By: Trent Leith / September 10, 2023
There has been rumour and speculation swirling around for some time regarding who would be the next captain of the Vancouver Canucks.
There are three clear candidates to fill Bo Horvat’s vacant shoes to become the 15th captain in franchise history, JT Miller, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. However, no official captain had been named.
Miller is a fan favourite choice from anyone who loves the fiery forward, especially now that he is a Canuck for the next seven seasons. Miller is certainly a leader on this team, both in production and in the locker room. However, the fiery emotions that make him a favourite amongst fans likely hurts his candidacy.
An NHL captain needs to be level-headed when dealing with the referees on ice as that is one of their primary duties outside being a leader behind the scenes. J.T. is a bit too… passionate for that, leading the NHL in F-bombs/60 according to manual tracking by Thomas Drance.
An NHL captain also needs to be level-headed when talking with the media, especially in a hockey hotbed as engaged as Vancouver. Not to say that J.T. can’t be level-headed, but he has publicly said on podcasts that he doesn’t like dealing with the media, which are unfortunately key parts of the job description for an NHL captain.
J.T. will always be a leader in Vancouver, but he might not be best suited for wearing the ‘C’.
Pettersson is certainly the team’s superstar. He is a leader on the ice, both offensively, and defensively and is almost always the best player out there every time he steps on for a shift, regardless of situation. That said, the best player does not always make the best captain.
Pettersson has always been quiet with the media, whether that’s due to the language barrier (which is all but gone now) or simply being shy. Pettersson often takes time during media availability to pause and mince words to “not make a headline”. Which is not a bad thing by any stretch, but you can tell, that handling the media and being an outward-facing personality is not something that comes naturally to him.
The other thing working against Pettersson is his contract status. He is in the final year of his three-year deal and will need a new contract at the end of the season. Pettersson will be an RFA and isn’t likely to be leaving the team anytime soon. But if you are a player getting the captaincy, the team would hope that you would be tied to them long-term. The Canucks wouldn’t want their superstar and captain to get into a nasty arbitration case should it come to that. Especially with how publicly upsetting it was when Bo Horvat just recently left the team while wearing the “C”.
Giving Pettersson the captaincy is handing him negotiation leverage for his next contract. But by not giving him the captaincy, it gives the Canucks negotiating leverage by being able to dangle the captaincy in front of him, should the captaincy still be on the table before he looks to sign his next deal.
Pettersson would make a great captain, very Sedin-esque in his talent level and quiet leadership, but I think there is a stronger candidate for captain of the Vancouver Canucks.
Quinn Hughes was always a dark horse candidate for the next captain. However, beginning shortly after Rick Tocchet arrived in Vancouver, Hughes became a much more vocal leader on the team. And the rumours have been circulating that he is the front-runner.
More and more media members have been mentioning that they are hearing it will be Hughes who will be captain. Quinn is well-spoken, well-liked, and much respected in the Vancouver locker room. Quinn is also one of the best players at his position in the NHL. He is just as strong defensively as offensive and can play in all situations.
Hughes is not as polarizing as Miller, and more comfortable being front and center than Pettersson seems to be. The 23-year-old defender also has the fact that he has four more seasons signed with the team already. One other thing to keep in mind as well is that both of his brothers are currently playing together in New Jersey and there is a real chance that Quinn, at least to some degree feels left out. By giving him the captaincy, it makes Hughes’ ties to Vancouver stronger and maybe just the reason he needs to settle into this city for good.