A Letter On A Sweater

Is Bo Horvat the likely favourite to be named the next captain of the Vancouver Canucks?
I’d say so.

Is Bo Horvat the clear-cut choice to be named the next captain of the Vancouver Canucks?
I wouldn’t go that far — even though I already did once before.

From Episode #209, Dave discusses Bo Horvat’s bid to be the Canucks’ next captain.
Click to listen to the entire podcast.

When the Canucks started the season without a captain, fans perhaps began to worry that this organization was overthinking things again. Much like when Roberto Luongo was named captain (or not, depending on who you ask from the NHL), it felt like the team was making it a much more complicated issue than it was. It also felt like the Canucks were following the trends. The on-brand thing to do right now is to wait a year (or three) and make a more decisive decision as to who your captain is. Detroit? No captain. Toronto? Still rattled from Dion Phaneuf. Vegas? No captain. The New York Rangers? They don’t have one either, they traded away all of their old captains named Ryan and they’re waiting for the next one.

Since the season began, there have been a few minor incidents involving Bo in a vocal leadership role. Let’s call them growing pains.

It seemed like Bo wanted to show fans, media and the team what an outspoken and spirited leader he could be. It started with his announcement of a team-wide video game ban on road trips. This was met with a few curious glances and more questions from onlookers. Head coach Travis Green even chuckled at such a notion when asked by the media.

“My kid plays Fortnite and I have not banned it from him yet, and I have not banned it from anyone on our team. If the players want to make sure all the guys are at a team dinner, hey, that’s the way it is in team sports,” he said.

Even the Winnipeg Jets’ Patrik Laine had some fun with this alleged video game ban announced by Horvat.

“I think they just needed something to blame after last year.”

This wasn’t the best moment for Bo. His tact and self-awareness became questionable to the public eye. A player who was groomed since junior hockey to be a captain at the NHL level had his first misstep in a leadership role, and he had to learn and evolve to recover from it.

A captain needs to lead by example. Whether that is vocally in the dressing room and on the bench, or on the ice through their play, composure and actions. A level of confidence (not cockiness) is crucial too. Bo has stood-up for teammates and answered the bell when looked upon. He’s shown an impressive work ethic on and off the ice. He’s producing consistent numbers with a rotating cast of wacky characters that Travis Green has appointed his linemates. While Horvat is still the solid candidate, a player with two names nobody can seem to pronounce appears to be making a solid case for the letter on his sweater as well.


Enter The Petey.

Elias Pettersson has surprised just about everyone since scoring his first goal in his NHL debut against the Calgary Flames back in October.

This is a rookie that was cast by the media as a player who would be too skinny, fragile and emotionally immature to handle the big scary NHL life.

Nevertheless, Petey’s carried himself with tremendous poise and confidence. Whether it’s a death stare to a pointless question in a postgame scrum or taking his time to reply to questions due to a language barrier and not wanting to be misinterpreted, Pettersson has been an outstanding example of how a rookie should compose himself in the NHL.

From Episode #209, P Mac discusses Pettersson leading by example.
Click to listen to the entire podcast.

Pettersson leads by example, no question about it. His game is complete. He doesn’t compromise his defensive game in hopes to catch a long bomb pass like he’s playing for Team Russia on international sized ice. Petey is the first forward back and the last forward to leave the zone. An offensive threat in the offensive zone and defensively sound and responsible in the defensive zone, he is the shining example of what Travis Green expects out of all his players. It’s hard to have sympathy for Nikolay Goldobin when Pettersson, an even more offensively gifted player and the highest scoring player on the team backchecks harder than anyone on the Canucks.

Do I think less of Bo Horvat for his video game ban misstep? Not really, no. We all make mistakes. He is still quite new at being a leader at this level, and he has clearly learned from it, grown and moved forward. Has my opinion changed on the matter since my first article about the Canucks captaincy vacancy back in August? Absolutely it has.

I also don’t know what happens in that dressing room. I couldn’t tell you what type of leadership this team responds positively to. Whether it’s a ‘rah-rah speech’ or maybe a silent “everyone knows what needs to be done” approach. Who knows?  The Canucks do. And I know that whoever is wearing that letter on their sweater next season will have earned it and it will have been the right decision made by the coaching staff.

I just hope it isn’t Brandon Sutter.
(But what the hell do I know, right?)

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