Defenseman Quinn Hughes will become the 15th captain in Vancouver Canucks history, the team announced on Monday.
The announcement comes after extensive speculation over the weekend, including from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and CHEK’s Rick Dhaliwal, who both reported that a decision on the 23-year-old was imminent.
Bo Horvat served as Canucks captain for the past four seasons before being traded. The team didn’t have a captain in 2018-19 after Henrik Sedin’s long run in the role.
“It means a great deal to me to be named captain of the Canucks,” Hughes said via a team release. “When I came here 5 years ago, I knew what I was walking in to having grown up in Toronto; just a crazy hockey market and a passionate fan base. It has been a pleasure and treat to play for this franchise and to be the captain is something that is incredibly special and something that I couldn’t ever imagine would happen.”
For the most part, the Canucks choosing Hughes as their next captain is the closest thing to a no-brainer for a franchise that sometimes appears out of its mind. Judging by a poll Dhaliwal ran recently, it’s something fans also seem to be in lockstep with as far as supporting the decision.
Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet also reaffirmed his belief in Hughes' readiness for the demanding role.
“Quinn is such a competitor, workhorse and off-season rink rat,” he said. “There are lots of ways to lead, and Quinn does it by example and by always giving his teammates, coaches and organization the upmost respect."
Previously, during a May interview with Missin’ Curfew, Tocchet had stated that Hughes was on a "trajectory" to become captain, praising Hughes for his tendency to speak up in uncomfortable situations.
Hughes makes sense as Canucks captain, but could he suffer on a directionless team?
If all things were equal, there’d be real room to debate Hughes versus Elias Pettersson as Canucks captain. In reality, Hughes is signed for the mid-term future ($7.85 million cap hit through 2026-27) while Pettersson approaches what could be a franchise-altering contract year.
With Pettersson’s contract negotiations "on hold," it makes Hughes the easy captain call for the Canucks. Such a choice might even distract fans from worrying about Pettersson’s future.
All of that said, Vancouver Is Awesome's Daniel Wagner posed an interesting question: What if Hughes is ready to be captain, but the Canucks aren’t in the right spot to name one at all?
“ … let’s make sure the ship isn’t sinking before naming a new captain, as that new captain might go down with the ship.”
Fair or not, when a team fails or succeeds, top players and coaches tend to receive too much of the blame or praise. While naming Hughes captain ultimately still looks like the right call for the Canucks, there’s definitely some risk that the young blueliner may face critiques that should instead be lobbed at an often-clueless front office.
Then again, that might just come with the territory of being a captain in the NHL — especially north of the border.