April 21, 2010
The Vancouver Canucks named Roberto Luongo(notes) as their team captain on Sept. 30, 2008, bucking the longstanding hockey tradition that goalies aren't formally given the title. He couldn't wear the captain's 'C' on his jersey per NHL rules, so he had it painted on his mask.
A year and a half later, Luongo's struggling mightily in the Canucks' Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Los Angeles Kings: 3.19 GAA and a .880 save percentage through three games, getting pulled in the Kings' Game 3 victory. He's now being psychoanalyzed in the media, and last night on CBC's Coach's Corner it was time for Dr. Donald Cherry's diagnosis.
"He's not playing well, something like that, I don't know what. But I know one thing: I know next year he should ask not to be the captain. I'm not saying that's the fault, but think about it: All the pressure he's got, you see your best guy pulled and you're captain's sittin' [on the bench]. You don't think that's depressing?
"I doesn't make any difference anyhow. The captaincy means nothing anymore. It's when the players voted it meant something. Your peers vote. And the organization makes you captain.
"What makes me laugh: The media guys who said ‘Well, he's your best player, he should be the captain.' No that he's not doing very good, the same guys are saying he shouldn't be captain. I said right off the bat: Dumb move to make the goaltender [captain]. They've got enough pressure on him."
This echoes what original Canucks captain and blog inspiration Orland Kurtenbach said last month, saying that goalies are a different breed and "I think being captain puts undo added pressure on Luongo."
Is the captaincy the reason Luongo's struggled in the last two postseasons (7-6, 35 goals allowed in 13 games)? Probably not; lord knows the lack of a defenseman like Willie Mitchell(notes) to keep Los Angeles from running him has burdened Luongo more than the 'C'.
Yet Cherry's point is taken: Vancouver's team leader was sitting on the bench for a good portion of Game 3, and underperforming in the first round. Meanwhile, team captains Sidney Crosby(notes) (11 points), Mike Richards(notes) (6 points), Alex Ovechkin(notes) (5 points) and Zdeno Chara(notes) (2 goals in 3 games) are providing substantial leadership-by-example. Would the Canucks be a different team if, say, Ryan Kesler(notes) had the 'C'?