The Vancouver Canucks made the best decision regarding captaincy last season by not naming a replacement right away. The Sedins are franchise legends and it would have been unfair to pick a replacement directly off the heels of their retirement. The next captain the Canucks pick will embody the post-Sedin era, and it’s likely that embodiment is there now.
After the not-so-fondly remembered captaincy of Mark Messier, Markus Naslund was named captain. Naslund would score 547 points (245G, 302A) in 558 games for the Canucks, garnering three First-Team postseason All-Star honours (2002, 2003, 2004), four All-Star appearances (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004), and a Lester B. Pearson Award (2003) while wearing the “C.” After he left for New York for the 2008/09 season, Roberto Luongo was named captain. A goalie, it was very unusual, as well as against the rules, so he put a “C” on his mask while other skaters did captain-y things. Luongo would post a 73-35-11 record, 0.916 Save%, 2.47 GAA, and 13 shutouts in 122 games, also representing the Canucks in the 2009 All-Star Game, before stepping down from the captaincy following the 2009/10 season. Centre Henrik Sedin took over as captain from that point on, he would score 498 points (102G, 396A) in 602 games, also winning two King Clancy Memorial Trophies (2016, 2018 with his brother Daniel as his co-winner), earning First-Team All-Star honours in 2011, and representing the Canucks in two All-Star Games (2011, 2012) before both brothers retired following the 2017/18 season.
It is perfectly understandable if the Canucks don’t want to name a captain this either. Of all the teams yet to pick a new captain, none of those teams’ captains were quite as important to their respective franchises as the Sedins. It may be worth it in the Canucks’ eyes to wait until the team is a more consistent playoff team before picking a successor.
Edler is a good pick for captain if the Canucks decide they want their next captain to bridge the gap between the Sedins and their future long-term captain. Someone who has played for a long time with the Sedins but is still with the team with a decent amount of hockey left to be played. The on-ice impact is there. While injuries limited him to 56 games, he scored 10 goals and 34 points, which amount to career-highs of 15 goals and 50 points in an 82-game season. Of course, a clear offensive decline in preceding seasons as well as his increasing proneness to injury are knocks against him.
It is a bit of a lazy pick to suggest the new young phenom as an option for the captaincy, but I’m only speaking from the view that part of being a good captain is being important to the franchise, and part of that is being able to lead with your play. Having scored 28 goals and 66 points in 71 games, a 32-goal and 76-point pace, the 2017 first-rounder has that aspect in spades. He’s the kind of franchise centre teams build around, and in case you aren’t aware, that’s the kind of player a team hands the captaincy to.
Horvat is a popular pick for the captaincy. He doesn’t have the flashy offence or high ceiling of Pettersson, and isn’t quite the centrepiece of the Canucks rebuild as a result, but he’s shown with his 27-goal, 61-point output that he absolutely generates offence, and is already well-regarded for the defensive side of his game. And while the franchise centre who puts up big numbers is the kind of player teams give the “C,” the humble two-way centre who makes significant impact on both ends is also the kind of player teams give the “C.” It doesn’t hurt that, at 24 with five seasons of experience, he is old enough and experienced enough to be considered a veteran, while still being young enough that he’s still got upside, and is considered to be part of the Canucks’ rebuild.
I ultimately believe the Canucks will go straight to Horvat as their captain when it comes time to choose. I also believe that it won’t happen until the 2020/21 season.