El Capitano: Brian Gionta
Photo: Rob Carr/AFP/Getty
It has been a long time since a captain of Les Canadiens has raised the stanley cup. Guy Carbonneau was the last one to do it in 1993 when Wayne Gretzgy’s Los Angeles Kings were defeated in 5 games. In exception to Saku Koivu, the Canadiens have desperately needed a captain worthy of raising the Stanley Cup yet again.
“To you from failing hands we throw the torch be yours to hold it high,” This quote from “In Flanders Fields” written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae during WW1, is written with pride above the portraits in The Hockey Hall of Fame’s Montreal Canadiens Dressing Room. These famous words helped remind every player that ever wore the bleu, blanc et rouge that there was great responsibility to achieve greatness. The quote doesn’t say to raise the torch low, no, it says to raise the torch high. This is why I believe that Brian Gionta is not the captain the Habs need to; in the words of Annakin Slayd: “raise number 25 to the sky”.
Okay Hab fans, one thing I want to make very clear is that this isn’t a piece where I completely bash Gionta, but I do want to voice my opinion on the Canadiens “captain”. Firstly, Brian has only won one major Championship in his career. The 2003 Stanley Cup was won on the back of Martin Brodeur’s 7 shutouts, and not to mention the rest of the Devil’s roster which included: Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski, John Madden, Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner just to name a few (all were in their prime). In addition, Brian Gionta & Scott Gomez were on that championship team. Needless to say, this team was stacked, with or without Gionta.
Other than the 48-goal effort Brian had in 2005-06, he has never eclipsed the 30-goal plateau in his 10 year NHL career. Gionta struggled with injuries last year, being able to suit up for the Habs only 31 times. To say that his production has fell off ever since his 48-goal season would be an understatement. Although leading the Canadiens in goals during the 2010-2011 seasons with 28 & 29 goals respectively, the quick skating winger has not lived up to his annual $5 million per year.
From the videos, interviews and quotes from Gionta and his teammates, I do admit, Gio is a very well liked and respected guy in the dressing room. I like Gio as a person, he is a great family man, and has just a good attitude for life which serves as a great representative for the city of Montreal. Brian reaches out to the young rookies especially Brendan Gallagher; who is just a hair taller than Brian, both of which were blessed with speed and skill, but were less fortunate in stature.
Only two American born NHL captains have ever raised the Stanley Cup, Derian Hatcher with the Dallas stars and most recently, Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings. The only other non-Canadian captains to raise the Stanley cup were Nicklas Lidstrom & Zdeno Chara. Now comparing Lidstrom, Chara and Brown to Brian Gionta is basically impossible. Gionta is not the Captain who will lead the Canadiens to their 25th Stanley Cup.
There are plenty of other quality candidates on the Habs roster who are better suited to captain the Canadiens. A captain is not just the guy who puts up points, rather, he should be the most important player on every single night. A guy who should be a leader on and off the ice, who plays in every situation and who is very vocal, and is not afraid to show his emotion.
Photo: Rich Lam/Getty Images
A guy like Josh Gorges who seems to be underrated by every single person on the planet, is in fact the man for the job. A guy who led the league in shot blocks last year, and is leading the league again this year. I’m sure you all remember a game against the Washington Capitals 3 years back when Gorges took a shot to the back of his head (watch it here). Josh came back the very next game. He is an absolute warrior and does so many good things for the Canadiens. Last year, Gorges played all 82 games after coming off a major knee surgery the year prior which limited him to just 36 games. Gorges finished the 2011-2012 season with 2 goals, 14 assists, 131 hits, a league best 250 shot blocks and boasted a team-high plus 14 rating on the worst team in the East. Needless to say, he had a career year during such a rough season. Gorges simply was the undisputed Captain of the Canadiens last year.
I realize that a captaincy change mid season isn’t usually a popular move, and not that it would change the team in any way, but it’s difficult to look past the intangibles here. Gorges continues his strong defensive game and is on pace to block even more shots than last season, but of course that will not happen with only a 48-game schedule. Gorges is poised to captain the Canadiens whenever Gionta is either traded or released by the Canadiens, but in my opinion, this move could not come soon enough.
I do not think Brian Gionta is a bad player by any means, but I do not think he is captain material and definitely not worth $5 million per year. In my opinion Josh Gorges is better fit to wear the “C” on his jersey. A good young Canadian boy; who was never drafted, is the ultimate warrior. On February 25th, 2007, Bob Gainey made his best trade as the Canadiens GM by trading Craig Rivet and a 5th rounder in 2008 to San Jose for Josh Gorges and a 1st rounder in 2007 (Max Pacioretty).
At the end of the day, a winning team shouldn’t be defined by letters on a jersey, but I believe that being the captain of the Montreal Canadiens is the ultimate calling as a hockey player. Look at the past captains; Emile Bouchard, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Henri Richard, Toe Blake, Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer. All these legends captained Stanley Cup winning teams. In my opinion, a Stanley Cup caliber captain is long overdue in Montreal.
This is just my opinion and I am not a professional, but I truly hope you enjoyed my piece. I encourage you all to voice you own opinion and comment on my work. Share this site with all your friends! Follow me on twitter @Di_Stefano45