The Jig Is Up: Why Roberto Luongo Should Hand Over the "C"

Patrick Cwiklinski@@patcwiklinskiCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 11:  Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks takes a drink during a break in their NHL game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on March 11, 2009 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks defeated the Canucks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

On Sept. 30, 2008, history was made when Roberto Luongo was named as the 12th team captain of the Vancouver Canucks, a bold move by upper management that made the Montreal-native the very first goaltender to be named captain by the organization and merely the seventh in NHL history.

A bold move but perhaps more importantly, a publicity stunt.

Ever since he was acquired from the Florida Panthers in 2006, Luongo has undoubtedly been the Canucks' franchise player, bringing a close to the long-running tradition of the "goalie graveyard" in Vancouver.

With Luongo's future in Vancouver threatened by his expiring contract at the end of the 2009-10 season, general manager Mike Gillis knew he'd have to do something big to remind Luongo that he was the most important member of the team and the Canucks needed him.

And so, Captain Luongo was born.

Of course, as a goalie, Luongo was rather limited in many aspects and was unable to skate out and talk to referees about a call or really get his team motivated apart from making a big save.

Heck, the league doesn't even recognize Luongo as a legitimate captain.

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These jobs, as minor as they may seem but in reality are crucial when broken down,  fell into the hands of the assistant captains, Mattias Ohlund, Willie Mitchell and Ryan Kesler.

During the 2009 offseason and after weeks of speculation, Luongo signed a 12-year extension with the Canucks, securing his place as the team's bona fide superstar for years to come.

Alright, mission accomplished, Mike, time to hand the "C" over to someone else.

What do you mean you're sticking with Luongo? Come on.

Here's the thing: Luongo is a phenomenal goalie who leads by example and a lot of times steals games for the Canucks but at the same time he's also a goalie who likes to stay out of the watchful eye of the media and shies away from conversation for the most part.

Hold on a second, aren't those the same reasons fans criticized Markus Naslund as captain?

Luongo's passion for winning is uncompromising and it showed especially during an interview after the Canucks' made their disappointing exit from the playoffs last season in which he broke down and told the media that he'd let his teammates down.

However, there's a difference between passion and leadership.

A difference that Luongo has yet to distinguish.

Sure, Trevor Linden may have been passionate when he was the captain of the Canucks during 1994 Stanley Cup Finals but it was under his leadership that they were able to come within two goals of their first title.

Something running on sheer emotion won't get you.

All this and not to mention the fact that Luongo has enough to worry about in his own crease without having to deal with outside distractions and the pressures of leading a team to prominence.

The sad truth is that Luongo is only the captain of the Canucks because he's a name, and not just a name, the name. Much a name like Mark Messier who will likely go down in history as quite possibly the worst captain in Canucks' history.

The point?

Luongo is the face of the franchise for the Canucks and will be until he decides he won't be anymore but what he has to remember is that he is on a team and he won't be able to accomplish anything if he goes out and does it alone, he needs his team to guide him to that place where he can "seal the deal"—so to speak.

The question?

How can someone lead if he himself has to be led?

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