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Does Luongo Losing The “C” Matter?

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So, the Vancouver Canucks are going to take the captaincy away from Roberto Luongo (er, he “stepped down”), which means approximately nothing (you could sum up today’s entire post with that sentence, by the way).

The fact that management – hockey people, mind you – thought that someone who has the “C” but can’t perform the “C” duties (basically the privelege of conferring with the ref) is any different from someone who just doesn’t have a “C” is mind-exploding.  Was symbolism worth taking away a guy on the ice who could represent your team near the ref’s half-circle?

The only people, from what I can tell, who think that being the possessor of said imaginary letter matters, is whoever gave it to him in the first place.

For the record, I had/have no problem with him (or any goalie) having it, it’s just a bad decision.  But whatever, if a team wants their goalie to be captain for some symbolic purpose, have at it.

THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING! THE PUCK WENT THAT WAY!

But what was it supposed to do in tangible terms to begin with?  Make it so that when he spoke in the room, people listened?  That’s the type of power awarded to a high school teacher – people listen at first out of obligation – but if you can’t command respect, it doesn’t take long before people stop paying attention.

People will react to other people based on how much they like them, respect them, etc, and having an imaginary “C” wasn’t making any difference.

If Luongo was a guy who talked in the room, he’ll still be a guy who talks in the room.  You don’t lose priveleges in there, as long as your words serve a purpose.  Everybody in every dressing room is allowed to speak up.  If he was a leader by example (or if he wasn’t) that’s not going to change

The captaincy may allow for some extra inside-info from coach, or on him using your opinion more than he normally would, but if Luongo has earned that relationship with Vigneault, that’s not going to suddenly go away.

The only reason I could think the “C” might make a difference, is if it was making him feel like he was forced to speak to the team when things weren’t going well.  That means you’re speaking when you don’t mean it, which makes it worthless and insincere.  Sometimes the best speeches come from a rookie who hasn’t spoken up all year, cause you know he means it when he finally does.  The “*sigh* I’m the captain and we’re getting shelled, I better stand-up and assemble a few sentences.” thing sucks.  But as a “leader”, he’s still going to feel like he has to do that to some extent.

Bottom line is, the changing of the Canuck captaincy isn’t even really a “thing.”  Whether you’re Team Kesler or Team Henrik or Team Burrows or Team Hamhuis, none of those guys are going to change.  The team dynamic won’t change.  The only thing that will change, is how the medias portray two players - Luongo for being de-captainfied, and Whoever, for being the new one.

*****

Hey, TGIF, right on.  Like I said guys, I went light and fluffy with today’s piece for Puck Daddy – it’s on why the NHL should do it’s own version of the NFL’s Hard Knocks.  (Check it out over at Puck Daddy, since I probably won’t be around to chuck up the link when it posts.)

Also, if you care to check me out on TV, I’ll be on Off The Record with Michael Landsberg at 5:00 PM EST on TSN and 6:00 on TSN.  I gotta be honest – after getting up at 6:00a.m. to get to the studio, and having some nice, light-hearted banter with  Landsberg, I was fully unprepared to be put on the defensive about my column.  But whatever, I think it went alright, so thanks to those guys for the invite.

For you newbies who are flocking to the site now that I’m Controversial Connie, here’s what you need to know:  You can find my work….

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Comments

19 Responses to “Does Luongo Losing The “C” Matter?”
  1. crushasaurus says:

    I’ve always thought that singular captaincy is an outdated system. There’s a group in every locker room that speaks up when heads are down, and I think that appointing a leader of a particular pack can cause imbalance and disharmony. The captain is the face of the team and the one that the media goes to for questions, but he’s not the only one having his say behind the scenes.

    With that in mind, Luongo was a poor choice as a captain. He’s not the most articulate, he’s not a natural in front of a camera and even worse, he’s a goalie, meaning that his alternates are the ones in dialogue with officials, team-mates and coaches.

    If you’re going to give a guy the “C” when he’s just one component of the main group, that’s just not ideal. It’s why I fear for Ovechkin in Washington. When the Caps ran a “three A” system when Clark was out, Ovechkin had enough precious privacy to still be his outgoing and light-hearted self with the media. As captain, he’s looked forlorn having to talk to the media every day and still be good ol’ Aleksandr from the block.

    Vancouver would do well to run three A’s this year unless there is an obvious leader in their pack.

