Nick Suzuki is the new captain of the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the youngest player to wear the ‘C’ in franchise history.
“It’s a true honour for me and a privilege,” the 23-year-old centre told reporters on Monday [12 September.] “This team is headed in a great direction, and I couldn’t be more excited to be the captain and represent the team.
“It means a lot, just to see the respect the management, teammates, [and] coaches have for me. I know it’s a big role, but I think I’m ready for it. There’s a bright future here and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Suzuki replaces defenceman Shea Weber, who was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights in June, to become Montreal’s 31st captain.
The London, Ontario-born forward is on the cusp of his fourth season in the NHL, having already amassed 143 points (49 goals, 94 assists) in 209 appearances for the Habs.
Veteran defenceman Joel Edmundson and forward Brendan Gallagher will support Suzuki as alternate captains.
Analysis: Nick Suzuki appointment exemplifies shift in Montreal
If it wasn’t already clear, it is now: the Canadiens are taking a new approach – to everything.
Last season, the NHL’s most storied franchise hired a player agent as its general manager and a youth tactician as its head coach. Yesterday, decision-makers at the Bell Centre handed Nick Suzuki an enormous double-edged sword.
Montreal is a pressure-cooker, especially for players at the start of an eight-year, $63 million contract extension.
In other words, Suzuki was already faced hefty expectations. That’s the deal in Quebec. After his appointment as captain of the Habs, the 1999-born forward is under a different kind of microscope.
But his teammates believe in him.
“Obviously, it’s a great honour for Nick,” said goaltender Jake Allen. “I’m very, very happy for him. He’s very deserving. I think, probably, if you would’ve polled most guys in the locker room, we probably would’ve imagined that he would’ve been the captain of this team, so I don’t think it’s a huge surprise to a lot of us.
“He’s very well respected in the locker room. He has a great demeanour to be captain, especially in an organization of this ilk, so really happy for him. He’s got such a bright future, and he’s going to lead this team to a good place.”
“He’s very mature,” added Gallagher. “He’s a young player, but he’s very mature. And I think the most important thing is he has the respect of every single guy in that locker room and he’s the heartbeat of our team.”
Even so, it is difficult to picture the previous administration appointing Suzuki as captain. GM Kent Hughes has turned the franchise upside-down in the early days of his reign, including Martin St. Louis’ installation behind the bench and stitching a ‘C’ on Suzuki’s jersey.
“It’s certain their management style is completely different,” Canadiens owner Geoff Molson told reporters. “We’ve brought in a lot of new people, we’ve built our departments—analytics, scouting, player development and much more.”
Suzuki, therefore, embodies the Habs’ recent philosophical shift and the start of a new era in Montreal.
“I think we’ve been through a lot my first three years—going to the Stanley Cup Final and finishing in last place,” he said. “There’s been a lot of highs and lows and a lot of learning experiences, and I think I’ve gotten to handle each situation really well and just lead by example. I think this is a privilege to have that pressure on you, and we want to win hockey games, and that’s the biggest reason that we’re here.”