Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Captain C (captaincy): In Response to Qris, Continuing to Beat That Horse

First things first: Qris, Skeeter, whichever one of you added the "necroequinicide" tag deserves to be patted on the back, hard, and then have that backpatting transition into a solid beating on par with the one the horse is getting. That is hilarious and absolutely unforgivable. Don't do it again. But do. Always do it.

This post is in response to
Qris's post. I was originally going to leave it as a comment, but then I kept having things to say. My brain is on fire. This is a rant:

You're right, Qris. Up until now, Skeeter and I have avoided the captaincy talk because we feel similarly. But now that the box is opened, I'm going to rant about the captain's C and about leadership.

What frustrates me is that this whole debate is because we haven't been able to beat the Blackhawks these last two seasons. I'm frustrated that we haven't been able to beat the Blackhawks, too, and I'm especially frustrated because anybody with half a brain will recognize that the Canucks were not better than the Blackhawks the last two seasons. Yes, they lost to a better team. Two years in a row. That will likely continue to happen if the Blackhawks continue to be better than us. That should be the story because that's the only fact that matters. But, if you refuse to face the facts, there's a lot of moronic stories about why it is that this team can't get past the second round. One of the worst is that it's not the talent assembled; it's leadership.

Is it leadership? It's leadership, right? It's probably leadership. It couldn't possibly be that we aren't a good enough hockey team. That would be ludicrous. We've had the best defense in the NHL for the past seventeen seasons! (And seriously, the Vancouver media says that every year.)

Remember the European captain debate? Remember how hard the press beat that horse before Lidstrom won the award? Well gosh darn it, it turns out a European captain
can win the Stanley Cup! Of course, it never had anything to do with whether or not the captain was European. It was a stupid, bizarrely racist angle, and a non-story.

The media loves these bogus captaincy stories. Hell, the media loves these status quo non-stories. They love to question anomalies, as though there's a set formula for winning championships (why don't the Canucks just adhere to that?) outside of being the best. My theory: there are some stupid people in the media, and until somebody does something in a way that's never been done, their most oft-repeated line is that it can't be done that way. Again, this is because they are stupid.

Leadership, too, is such an intangible quality. I know a few people who have a Master's in Leadership. It seems to me like this degree might be like having a Master's in Acting. Does it make them better at it? No, natural ability and actual practice does. Does it make them think they're better at it? Frustratingly, yes. Everybody wants to believe there's a formula for this, but, in truth, the formula they're sold on is usually just copying what's worked in the past.

I work for Human Kinetics department of a university. I heard a guy tell me the worst thing about coaching seminars is that the coaches typically just talk about players they've coached, rather than teaching how to be the best coach ever. I'll tell you why that is: there's no formula. It's just experience. So they talk about their experiences.

The sports media forgets this. When we lose, it's because the team leaders weren't leading the right way. Again, there is no right way. For all we know, Luongo has not been leading the wrong way. We just seem him play hockey. The truth is that nobody really knows the right way to lead, but when a team succeeds, we chalk it up to good leadership. If Luongo keeps the C and the Canucks win the Stanley Cup, then it was the right decision to keep the C with him, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he's not the best choice. Maybe that's not why we win. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the abilities of the team, could it?

One problem is that we're so influenced by sports movies. We've all seen that kid quote the monologue from "Miracle", inspired as he is. It's an inspirational piece. But come on, is that really why the USA won the gold medal in 1980? It seems that's what the media would have us believe. It's like the players playing the game are secondary to the guy who stands on a soapbox and delivers the pregame speech.

Is it a wonder that the captain is usually the best player on the team? No. It's because playing well is leading. Contributing to a game win is leading. Maybe that's why, when a team is ahead in points, people say they're "leading". Leadership is natural and it has more to do with playing the game well than anything else.

Here's the kicker: for me, leadership has nothing to do with "The C", and ergo, the captaincy means very little. Are you telling me that other team leaders are stifled because they didn't got a little letter stitched onto their jersey? Right. We want Henrik as captain, we want Kesler as captain. Why? Because they'll be the best leaders? No, it's because they play the best. Last season, they were arguably more important to the team than Luongo. That's more than enough leadership.

"The C" hardly matters, other than as an honour to a certain player. Personally, I wish the team would just do it in private. Let the team pick a captain, keep it to themselves. The media doesn't need to know. Don't stitch a C on anybody's jersey. I hate the C. In Vancouver, and other hockey cities, it's a huge well of bogus stories, but, in truth, it means very little. So thanks, Qris, for pointing this out.


  1. I can only agree with this. For sheer length's sake, I couldn't post all the reasons for the ridiculousness of the Luongo attacks, so I just stuck with the most common one -- "get rid of the distraction."

    As near as I can tell, every Canucks Captain since Linden has been criticized. I could be wrong, maybe Linden was criticized greatly as well, during his time. I don't remember, having been only six or seven during the '94 Cup run. Still, I know everyone after Linden has been a whipping boy for fans and media. Messier, rightly so, but Naslund certainly didn't deserve the abuse he received.

    It's frustrating when the team loses, and time and time again I see fans turning that frustration into a need to blame someone. I think that, more than anything else, is the reason no Canadian team has won the Cup in over a decade. As soon as a team gets close, it tears up its stars and leaders that got them there. It happened to Smyth, Smith and Pronger in Edmonton. It happened to Emery and is still happening to Spezza in Ottawa. It's happening still to Carey Price in Montreal. Before anyone starts blaming Bettman, they might take a look at the vitriol they hurl at all their heroes.

    Oh, and, as fun as necroequinicide is, "There are some stupid people in the media" makes a much more re-usable tag. I guarantee you I'll be stealing that one.

  2. Necroequinicide is awful/awesome, but "Captain C" is brutally bad.

    But hey, giving the C to another player will allow McFarlane Toys to make a new figure! Whee!

  3. Ok, but anyone with a pair of eyes can see that Luongo hasn't been himself lately. Maybe it has nothing to do with his being named captain. But management needs to look into this and rule it out if it's not a problem. And if it is....they have to do something about it.

    There also may be issues related to the difficulty of having a goalie as captain that have nothing to do with the team losing that need to be addressed.

    GMMG did his best to ensure that two of the team's problem spots last season, grit on the 3rd line and defensive breakdowns, were worked out. He has to do the same for goaltending. Roberto just doesn't look like himself. Anyone who doubts this can watch the games from the 2007 series against the Dallas Stars on the NHL Network. He looks so much more confident and comfortable back then.


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