Gabriel Landeskog

Photo by Sarah derivative work: Avaholic [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Colorado Avalanche have announced their decision to name former 2nd Overall Pick (2011) and 2011-12 NHL Calder Trophy winner as Rookie of the Year Gabriel Landeskog as the new captain of the team, following in the revered footsteps of Joe Sakic, Adam Foote and Milan Hejduk.  Hejduk reportedly willingly gave up the captaincy, even putting forth the suggestion himself.  Co-incidentally, this decision also makes Landeskog the youngest captain in NHL history, taking that title from Sidney Crosby by a slim margin of 11 days.

Read my take on this after the jump…

Two sides to every argument

I have seen some discussion about this from both sides of the spectrum.  Many people think this is a great move, with the Avs finally putting the responsibility onto the young guns of the team, with no-one more deserving than the mature-beyond-his-years Landeskog.  Others think this is a bad move, not because Landeskog is a bad guy or a bad player, but because he has little experience (1 NHL season) and that others, such as Matt Duchene or Ryan O’Reilly, are more deserving having put in more time and having just as much leadership ability.  I can’t really speak for those two, not having seen them play much, but to me a couple of points stick out.  Duchene, whilst extremely talented, took a step back this year and so it remains to be seen what he really is as a player – by the Player Usage Charts, he did post a positive shot differential – just – but was playing with almost 60% offensive zone-starts and against below average competition.  O’Reilly on the other hand, took a massive step forward this year, more than doubling his point total from the year before from 26 to 55 points, leading the team in scoring.  Whilst many feel that the Av’s decision to keep O’Reilly in the NHL straight after he was drafted was a terrible one, and could have ruined him as a player, he seems to have come out from the dark to become a vital player for Colorado, playing amongst the toughest competition on the team and thriving.

The thing is, as good a player as O’Reilly is, Landeskog, in only his first NHL season, seems to do almost everything O’Reilly can do but even better.  Landeskog posted almost as good numbers in his 1st NHL season as O’Reilly did in his 3rd, playing nearly a minute less at 5v5 and marginally less on the PP, and played more on the PK.  He also played against tougher competition, the toughest on the team in fact, and destroyed anyone who got in his way in terms of shot differential, again more so than O’Reilly.  He was also hugely physical (219 hits) compared to O’Reilly being marginally physical (62 hits), although as I often state, being a big hitter should never, ever be confused with contributing to being a good player. For a rookie to do what Landeskog did this year though is insanity.  I’m an Oilers fan of course, and as much as a I wanted Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to win the Calder (and he almost certainly would have if he had not lost time to injury – his PPG rate was much higher than Landeskog’s), the Av was definitely highly deserving of the coveted trophy, one of the most impressive rookie performances in years even if he wasn’t a dominant scorer.

How high can he fly?

Of course Landeskog has always been highly rated, being known as intelligent, articulate (you wouldn’t know he was Swedish by listening to him!), classy, mature, a leader, incredibly impressive athletically and generally a great hockey player for his age; but there was a concern over whether his scoring would translate to the big leagues.  He did more than enough this season to quiet the doubters, although it does remain to be seen as to whether he can be an elite scorer, or just a very good one.  Personally, I see him as a really good (not elite) 1st liner in terms of scoring, putting up 30 goals and 60-70 points most years.  That is damn good production in this day and age.  But with the underlying numbers, he has the opportunity if he can keep up what he did this year to be one of the truly elite all-round forwards this league has seen in a while, certainly up there with the likes of Jonathan Toews, with the only downside being that he isn’t a center.

El Capitán

I think he’s the perfect guy to take on the captaincy of this storied franchise.  O’Reilly may do everything extremely well, but Landeskog does them better, and when you’re trying to decide between the two it makes sense to take the guy who is just that bit more talented.  That should never be taken as a slight against O’Reilly, he’s a terrific player and should definitely have an “A” on his chest this season, and at the end of the day you don’t need to be a captain, or even an assistant captain, to be a leader.

Congratulations to Landeskog, and hopefully he can be the guy to take the Avalanche back to the upper echelons of the league where they belong.


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