The news is surprising and unsurprising all in the same breath: today the Colorado Avalanche announced that Gabriel Landeskog – the guy who was drafted 14 months ago, the guy who was born in 1992, the guy who can’t drink in Denver for another 14 months – will be given the “C” as captain of the Colorado Avalanche.

Landeskog getting the “C” this early is only surprising given that teams tend to be blinded by the whole age thing, and refuse to think outside the box. Beyond that, Landeskog is the perfect selection: he’s hard-working, talented, a guy they intend to be the face of the franchise for many years to come, and yes, it has to be said – he does things the “right way.”

People often misinterpret what a captain means to a professional hockey team. I think they picture the guy with the “C” giving some speech at intermission, or calling out a player who’s not giving it their all. It’s the Mark Messier fallacy – we’ve built the perception of the position into something it really isn’t.

A captain doesn’t say much – and in many cases, says less – in the dressing room. He’s a liason to the coach: “How’re the boys doin’, we need a day off?” He’s a team figurehead with the media. The only thing that really matters is that “right way” cliche I mentioned earlier. You need a guy who does exactly what the head coach asks of his team on the ice. If a coach says “every time we cross the red tonight, we’re dumping it in,” and your captain is trying to beat guys on rushes, well, then why should anyone else? He leads by example, plays both ends of the ice, and makes guys wonder “how the hell is he able to go that hard night in, night out?”

In that regard, Landeskog couldn’t fit the bill any better. And by giving him the role of captain, the team has committed to him for many years in the future, so he knows this is his ship to drive.

You’ll notice that the headline includes the phrase “permanent captain,” by the way. Landeskog surpassed Sidney Crosby as the youngest captain ever, so everyone says…HOWEVER, as J.P. of Japers’ Rink points out…

Back in January of 1984, Brian Bellows first wore the “C” for the Minnesota North Stars and continued to do so for the remainder of the 1983-84 season (Bellows was the interim captain while Craig Hartsburg was out with a lengthy injury). Bellows was eight-plus months younger when he first captained the North Stars than Crosby was when he formally took over the Pens’ captaincy.

The fact that Crosby was the youngest “permanent” captain in League history can’t be debated – but neither can the fact that Brian Bellows was the youngest captain in NHL history.

As Biggie once said, “If you don’t know, now you know…”

Well, there you have it, there’s a new leader in the “permanent captain” clubhouse (by 11 days) – Gabriel Landeskog is still 19 for another couple months.

Part of “Doing things the right way” is not giving out any bulletin board material, or saying anything interesting in general, so for your viewing pleasure, here’s the Twitter conversation between two established hockey journalists that killed me. You know it’s coming.

Comments (8)

  1. Landeskog was born in 1992.

  2. I’m reasonably sure that Backhand Shelf is the only hockey news/opinion outlet that could successfully earworm me with the Notorious BIG.

    Them’s some big shoes to fill in Denver, but I think the kid will do just fine.

  3. Can we finally dub Erik Johnson a bust?!??????

  4. Thank you for this informed piece, Justin. I’m surprised by the amount of negativity amongst NHL fans regarding this move, as I thought the consensus in fandom was that he was already the “future” captain.

    Perhaps everyone is shocked that “future” has become “now” quicker than expected, which I will concede. Nevertheless, age doesn’t change how hard one works: you either have “it” or you don’t. It doesn’t magically appear one day.

  5. justin, my dad was the coach of every time i was on until highschool. that by default made me the captain of every team at that point. i come from a pretty strong military family that pushed me to be the leader of my team and hold the other players accountable when the coach couldnt. when i started playing in highschool we had 2 years of some pretty weak captains who were great players but had no leadership. it kind of felt like the team was on autopilot and the coach was doing way more than he should. frankly, if i was a 36 year old veteran who had been playing pro for the past 15-16 years, i dont know if i could take a 20 year old kid seriously if he was trying to put us in our place or kick us in the rear when we needed it. maybe i’m falling into the messier trap, but i believe the true meaning of Captain: a Leader/unit commander

  6. If the NHL doesn’t resume until 2013-2014 he’ll be even more mature by then not to mention being allowed to drink.

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