Thought Bubble : Leadership


Hey all. As we continue to wait  impatiently for the first gameday since last saturday, I thought I'd share another piece of my mind with you on a topic that's increasingly warming up in Minnesota. Kaptain Koivu's recent struggles have had many people calling out for the removal of the C from his jersey. Oddly enough, this isn't even the inspiration for this post. I was inspired by a Habs-related conversation... yup... I've been reduced to watching Habs games in this 5 day game-less lull.

 

Anyhoo, make the jump and let's talk about this.


 Opening panel: Kaptain Koivu or just plain Mikko Koivu?

 

We cannot hide ourselves from the following: Koivu has been a mere shadow of himself for the past month. Sure, he still finds a way to get a point here and there, but we know he's missing a step. Production-wise, since his 7 game point streak ended on November 5th, the Kaptain has had one multi-point game and hasn't been able to get a single point streak. None. At all. It's easy to blame his linemates for the lack of scoring, but never before has it affected his overall play. It's becoming increasingly difficult to explain his woes. Is it a nagging injury? Is it fatigue? Is it a problem within the team? We have no way of knowing for sure, which has led to a lot of hypotheses from an increasingly frustrated fanbase.

Now, that we got that out of the way, I feel the need to adress something: People sometimes seem to forget that scoring points shouldn't be the main criteria for being the captain. Suddenly, Koivu isn't scoring so it automatically makes him a bad leader, right? Wrong! There's much more to being a leader than scoring points. Take Chris Clark, who captained the Washington Capitals for the third longest term in their history (around three years). Let's be brutally honest here, he never has and never will be an Art Ross candidate. What the guy was is a steady influence in the locker room, a hell of a hard worker (sorry Tom), beloved by his teammates and fans and was a great enough leader to be USA's captain during the 2007 World Championships. Of course, Chris Clark and Mikko Koivu are two very different kinds of player, we rely on Koivu to carry much of the offensive load, which may be unfair seeing as he's a two-way player, playing in all situations on a team whose offense is rather poor as a whole. Fans have been wanting to se Koivu stripped of the C for a while now, but we don't know the whole story. He's not automatically a bad captain just because the entire team is having trouble (except Havlat, who is a man possessed right now). I've seen some say that Cal Clutterbuck should be the captain, some say Matt Cullen, and I swear, one particular guy said Guillaume Latendresse. Nevermind the fact that he could miss the rest of the season and he's one of the shyest guys on the roster, give it to him because he can score.

See, I don't get people who think you should automatically give the C to the leading scorer. For example, and I know I may anger a lot of people by saying this, but I don't think Alex Ovechkin should be an NHL captain. To me, he's the best example I can find of a guy who's been given the C because of his superstar status. You really think someone who's laid increasingly dangerous hits last year is an example to the team? You really think a guy who risked seriously injuring a teammate as well as himself in a stupid joyride on a cart is captain material? You think someone who jokes around with the opposition after a crushing defeat is showing leadership? No, but why is he captain? Perhaps to spice up his rivalry with a certain Sidney Crosby (who, I hate to say, is a true leader, deserving of the C... see? I can pay a compliment to one of my most hated players), perhaps to please the fans, perhaps no one else is worthy, I don't know. If we absolutely need Koivu stripped of the C, give it to Nick Schultz, the very foundation of this team, here from the very beginning, Ol' reliable. You never know, maybe Koivu truly isn't cut out for the job, even though he fulfilled his duties quite admirably last year. Hell, once Patrick Marleau relinquished his captaincy, he played his best hockey in years, probably even his best ever! I just think we shouldn't be putting the Wild's woes all on Koivu and whether or not he's captain material.

 

Final panel: RDS's vision of veterans.

 

This here is what sparked the idea for this thread. After every Montreal Canadiens game, there's an aftergame show called L'antichambre on RDS, TSN's french sister. For those who remember my three part translation of the Guillaume Latendresse interview, (part 1, part 2, part 3) it was on that very show, which they also show even when there are no Habs games on that day. The current hub-bub in Montreal is that P.K. Subban has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games. The volatile nature of Subban's game is starting to hurt the Habs and coach Jacques Martin wanted him to calm down and although 3 games might be a bit much, Yannick Weber has done beautiful work in his place and as long as they're winning, they don't have much to complain about.

Now the panelists on the show were talking about this particular situation and one of them uttered something that I thought to be pretty stupid. Now I may be alone in this, but I don't care. Here's a loose translation: '' I can't imagine that the team's veterans would want to help Subban, who is competition to them. They must be happy to get the extra ice-time as a result of Subban's departure'' ... WH-WH-WH-WHAT? I was washing the dishes when I heard that and I immediately dropped the pot in the water, creating a big mess on the floor and on myself. What kind of veteran thinks like this? Are veterans truly willing to see the future of the team being benched so that they can play an extra 2 minutes per game? I don't know about you, but if I'm coaching any type of team and I learn that one of my players thinks like this, into the doghouse he goes. Of course, that panelist's ramblings may not necessarily be true, but how selfish and unprofessional would it be for a veteran, an example-giver for the team, to be joyed at seeing a young gun with potential such as P.K. Subban being benched to his own advantage. Believe me, when a team looks for a veteran presence, it's so that he can be a development aid to the young players, to help the team. Granted, Subban's absence hasn't necessarily been detrimental to the team so far, but what if this stunts his developpment? The Devils benched Ilya Kovalchuk for one game, and frankly, it didn't do diddly-squat, but he's not a rookie. When Ken Hitchcock benched Nikita Filatov last year, he went to Russia and Hitchcock lost his job shortly after.

Any good veteran, hell, any good player wants one thing: To win. If playing 5 minutes less per game so that a young player can log the big minutes and it helps the team, so be it. If you want those minutes, you earn them, you give your coach a reason to give them to you. You're not supposed to want your player to vanish from the roster for your  personal gain. You're not supposed to like gaining from another person's pain. As much as I hate the Habs, I would never imagine them dumb enough to not want to help a teammate get better so that he can help them win as much as possible. Helping your team is what being a good veteran leader is abll about. Anyway, that's just my take on the whole thing.

 

Punchline: Only two panels this time... Isn't it sad that I know so much about the Habs, the team I hate more than slamming a car door into my hand? Hell, I might know about as much about them as I do about the Wild! Oh, I'm patiently awaiting any and all Ovechkin fans to come crying here about my cracks against him. I loved OV when he first started, but he's lost a lot of credibility last year. As Bryan would probably say: Bring it on.

 

Live long and prosper, readers of HW.

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