By: Brayden Fengler / September 12, 2023
September rolls around and just like that, we have something to talk about. It’s been the off-season for the entire NHL, so news and developments around the league have been slow going, and Vancouver has been no exception. With just under a month left to go before the puck drops on the regular season, the Canucks upper brass decided that they couldn’t wait to get people talking.
In a monumental decision for the club, they have named their 15th captain in franchise history, and that person is of course none other than Quinn Hughes. The choice of Hughes as captain is an interesting one. It’s made certain sections of the Canucks fan base throw their hands up and say “obviously”. However, It’s also made another camp of fans recoil at the “stuff” that they feel Hughes is lacking for the role.
Whatever the case, the timing, the player, and the implications of a move like this, have a lot to say for themselves.
The Timing of It All
The timing of this announcement is unlike the most recent Canucks captaincy announcement. Bo Horvat’s captaincy announcement back in 2019 came in the form of a grand spectacle during the pre-game ceremony of the club’s home opener that year.
This however was significantly more muted in scope, and that decision was addressed almost immediately by GM Patrik Allvin during Monday morning’s press conference, as he made the choice to announce Hughes as captain at this particular time sound deliberate. Allvin also wasted little time acknowledging that Pettersson, Miller, and Demko were all very real and close contenders for the captaincy, as the team had them present at the press conference as well.
Looking past Allvin’s initial comment, there might be something else to read into regarding the timing of this all, with it being so early in the year, and so without flash or spectacle. However, even in approaching the decision with my tinfoil hat, I find it hard not to feel the transparency and the desire for simplicity as Allvin explained, that the club simply wants to have a “fresh start before training camp”.
It was also no doubt calculated by Allvin and the Canucks management to mention how close the race was between Hughes, Pettersson and Miller, a race which we recently discussed just this week. Yet the real question that remains after this acknowledgment by the GM, is how the players themselves feel about this decision.
Miller is likely relieved that he won’t be strapped with the media responsibilities that come with the “C”, whereas Petey, on the other hand, may have more complicated emotions.
Elias Pettersson has just one more year on his contract after this season, so even if Petey getting the “C” may have symbolically made it look like he was here to stay, in reality, his future with the club would have still been uncertain. EP40 no doubt wants to see this team perform this year, as evidenced by many past statements, including his most recent chat with Elliotte Friedman.
So even though Pettersson appears to be in the “setting boundaries” stage of his relationship with the Canucks, we may not know for a while what this symbolic gesture may have meant to Petey if it fell on his lap.
But enough about the could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve’s, the reality is that Quinn Hughes will be the Captain of this Canucks team.
Quinn is a well-known entity in Vancouver. Having been drafted by the club in 2018, Quinn jumped into the NHL at the tail end of that very season and hasn’t looked back. He’s been a fan favourite for his lovable and endearing demeanor, his calm and collected presence off the ice, and of course his dominance as a premier defenceman in the NHL.
Quinn has racked up a total of 241 career points in 283 career games played, and in the 17 playoff games that Vancouver has been in during Quinn’s time with the club, he earned 16 points for the team.
Quinn’s defensive ability is unmatched by many in the league and he exemplifies a new way to play on the blue line. at 5’10 180lbs Quinn is not a 1980s defenceman, with a body mass double that of a standard issue human, and a head thicker than the concrete slabs that hold the still-not-blue seats at Rogers Arena.
Quinn is a defenseman for today’s game, and today’s game is fast, and today’s game is skilled. For anyone who doesn’t like Quinn as a captain for the same reasons that they’re hesitant to get behind him as a player, I’m sorry to say it, but the kind of hockey that you like hasn’t aired on TV in many years, except in reruns.
Room to Grow
As warm of an embrace as Quinn should get in this role, that is not to say that he’s a perfect player without room to improve on or off the ice. during the press conference, Head Coach Rick Tocchet spoke about Quinn’s ability to say “uncomfortable things” when they need to be said, which is no doubt a vital requirement of a leader.
Quinn himself though also went on to say that he needs to be “more vocal” and grow into the role of captain. Both of these statements can be true at the same time.
Knowing what needs to be said is half the battle, but knowing how to say it is just as important, if not, more important. All leaders, including NHL captains, need to figure out in their own time how to voice the difficult items that need to be brought up, in a way that moves the whole team forward and doesn’t have them living in the thick of it for days and for games on end. This is not an uncommon skill to refine on the job and is one that can be nurtured in the right environment.
Quinn has the foundations of the skills he needs. He doesn’t need to be the tallest guy in the room, he doesn’t need to be the biggest hitter on the ice. He doesn’t need to have a nasty scar and a few teeth missing to earn the respect and control of the team that he will be leading in 2023. For those that are really worried that he doesn’t have what it takes, that he doesn’t have “it” he has his moments in that regard to:
It’s Go Time From Here
There will be growing pains, Quinn isn’t inheriting a team that has a lot of recent success to coast on, but he isn’t joining a complete dud franchise either.
Quinn will likely have his up’s, his down’s, and his highly scrutinized and snow-bally media moments (like with the Tanner Pearson medical care statement from last year). But he has four more guaranteed years with two C’s on his chest, and the lack of storyline in this market of “who’s it gonna be” is nice to see at the very least.