Gabriel Landeskog’s Captaincy Questioned After Latest Loss


“I think Gabe is a great choice. I believe he’s going to be here for a long time, and he’s going to be captain for a long, long time. ” – Milan Hejduk

Left wing Gabriel Landeskog holds the record for being the youngest player ever named captain of an NHL team. Landeskog was almost three months shy of his 20th birthday when the Colorado Avalanche named him captain of the team.

No one’s blaming age per se, but some people are calling Landeskog’s captaincy into question as the Avalanche continue to rack up losses.

Looking for Blame

It’s human nature to want to lay blame when things go wrong. People make wrong decisions in life or death situations, and, well, blame maybe helps those decisions not be made in the future.

When you’re talking professional sports, you’re only as good as your last game. And for the Colorado Avalanche, coming off a 6-0 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s pretty bad indeed. Fans, feeling helpless, want to make suggestions to fix the problem. And sometimes those suggestions start out by blaming players whom the fans think are not pulling their weight.

Right now, Landeskog is taking some of that heat from fans. It’s natural — he’s the captain.

Delicate Web of Leadership

More from Mile High Sticking

Leadership is a refined skill. It is very difficult to pinpoint what makes a good leader. For sure, it depends on the situation. Even in this case, when you’re talking about a hockey team, it’s difficult to state what kind of person will best serve as a captain.

Some qualities for a hockey captain are obvious. He must be confident. He must be a team player — and have belief in the team. He must serve as a liaison in numerous situations: between team and press, team and coach, team and refs, team and fans.

After that, the qualifications become tenuous. Is it important that he be vehement in the locker room? Does he need to be capable of yelling and throwing F-bombs? Or is it more important he be understanding? Does he have to be a top-notch player on the ice? Should he have the heart of a lion and the tenacity of a bulldog? Does he need to be well-spoken? Does he have to be inspirational?

Most importantly, does he need to go it alone? That one’s actually easy to answer: No. Not only do captains have alternates, but it’s expected that other players will take leadership roles as well. Plus, there’s always the head coach. Leadership is a web — and it’s delicate.

Landeskog as Leader

I cannot give a fair representation of how Landeskog is as a team captain because I am not allowed access to the locker room. However, I can make observations based on others’ opinion of him as a leader and based on his public persona.

First of all, Landeskog was named captain at such a young age because the captain at the time, Milan Hejduk, spoke to the coaching staff on his behlf. Hejduk believed he should step down as captain due to reduced ice time, and he suggested Landeskog as his successor.

Secondly, Landeskog served as captain for his AHL team, the Kitchener Rangers.

Finally, and most significantly, Landeskog was named an alternate captain for Team Sweden in the Olympics. That was a team made up of NHL stars of Swedish nationality, and almost all of them were older and more experienced than Landeskog. However, Landeskog got the nod.

So, people who have a great pool of impressive men from which to choose their captain have singled out Landeskog specifically.

For the next point, I’ve explored in-depth the aspects of Landeskog’s personality and public persona. Here are the highlights:

  • His charisma makes him an excellent team spokesperson.
  • He’s patient, never short-tempered or irritable.
  • He goes the extra mile on the ice.

Landeskog always speaks to the press. Even during that horrible Islanders loss, color analyst Peter McNab remarked that Landeskog never blows by the media. He stands there and answers even the toughest of questions. Not only that, he doesn’t spout cliches. He actually analyzes the game. He really is an asset as the face of the team.

Considering Landeskog’s toughness on ice, his charisma, his patience, his analytical skills and even his humor, I conclude that he must be a strong leader in the locker room as well. Add to that the amount of notables who have had faith in his leadership capabilities, and the following conclusion can be drawn: Landeskog’s captaincy should not be called into question.

That’s my takeaway from the loss to the New York Islanders. Landeskog, like everyone on the team, may be part of the problem. However, Gabriel Landeskog uniquely is one of the few who can be the solution.