    As for your article, I said it once, I will say it again — it was sensitive, insightful and beautifully-written. It’s September baby, there’s nothing else OTR can talk about other than wrestling, the Blue Jays and maybe that really nice chicken parm Landsberg had before going on set.

  2. Brooks Simpson says:

    Good points, all.

    I’ve been a captain, and I liked it. Did it make me more of a leader? Only in how I responded to the position. That response, and not the “C” itself, may have in turn affected how teammates responded. But it was quite an honor.

    In the NHL, I thought assistant captains also could speak with officials.

    I can recall three situations with a certain team that wore orange and blue with which you may be familiar. I remember the original captain, a veteran with two Cups already under his belt, giving way gracefully to a young bull of a forward who could score, hit, and fight. That fellow (whom you know) apparently found that he did not want to be the captain and gave it up. Did that mean he was not a leader? No way. In the playoffs the following spring he demonstrated his leadership rather forcibly in a series against Boston, and I recall that that fellow seemed to have a good long skate with a certain chalice on May 24, 1980. If anything, he might have been a more natural leader without the C. He seemed more comfortable (but what do I know?).

    I also recall that when a captain stepped down again in the middle 1980s and the team voted on a new captain, it was something of a surprise to at least some of us as to who won. That result seemed to me to say something about locker room dynamics and the feeling among some younger players that it was time to turn the page. That, again, is outsider speculation. IIRC, that’s also the time when the “A”s made their reappearance on uniforms (note that they are absent from the team photos in the early 80s). So how a captain is chosen is also interesting.

    I’ve also had to address these issues in dealing with college kids who have been awarded the C (or a co-C) a bit early, because they didn’t know what to do. So I’d say wearing the C and giving it up can have ramifications, although neither act makes or unmakes a team leader.

    Just my 2 cents.

  3. St. Cloud Gopher says:

    Having never played competitive (or non-competitive) hockey, I was always curious about the “C”. It seemed to me — as far back as JV football — that the captain was a combination of talent, popularity and respect, though the respect part doesn’t come until later in life.

    Really, the only captaincy that seems to matter in sports is the spot long vacant and now filled by Derek Jeter. Even that may not mean much, but there is a certain aura to it considering it isn’t a guarantee to be handed down. It could be two years or two decades before another is named — if one in named at all — after Jeter hangs ‘em up.

    I think the whole “C” thing needs to go the way of the two-line pass. Officials can speak with coaches directly, or simply have the man taking the face-off do the talking.

    Oh, and I completely agree with the NHL/Hard Knocks idea. I’m heading over to read the column now, but considering I already agree, it may be a quick read.

  4. crushasaurus says:

    Brooks, I captained a football (soccer) team for 8 years and a cricket team for 5 years, but I wasn’t the strongest character in either locker room. I was chosen as captain because I could lead by example and speak with clarity to my team-mates, officials and the opposition (very important in cricket).

    There was an unsaid, unwritten, but very prominent pecking order in both teams, and my role as captain did not necessarily mean I was the best player on either team, or the alpha male in the locker room. If you have a group of big characters in a dressing room, the role of captain changes from “leader of men” to more of a strategic role.

    It may have been what Vancouver were going for, but obviously, it hasn’t worked out — possibly due to a murky pecking order or a lack of definition to his role, causing his play to suffer.

  5. neil says:

    I agree Bourne, I think it’s a bit of a non-issue that people are playing up because it’s a good media story (not to mention the throngs of people out there who insist Luongo is a shitty goalie). My favourite was a comment from Puck Daddy that said something like “Yes, he played well for Canada and played well in the gold medal game, but the fact is, he has never played well in a high pressure game in his life”. Uhhh….
    I figure they put the C on him because he was the group’s natural leader, and now they’re taking it off because they’ve realized that he’s the kind of guy that already feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, and the last thing he needs is more responsibility. No bigs. I can live with the C on Sedin or Kesler, or a three A’s system would be fine too. But what I really, really want is for Cody Hodgson to play like John Tavares this year. ;) Watching you on OTR right now…. very cool buddy!

  6. neil says:

    WTF you’re not on the panel today…. is it airing on another day or somethin?

  7. Marienne says:

    I have to admit, I’ve found a lot of the flailing about Luongo and the “C” to be overrated in terms of the amount of attention it’s been getting. I remember when he was given the captaincy, and my first thought was “Awesome, way to consolidate the team targets on a single back. That’s got to be great for mental health.”

