a strange period of time where goalie Roberto Luongo was the first goalie to be a captain since 1947-48.
The way they carried themselves shaped the team and everyone who played with them. Kevin Bieksa described this as the “Sedin Effect” during his speech at the twins’ retirement ceremony this season. He described how he had observed it rub off on the organization and then goes on to mention Horvat by name.
Horvat got to play four seasons with the twins and now acts as a bridge between that generation and the new era of Canucks hockey. Horvat has called the Sedins “the most influential people that I have ever played with” and it is clear he learned many lessons from their time together.
2018-19: A Season of Adjustment
The Canucks elected to go with four alternate captains for the 2018-19 season, before handing Horvat the captaincy for this season. This proved to be a wise move for a number of different reasons as the team made a large jump up the standings this year. Horvat was allowed to gain a season of experience as an alternate captain and learn about the responsibilities, official and unofficial, that come with the title.
The 2018-19 season was a rough one for the Canucks, and if Horvat were the captain it would have been him in front of the media answering the questions about another lacklustre effort. An entire season of answering the same questions after losses over and over again can be draining for any player, much less one that would have been a first-time captain at only 23 years of age.
By giving him the extra year to remain as an alternate captain, the Canucks did a good job of sheltering Horvat against the Vancouver media, which can be brutal at times. In addition, the Canucks had three other good veteran players that had alternate captaincies in Brandon Sutter, Alex Edler, and Chris Tanev. These three had plenty of NHL experience between them and could help show Bo how to carry himself as a captain.
Leading a New Generation of Canucks
The Canucks celebrated their 50th anniversary this season and it went about as well as could be expected. Many players had career years and the team at times looked like a bonafide contender. Of course, it was not all positive, but the season was encouraging to say the least and it’s a shame that Canucks fans possibly will not be able to see it play out.
In recent seasons, Horvat has had a rotation of wingers, yet this season he seemed to find some chemistry with a rejuvenated Tanner Pearson, and with the addition of Tyler Toffoli to the top-six, he is sure to have weapons going forward.
The Canucks clearly turned a corner this season and Horvat has shown that he was the right choice to lead this team. He contributes everything from timely goals to big defensive plays when the team needs it most and even has shown that he can drop the gloves when he needs to. Vancouver has one of the most exciting young cores in the league, and that is not counting their prospect pool which has plenty of potential impact players. Horvat will be the one to lead this group by example and carry on a legacy started by the Sedins.
Looking to the Future
The Canucks were hoping to break their playoff drought this season but the global pandemic means that their dream is likely over. Horvat is one of the few Canucks who were on the roster the last time the team made it to the postseason.
He was a young teenager, only 19 at the time, yet he made a big impact as he recorded one goal and three assists in six playoff games. Elevating one’s game when it counts is a sign of a great player and a great team. Horvat has shown the ability to do that and now as a captain with a few more years under his belt, he will be ready to elevate the team to a new level.
Horvat is the soul of this team. He is the one that keeps the ship steady and always makes an impact every single night. When he is not showing up on the scoresheet you can be sure that he is working the faceoff dot or just being a pest. These are the types of players that you love when they are on your team and hate to play against and the types of players that are great to have when the referees start to swallow their whistles. All things considered, Bo is shaping up to be one of the premier captains in this league and once the Canucks get the opportunity to make the playoffs the rest of the league will be put on notice.