The players have spoken and Max Pacioretty is officially the new captain of the Montreal Canadiens. The captaincy was decided by a players’ vote as the 26-year-old American becomes the 29th captain in franchise history, upgrading from the A he wore last year. It’s no secret that leadership is a team effort and the Habs are blessed with many leaders on the team. However, the fact that the players wanted Pacioretty to wear the C says a lot about him.
Max Pacioretty rises up
When management makes a player captain, there are usually more questions attached to it. Management doesn’t necessarily have the same pulse of the locker room in comparison to the players. For example, management may elect the team’s best player to be the captain, but it doesn’t mean they are the best player to wear the C. In the case of Pacioretty, he is the team’s best forward but he has evolved into a leader the past few years. He is a lead by example type of player as he takes his role seriously but isn’t one to scream at his teammates.
The legendary #Habs captains I've spoken with unanimously have told me C should be decided by player vote as Pacioretty's has been today 2/2
— Dave Stubbs (@Dave_Stubbs) September 18, 2015
In truth, I was a supporter of PK Subban getting the captaincy but Pacioretty is an excellent choice as well. Subban is the larger than life personality with a heart of gold while Pacioretty is the more subdued of the two. Subban will continue to wear the A alongside Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher. It is a big gesture for Gallagher to get an A but he has earned it. His work ethic is second to none and his energy sets the tone for the rest of the team. The Habs recognized that when they skipped the notion of a bridge contract and signed Gallagher to a six year deal last year, huge considering most of the team’s other home grown players all had one.
Watching Pacioretty’s maturation over the past couple of years has been something to watch. He started as a player who would get down on himself too easily if he wasn’t scoring goals. It was his dedication to the game that helped him battle back from his neck injury in 2011 and earn the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his efforts. His game has since evolved from pure sniper to strong two-way player as Pacioretty’s defensive game has become an integral part of the penalty kill and in critical situations.
Following in the footsteps of those before him
Wearing the captaincy for any NHL team is an honour but it is something else entirely to be the captain of the Montreal Canadiens. It is a job with a lot of pressure being the captain in a hockey-mad city especially one with a past as historic as Montreal’s. Jean Beliveau and Saku Koivu are the team’s longest serving captains in Habs history and both are beloved years later. Beliveau was the ultimate citizen who carried himself with class and poise as an ambassador for the franchise.
Koivu never had the team success Beliveau did as Koivu played on some bad Montreal teams in the 1990s and early 2000s but the hardworking Finn endeared himself to the city of Montreal with his game on the on the ice and his generosity off the ice. His return from cancer in 2002 still evokes an emotional response today and fans wouldn’t stop cheering for him during his retirement ceremony.
Pacioretty’s legacy is yet to be determined but with the Habs ascending towards contender status, Pacioretty could possibly be the first Hab to lift the Stanley Cup over his head since 1993. The boy who was drafted back in 2007 has become a man in Montreal and his evolution as a player and person indicates that is more than capable of wearing the C for the Habs.