    I have nothing against Luongo, lived in BC when he was just emerging as OMG-The-Best-Thing-Ever (a status that always makes me squirm when it gets applied to *any* player, because, yeah, human, guys? Remember?), and when he’s on, he’s *on*. BC tends to take it’s hockey /hard/, though, and I’m all in favour of giving cranky or jilted fans a broader spectrum to take the blame – just for the sake of everyone’s mental health. Not that other players don’t take heat from time to time, but the C and the Goalie are the Really Visible Guys.

    So, short version, I completely agree that this isn’t going to change anything in the locker room (or, on the ice, past the superficial level), but I can’t help thinking it’s a good thing from a balance POV.

  8. neil says:

    ooo my bad, there you are!

  9. The_Old_Firm says:

    @Marienne:
    Luongo has certainly a lot of expectations placed on him, but Vancouver has a reputation as goalie graveyard, with no arguably no legitimate top-shelf goaltender since Kirk McLean. Luongo was expected to break that curse.

    I honestly think Luongo has broken that curse, and people have short memories, forgetting how good Luongo has been in the playoffs overall. He was almost unbeatable vs. St. Louis two years ago, and his series vs. Turco about three or four years ago was an epic goalie battle for the ages.

    As for the debate of the C, I think it does more to alleviate the minds of the local media and the fans who were wailing and gnashing teeth over one ‘below average’ season. Luongo still put up pretty good numbers, and won an Olympic Gold Medal to boot. I think his ‘underperforming’ is less to do with the ‘C’, and more to do with his enormous workload which was exacerbated by the Olympic schedule. Either way, hopefully less responsibility and a full-time goalie coach will help him return to form.

  10. AndrewJ says:

    Totally agree, but wanted your take as someone who’s played at levels where such a thing might matter. Not like the C or A means a thing in the rec leagues I’ve played in, Except you have to find a backup goalie when yours is out of town.

    Also, for what it’s worth, Brooks, the A is “alternate.” I didn’t realize I cared enought ot write that. Something must be wrong with me. Forgive me for being pedantic.

    Also, I’m a big believer in the oxford comma.

  11. Alix in SJ says:

    I find your point about Luongo with/without the C interesting…because I think the same thing could be applied to what happened in San Jose last season with Marleau.

    And yet the media seemed to take that stripping of the C differently than Luongo’s giving-it-up-but-it-was-going-to-be-stripped-from-him-anyway act.

    Why, in your opinion, was it treated differently, especially given “You don’t lose priviliges in there, as long as your words serve a purpose. Everybody in every dressing room is allowed to speak up. If he was a leader by example (or if he wasn’t) that’s not going to change.”?

  12. Brooks Simpson says:

    BTW, I know what the A on a uniform means. And I can recall teams using them (Rod Gilbert on the Rangers, for example). Now look at the 1979-1980/1982-83 Islanders team pictures and you’ll notice the absence of the A on the uniforms … just Potvin’s C. Trottier’s A seems to have appeared the same time Brent Sutter won the C, although I’m certainly willing to be corrected.

    The C is not necessarily the best player, of course. I think in my case it was experience and knowledge of rules.

  13. Brooks Simpson says:

    And yes, it’s alternate, not assistant. My bad. I knew that and proceeded to forget it. :)

  14. Ballgame says:

    No it doesn’t matter. Most teams I’ve played on there were leaders that didn’t have a C or A

    Awesome write up on Hard Knocks NHL

    Punch. Sutton

  15. Deirdre says:

    The way you respond to the pressure of the C can definitely have a huge impact. Joe (Thornton) had a horrible time in Boston when they gave him the C. We brought him out to San Jose, gave him an A and he flew with it!

    I can totally believe that Louie took the C in true goalie fashion and it became a *thing*, and very likely a bad thing. So that, accompanied with the not being allowed to leave the crease to talk to refs, makes him giving it up a good idea.

  16. Josh says:

    As anyone who has ever played the game at a decently high level knows, the team leaders are determined by the peopleun the locker room, regardless of who wears a letter or doesn’t. If the guy is looked to by his teammates as a leader then he will be, the letter has more to do with what the coaches think the leader should be.

  17. Holy shit, that picture/caption combo is gold.

  18. Also, what exactly is this hockey-people Twitter ranking system, and where can I find it?

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