Goaltender Roberto Luongo will serve as the new captain of the Vancouver Canucks, becoming the 12th captain in team history, and only the seventh goalie to ever captain an NHL team.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a difference for me at all,” commented Luongo early Tuesday morning. “I’m used to dealing with stuff like that; and if anything, there’s more pressure now to not let my teammates down on any given night.”
Luongo is arguably the best player on the Canucks’ current roster and has the ability to excel where his game can save the team during certain stretches when the rest of the roster isn’t performing up to their potential. However, there is a question about his ability to voice his opinion and hockey knowledge when the team needs it the most.
“You can ask these guys,” said Luongo, motioning to his fellow teammates. “I’ve been speaking up more compared to last year, compared to the first year especially. I’m not going to change my ways at all.”
The Canucks had a vacancy to fill in the captaincy role when former captain Markus Naslund signed a deal with the New York Rangers. Naslund had not been offered a contract by the Canucks and was left with no choice but to leave town.
There was much speculation as to who would fill this void. Names like Willie Mitchell and Mattias Ohlund were thrown around as a couple of the few ideal candidates that would be a suitable fit for the captaincy.
Not many would have guessed Luongo as a candidate due to the fact that the NHL rules clearly state that no goaltender can act as captain or alternate captain. Therefore, there will not be a “C” stitched to the front of Luongo’s jersey. Instead, he will be dealing with captaincy responsibilities off the ice and in the locker room.
There will be alternative captains, however, to deal with on-ice matters. Mattias Ohlund, Willie Mitchell, and the Canucks 2003 first-round draft pick, Ryan Kesler, will serve as the alternative captains.
“He (Luongo) is not going to come out of his crease,” stated Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “We’ve already come to the agreement that opening face-offs will be taken by Mattias (Ohlund) because he is the longest running Canuck. And since William (Mitchell) likes to talk to the most, we’ll have him talk to the referees.”
Mitchell, as a former candidate for the captaincy for this upcoming season, was asked of his thoughts on being named an alternative captain. “I work hard, I love the game, I like to compete and leave it all out there, and at the end of the day, if that makes me part of this leadership group, then that’s great.”
Ohlund was an expected candidate as he has plenty of experience as a Canuck. However, Kesler’s name as an alternative captain came as a bit of a surprise to some people due to his lack of experience as a Canuck.
“Well I’m just excited and ready to prove that I have some leadership capabilities,” commented Kesler.
Luongo and the rest of the leadership group will have the opportunity to show their skills during their home opener on October 9th as they take on the newly vamped Calgary Flames. Luongo is excited to try his new role as a leader and find different ways to guide the team.
“There’s more than one way to lead a team, and obviously I’m going to do my best. Also, I have a lot of good help around me to help me in certain situations.”