Brian Gionta was announced as Montreal’s new captain today, but in reality, Gionta has been leading the Habs ever since he became a Habs player last season.
When Saku Koivu left Montreal after captaining the Habs for 10 years, there was much speculation over who would take over.
After much deliberation, no-one was chosen, leaving the Canadiens to play without a captain for the whole of last season. Andrei Markov had been the favorite to wear the ‘C’ last season, but declined to take over the role for Koivu. However, Gionta, in his first season at The Bell Centre, led from the front for most of last season.
The former New Jersey Devil is very vocal on the ice, and his team-mates look up to him, on and off the ice. Gionta was named one of the three Habs alternative captains last season, clearly chosen for his well-known leadership qualities.
Gionta becomes the Canadiens’ 28th captain, and only the second American to bear the title. Chris Chellios was the other American to wear the ‘C’, when he co-captained the Canadiens during the 1989-90 season with Guy Carbonneau.
The Canadiens have been fairly impressive in pre-season. Despite the odd hiccup, and the latest chapter in the Carey Price saga, things look fairly promising in Montreal.
The timing of Gionta’s appointment as captain seems ideal at taking the spotlight away from Price. After a dismal perfomance in the Canadiens preseason opener against the Bruins, Price put his disappointment behind him in an impressive performance against Florida.
Now the pressure has waned on Price, Gionta is centre-stage. His experience and personality make him the ideal captain in Montreal. Although he led the Habs unofficially last season, Gionta is now the person people will look to when it goes wrong. It will be up to Gionta to show he has what it takes.
The pressure is immense in Montreal from the front office to the players. However, the captaincy brings with it responsibility. Gionta had a good season last time out, and another good season will only boost the Habs, with expectations even higher following the surprising run in the Stanley Cup playoffs last year.